Quantum of Solace (Blu-ray)
Directed by Marc Forster
In addition to sporting the most unusual title in the James Bond series, Quantum of Solace is an adrenaline rush that's the most artsy and cinematically stylish Bond of them all.
Bond and babe
Photo: MGM/Columbia Pictures
Now that Quantum of Solace is on Blu-ray, it's a good time to re-evaluate the movie and how it fits into the Bond pantheon. Derided by many as a disappointment in the wake of Casino Royale, the flip side is those who found the latter a royal bore should find the former a royal treat.
In short, this latest episode centers on an inconsolable James Bond (Daniel Craig, Munich), still smacking of rage following the death of his beloved in Casino Royale, as he bounces around the globe (literally and figuratively) in pursuit of vengeance. He's at the point where he can no longer tell the difference between allies and foes. Having the extreme misfortune of falling into his itchy trigger hairs is Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, Munich).
Greene's an environmentalist and, like so many other Bond villains, he's also a philanthropist. The beneficiary of Greene Planet is, theoretically, planet Earth via his ecological preserves, but ultimately it's really Greene's wallet that'll see green. He's scheming a scheme to trade Bolivia's government for a patch of desert that may or may not be a source of oil. Oh. And he's also mean. Really mean. So mean, in fact, he does for oil what Goldfinger did for gold in the classic Bond from 1964.
Paying close attention to the hush-hush chit-chat set against a performance of Tosca in Bregenz, Austria, it can be loosely ascertained that "Quantum" is the code name for Greeene's nefarious plot, or at least the minions involved in hatching it. So apparently the idea is Bond can find some degree of solace by defeating Quantum. When a title plumbs depths that deep and plays off different meanings (quantum can either be a large or a small quantity depending on the context), heaven help us all.
While the title can be taken as a bit cerebral for a Bond flick, the movie itself really delivers the action. It has a brutal, breakneck pace that's a severe departure from the plodding mentality of Casino Royale.
A Kick in the Aston Martin
Clocking in at only 106 minutes, making it one of the shorter Bond movies (Casino Royale ran 144 minutes), a good portion of the time shrinkage can be written off as purely condensed presentation. The pre-credits action sequence is just that – action. Bond speaks only five words before Jack White and Alicia Keys take over with their theme song buffered by a presentation of the opening credits that's far more interesting than Royale's, but still nowhere near as sexy as Maurice Binder's tamest work.
And things rarely slow down from there. Sure, there are the typical moments of exposition and narrative, but this Bond is something to behold purely in terms of its pacing and decidedly artistic presentation. More than any other Bond film, this one's simply stunning to look. The composition of the images, the framing, the editing, the sets, the effects – this is a gorgeously mounted production.
Even the title cards announcing the latest location, typically a throwaway in Arial font or maybe typed up in a computer font, are done up with unique styles that evoke the local color of the place itself. It's slick. There's an unusual high level of entertainment to be had simply in watching the movie, never mind the dialogue, never mind the plot.
And what drives this unique approach? Well, this is Marc Forster's first (and from the sound of it, last) Bond film. He's most certainly an odd choice. His other movies include The Kite Runner and Finding Neverland, not exactly high octane action pictures. Nonetheless, Forster brings a fresh sensibility to the series that really spruces up the proceedings in surprising ways.
Mind Your Ms and Qs
On the down side, there are some quibbles to be made, but they're quibbles at best.
The sexy chicks don't have sexy names. Ukrainian hottie Olga Kurylenko (Hitman) goes by the simple name of Camille. (But, granted, she's one of the better Bond girls, a strong woman and an interesting character in her own right.) Lightweight set decoration in the form of British hottie Gemma Arterton goes by the name of "Fields, just Fields." There's a snicker to be had, however, when the end credits reveal her full name is actually Strawberry Fields.
And there does seem to be a staunch desire to meddle with some of the other traditional Bond conventions. The "red eye" gun barrel shooting bit that opened Bond movies of yore is now found, oddly enough, right before the end credits. That's when the Bond theme, as with Casino Royale, finally gets the full wah-wah-voom! of Monty Norman's globally-recognized theme music.
While the CIA's Felix Leiter does make a return appearance, there's no Moneypenny, the flirtatious secretary. And there's also no Q, the tech wiz who supplied Bond with all his gadgets. Perhaps he was a part of some downsizing at MI6. Sure, there's plenty of cool, realistic (more realistic than usual), technology on display here, but when it comes to Bond's gadgets, it all seems to be standard issue for the "Double 'O'" set.
There's also one other Bond hallmark that's missing, but happily so. Those really crummy blue screen effects, the shockingly cheesy effects that marred so many Bond movies, are finally a thing of the cinematic past. This episode boasts some marvelous green screen effects that'd make Q proud.
Since it is a "shorter" Bond movie, this single-disc Blu-ray is far more packed than the first Casino Royale Blu-ray release, but it's not as comprehensive as the two-disc double-dip edition that arrived in tandem with Quantum's theatrical release. No doubt there'll be another edition of Quantum to greet the release of Bond 23.
Among the supplements that should make the next go-round will hopefully be a reported alternate ending that would've set things up for the next chapter. It'd also be great to hear a commentary from director Marc Forster. He's quite a sensitive Swiss-German artist, so hearing his take on all the action set against all the artistic flair could prove interesting.
As it stands, there's roughly 85 minutes of supplemental material.
Of course, there's the Jack White and Alicia Keys music video for Another Way to Die. It's a decent, but not great, Bond song set to a decent, but not great, video.
Bond on Location is a 25-minute documentary about the location filming of Quantum, which boasts more time filming on location than any other Bond film. It's interesting and artfully put together in its own right, but it's also very sedate and rather dull.
Start of Shooting and On Location are each quick, 3-minute featurettes that include interviews with Forster (check out the scarf action!) and other members of the cast and crew. There is a little repetition from some of the material in the Bond on Location documentary.
Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase is a 2-minute short deftly described by the title. It's hard to complain when Olga's on screen.
Director Marc Forster is another 3-minute segment that features an interview with Forster along with the typical gracious feedback from cast members.
The Music is only 2.5 minutes, far too brief. There are a few comments from composer David Arnold then it moves to the music video with Jack White and Alicia Keys commenting from their green-screen set (much of this segment is also repeated during the Crew Files section).
Over all, the collection of brief featurettes includes some really good information and glimpses at the on-location work. Throughout the featurettes and documentaries, a recurring theme is the pressure everyone felt to live up to the huge success of Casino Royale. Perhaps this repetition, along with some of the other bits of repetition, could've been cleaned up and things integrated a little better if the segments were organized into a single documentary.
The Crew Files (45 minutes) is a collection of 32 glimpses of the crew at work, introduced by producer Michael G. Wilson and taken from his Web video blog. It's mighty comprehensive and includes snippets with all manner of crew, including the unit nurse, casting director, managers of a couple of the exotic locations, first unit director and the title directors. One not to miss: Terry Bamber, second unit production manager, is absolutely hilarious. The guy's a total goofball and his segment plays almost like a mockumentary while he pretends to be so busy he's actually worn all the letters off his keyboard, which is probably why, he posits, his e-mails no longer make any sense.
Wilson, by the way, knows a thing or two about Bond. He's been involved in various capacities since Goldfinger and the lowlight would have to be his screenplay for License to Kill. And it just so happens legendary Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli was his stepfather.
Also on board are the Quantum teaser and theatrical trailers.
Everything's presented in high-def, although the image quality varies depending on the source material, particularly in reference to the video blog segments.
Unfortunately, there are none. There's not even a BD-Live connection for possible future expansion and downloads. Is that any way to treat the most commercially successful Bond film, at least in terms of raw dollars, in franchise history?
Picture and Sound
While the supplements disappoint a bit, the quality of the feature presentation (2.40:1) does not.
Visually, it's pristine and every bit as gorgeous as Olga Kurylenko. This is crisp, lush, wonderful eye candy.
Similar praise can be sung for the dynamic DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, which rumbles with prop planes, Tosca, speeding Aston Martins and flying bullets, lotsa flying bullets. Well done indeed.
Loading up the 50 GB disc space are 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in Spanish, French and Portuguese.
The disc also offers an extensive selection of subtitles; the options are Spanish, Cantonese, Portuguese, Korean, Mandarin and English SDH.
How to Use This Disc
Turn up the volume and enjoy the blast that is Quantum of Solace. Then be sure to head over to the Crew Files and check out Terry Bamber's goofy segment.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.