|Director: Marc Forster
|Screenplay: Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
|Stars: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Olga Kurylenko (Camille), Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene), Judi Dench (M), Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis), Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), David Harbour (Gregg Beam), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White), Anatole Taubman (Elvis), Rory Kinnear (Tanner)
|MPAA Rating: PG-13
|Year of Release: 2008
|Country: U.K. / U.S.
Following up on the gritty, hard-edged franchise reboot that was 2006’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, the 22nd official film in the James Bond canon, picks up right where its predecessor left off, both narratively and tonally. Thinking that he has been betrayed by the late Vesper Lynd, quite possibly the only woman Bond has ever truly loved, Agent 007 is determined to track down the mysterious global organization that blackmailed her, known as QUANTUM. Tonally, the tougher, rougher version of Bond as incarnated by Daniel Craig is harder than ever; already a steely and unflappable man of action, he’s now driven by anger and vengeance, which turns Craig’s flinty blue eyes into razor-sharp ice chips and every action sequence into a joyless flurry of rage.
Suffice it to say, Quantum of Solace is not a happy movie, and the stark line it takes may startle even those who welcomed the harsher incarnation of Her Majesty’s favorite secret agent two years ago after a decade of Pierce Brosnan’s smooth and increasingly cartoonish charms. Given that both Brosnan and Roger Moore, who played Bond throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, both turned into caricatures by the end of their long tenure, it makes one wonder if Craig will eventually suffer the same fate, albeit at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum: Rather than being a smirking wise-acre in increasingly ridiculous plots ala Moore, he will become a rigid, emotionless automaton fighting his way though handheld-documentary-style bloodbaths.
Okay, that may be exaggeration, especially in a global movie marketplace that demands huge hits from established franchises, but Quantum of Solace is just edgy enough to make you realize that Bond can be taken into some exceedingly dark terrain. Picking up on Paul Greengrass’s high-intensity Bourne style but with more intensity and less spatial coherence, director Mark Forster (The Kite Runner), making his Bond film debut, doesn’t waste more than a few seconds after the opening logos before throwing us directly into a high-velocity car chase through the mountain passes in southern Italy with Bond swerving around 18-wheelers while baddies spray every inch of the screen with machine-gun fire. The ferocity of the sequence and the manner in which its cut-throat editing style reduces much of the action to levels of near abstraction are indicative of the tone of the rest of the film, which takes little pleasure in jumping from plot point to plot point while emphasizing the brutality of human nature on both ends of the good/bad divide.
In the Bond tradition the story leapfrogs all around the world, from Italy to England to Haiti to Brazil. The thrust of the narrative is that Bond is trying to unmask QUANTUM via one of its main proponents, an energy czar named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who exploits environmentalism to his own benefit while also mixing it up with Third-World dictators. Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) makes for a genuinely slimy villain, with his Euro-chic wardrobe and snotty attitude, although his slight physical appearance makes the final mano-a-mano showdown with Bond in a burning hotel seem almost silly. Unlike the classic Bond villains, who at least had the temerity to aim for world domination, Amalric’s Greene, much like Casino Royale’s Le Chiffre, is just a greedy bastard who doesn’t mind manipulating everyone around him for his own financial gain.
In pursuing Greene, Bond crosses paths with a fierce beauty named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who has gotten involved with Greene as a means of gaining access to the military dictator who was responsible for the rape and murder of her entire family when she was a child. Thus, both she and Bond are driven by vengeance, although only Camille is open about her motives. Everything about Bond’s demeanor suggests that he is just this side of unhinged, which concerns his superior, M (Judi Dench), who realizes that a Bond gone rogue is a dangerous thing indeed. Mixed up in all of this is American CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), who appreciates what Bond is up to but must still tow the line for the good ol’ U.S. of A (the film is quite harsh in its depictions of ugly Americanism).
Following the plot in Quantum of Solace, which was hatched by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade (all of whom wrote Casino Royale), is not terribly difficult, but it still feels somewhat scattershot, perhaps because all the international intrigue is really secondary to Bond’s need for catharsis. Despite all the repressed emotion, Forster clearly invested a great deal in the action sequences, which range from the aforementioned highway chase, to a footrace across the crumbling terraces of Siena, Italy (which is clearly intended to invoke the vertiginous Madagascar construction zone chase in Casino Royale), to a plane chase that culminates in Bond parachuting from thousands of feet up sans parachute. But, like Bond himself, there is something so dour and driven about these sequences that you feel almost guilty for finding them thrilling, even if you can’t help but roll your eyes when Forster insists on busily cross-cutting between action sequences and something else (a horse race, an opera). Aside from an amusing bit in which Bond justifies staying in a five-star hotel even though he’s supposed to be undercover as a teacher on sabbatical by informing the front desk that he’s just won the lottery, Quantum of Solace is easily the most humorless of the Bond films (there is little surprise that its dominant environment is a desert). On its own terms, the film works, but it makes you long for some kind of balance between the giddy and the serious.
|Quantum of Solace Blu-Ray |
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
Poruguese Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
|Subtitles||English, Cantonese, Portuguese, Korean, Spanish, Mandarin|
“Another Way to Die” music video
“Bond on Location” featurette
“Start of Shooting” featurette
“On Location” featurette
“Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase” featurette
“Director Marc Forster” featurette
“The Music” featurette
“Crew Files” behind-the-scenes mini-featurettes
Theatrical and teaser trailers
|Distributor||MGM / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||March 24, 2009 |
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The audio and video quality of the Quantum of Solace Blu-Ray disc is first-rate. The 1080p high-definition image, encoded on a 50GB dual-layer disc, is sharp and impressively detailed without looking overly digitized. The film has a slightly grainy, intensely stylized look that emphasizes high contrast, blown-out white levels, and lots of emphasis on earth tones and grayscale, and the high-def image handles it all beautifully, rendering it exactly as I remember seeing it in the theaters. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is genuinely explosive, immersing you in intense, multi-layered surround effects and directionality. The opening car chase sequence is about as good a showpiece as you will find for your home theater system.|
|Given the relatively light nature of the supplements, I would shocked if there isn’t a more extensive two-disc edition in production even as we speak. For now, though, Bond fans will have to make do with this disc’s six, relatively meager, featurettes, which include interviews (mostly during production) with director Marc Forster, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, executive producers Anthony Waye and Callum McDougall, composer David Arnold, first assistant director Michael Lerman, production designer Dennis Gassner, location manager Martin Joy, casting director Debbie McWilliams, stunt coordinator Gary Powell, and actors Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, among others. The only really meaty featurette is “Bond on Location” (25 min.), which looks at the various exotic locales around in the world where the movie was filmed by multiple units over six months, including London, Austria, Italy, Panama, Mexico, and Chile. There is also quite a bit of focus on special effects and stunts, particularly the rooftop chase in Siena. The other five featurettes are all very brief and often redundant: “Start of Shooting” (3 min.) looks at both the first day of shooting and the extensive amount of training and rehearsal that went into the various action sequences; “On Location” (3 min.) covers the same material as “Bond on Location,” including some of the same footage; “Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase” (2 min.) looks at the actress’s experience with the water action sequence; “Director Marc Forster” (3 min.) focuses on Forster’s role in shaping the film; and “The Music” (3 min.) examines both David Arnold’s orchestral score and the theme song by Alicia Keyes and Jack White. “Crew Files” are 34 mini-featurettes (running about 45 minutes total) that were originally posted on the movie’s web site. With an introduction by producer Michael G. Wilson, they allow us to hear first-hand accounts of the film’s production by various members of the crew, from location managers to hair stylists to the unit nurse. You can watch them individually or all together. Lastly, the disc includes the “Another Way to Die” music video and the original theatrical and teaser trailers.
Overall Rating: (2.5)
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All images copyright © MGM / 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment