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QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright
Director:  Marc Forster
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  106 Minutes
Release Date:  March 24, 2009

“It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.”

Film **1/2

Quantum of Solace reminds me of some of the Bond films of the 80s and 90s.  That’s not necessarily a strike against it in its own right, but coming on the heels of such a fresh restart in Casino Royale, it feels a little like de-evolution.

And yet, this story so closely follows the events of Casino that, maybe for the first time in the history of the franchise, not having seen the preceding film might make Quantum incomprehensible.  I HAVE seen Casino, many times, and even then, I’m struggling to really put the whole plot of this new movie together in my head.

Daniel Craig, whom I last called the best James Bond ever, remains in fine form, but the script, co-written by Paul Haggis of Crash fame, returns him to the role of a rarely speaking action hero.  And the action in Quantum is amazing and relentless.  But didn’t we last see a Bond more driven by character than by how many bad guys he could kill or how many things he could blow up?

When we left James Bond last time, he had lost Vesper Lynd, a woman who was his perfect match, but who appeared to betray him at the end.  He was rounding up the man behind the organization using her, a Mr. White.

After a physics-defying car chase, Bond delivers White to M (Dench), only to learn that White’s organization is more wide-reaching than MI6 realized.  When he claims they have people everywhere, it turns out not to be empty bragging.

The real villain is Dominic Greene (Amalric), who is hard to pin down.  He pretends to be alarmed by global warming while looking for oil, but what he really wants is to control the water supplies of countries where puppet dictators are easily created and easily dispatched. 

The American CIA is involved, but our country has a history of sometimes bearing dictators with clenched teeth because they serve our own purposes.  James’ old ally Felix Leiter (Wright) is less than enthused, but duty is duty…to a certain extent.

James also ends up sort of allied with a half Russian half Hispanic woman called Camille (Kurylenko), who is after Greene’s latest dictator-in-waiting, a man responsible for the death of her family.  But James has bigger problems…wherever he tries to do his job, people end up dead, and Bond ends up carrying the blame, causing M to question whether his motivation is his job or his desire for revenge against those responsible for Vesper’s death.

That’s more or less the story.  Quantum of Solace has a fairly short running time for a Bond movie, and if anything was sacrificed for brevity, it may have been the character of James Bond, whose only charisma here is what we bring with us in our memories of Casino Royale.

It’s not entirely a throwback…there’s no Q, and no wacky gadgets that suddenly save Bond from doom.  In fact, the biggest technological advances seem to be the computers used by MI6, which are stunning and staggering to behold.  Although there is one obvious homage to the past, and that’s the dispatching of a girl in a way that would have brought a complacent nod from Auric Goldfinger.

Daniel Craig has shown he’s the man to keep Bond alive in the new millennium.  His physical presence and reserved style shows him capable of creating a Bond of considerable weight and thought.  He can handle the action perfectly, but I thought we’d reached the point where we were ready for so much more from 007.

Considering this film and Casino constitute a reboot of the franchise, we might just be generous and say that the creators are still feeling their way through, and sometimes rely on old crutches as a means to an end.  It worked for some twenty movies in the past, but now we’ve been primed for something else.  Action films are suitable entertainment, but we have the possibility of a whole new take on James Bond, with just the right actor to make it happen.  Come on, everyone…you can do better.

Video ****

This is a most splendid Blu-ray offering from Fox, and if the constant action serves any purpose, it might be to demonstrate how sharp and pristine 1080p presentations can be.  There are many locations, many big sequences, many settings in day and night, and this high definition transfer delivers flawlessly, with amazing detail and sharpness, and superb natural-looking colors.

Audio ****

The action also shows what DTS HD sound can deliver, as this is a dynamic, clean and explosive audio track that balances quiet dialogue scenes against larger-than-life action with clarity and smoothness, utilizing the .1 channel and rear stage for engrossing effects.  Listen to what a simple effect like church bells ringing can be in the hands of an uncompressed mix…outstanding!

Features **1/2

No commentary track, but my favorite extra is the music video for “Another Way to Die” by Jack Black and Alicia Keyes…what a weird, wonderful tune.  There are a couple of “on location” featurettes, plus looks at director Marc Forster, Olga Kurylenko and the boat chase and the music, plus some behind-the-scenes clips and the theatrical and teaser trailers.

Summary:

Quantum of Solace delivers the action, but doesn’t quite make good on the promise of Casino Royale and limits the excellent Daniel Craig to a character of great style and less dimension when he’s already proven what he can deliver.  Action fans will get a satisfying fix, but those of us who really looked forward to the future of Bond might have to wait a little while longer to be placated.

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