"Quantum of Solace" finds British actor Daniel Craig returning to the role of James Bond in a direct sequel to the first film starring Craig as Bond, "Casino Royale." This was a film I had high anticipation for due to my love of Craig as James Bond and thought that "Casino Royale" was one of the finest Bond films since the very early Sean Connery pictures or the oft forgotten "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." I'm not going to go as far as saying that the blonde-haired blue-eyed Craig is the best Bond yet, but he certainly gives Connery a run for his money and the serious and gritty performance that Craig brings to the role had "Quantum of Solace" as one of the must-see films for this past year. My hope is that Craig is going to stick around for a while and this oddly titled second film is not the last time we see Craig as Bond.
The film begins its timeline immediately after that of "Casino Royale." Bond has captured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) and brought him after a high speed chase to meet with M (Judi Dench). They question White about the super-secret organization hinted at during the first film, but White just laughs and tells M and Bond that the organization has people everywhere. This is quickly realized when M's personal bodyguard of eight years reveals himself as an operative for White's organization. Bond quickly moves to track down the bodyguard and those that were involved with the traitor. This leads Bond into meeting Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) and her rich environmentalist boyfriend Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Greene tries repeatedly to kill Camille, but Bond rescues the beauty.
Soon Bond begins globetrotting trying to uncover those involved in the mysterious organization that tried to assassinate M and reveal Greene's role with the organization. It appears that Greene and General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) are working to place Medrano back into power in Bolivia in exchange for a large desert region to become owned by Greene. It is soon revealed that the CIA is also working with Medrano and Greene to place the General back into power and Bond's American ally Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is involved with the plot, but being duped by Greene. Bond also enlists the help of his former friend Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) to help him after M and the MI6 believe Bond to be rogue and his passports and credit cards are suspended as Bond must work outside of the system to bring information about the mysterious organization Quantum to light.
The critics were not overly kind to "Quantum of Solace" when compared to the favorably reviewed "Casino Royale." The overall view was that Craig continues to impress with his performance as Bond, but that the movie itself wasn't quite as entertaining as its predecessor. I'm not hesitant to agree with the majority when it comes to this film. Craig is again impressive as a Bond who relies on his wit, training and intelligence to stop evil masterminds and doesn't use the gadgetry or hokey stunts of previous Bonds such as those portrayed by Pierce Brosnan, Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton. Craig is a real-world Bond and the reboot of the series has become a very serious affair that is no longer the parody it had become.
Unfortunately, "Quantum of Solace" tries to be far louder and bigger than the first film and the high end stunts and MTV style editing of the more spectacular scenes lessens the impact of Craig's performance and while there aren't any crazy inventions at Bond's disposal, the series now risks becoming an over-the-top spectacle as it was before Craig took over the reins. For the most part, the action sequences were grounded in reality, but the explosive finale that takes place in an unusually fueled hotel in the middle of the desert had me rolling my eyes and remembering back to the ice palace that Brosnan destroyed in "Die Another Day." "Quantum of Solace" certainly cannot hold up storywise to Craig's first outing as Bond and while the twenty second Bond film is still an above average entry in the series, it cannot rival "Casino Royale."
My complaints with "Quantum of Solace" were the over-the-top action sequences and MTV-style cutting that made them seem to slick and quick. The film was noisy and cut too fast in many of the action sequences, including the awe-inspiring fight on construction scaffolding. The film's boat chase and the final action sequence in the exploding hotel were the two scenes that I did not particularly care for and those two moments alone was enough to keep "Quantum of Solace" from succeeding on the same level as "Casino Royale." These moments were still not as silly as many of the stunts performed by Brosnan or Moore, but I've enjoyed the Craig reboot because of how the series has been grounded in reality and hydrogen-fueled hotels that explode all around the stars doesn't fit properly into this re-imagining of the James Bond series.
I enjoyed "Quantum of Solace" and still support Craig as being one of the finest two actors to portray James Bond. With the organization of Quantum now being named, I expect the storyline that began with "Casino Royale" to continue and Craig is apparently contracted for a total of four films. This two film reboot has worked exceptionally well and while "Quantum of Solace" took a step back in overall quality, it is still the second best James Bond film since "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" in 1969. The real reason to watch these two films is to see the talented Craig portray Bond as a gritty man with compassion and more humanity that ever seen in the character. This is still one of the better action films of 2008 and while it is flawed, it is still well worth watching.
"Quantum of Solace" is a sharp looking film on Blu-ray and the 2.40:1 framed picture is clean. Director Marc Forster and Director of Photography Roberto Schaffer continue to show Daniel Craig's Bond in a very gritty manner with desaturated colors that helps ground Bond in reality. Detail is exceptional and watching Bond walk through the desert is a testament to how solid the detail is as you can pick out each small pebble. Gunfire and the resulting particle effects look spectacular. Coloring is altered to present Bond is a darker world and colors are far from looking over-processed. Skin coloring is very natural. I don't mind the look of the film and it isn't as stylistic as "Blackhawk Down," but it is a different approach than anything seen during Brosnan's reign as Bond. Detail holds up in the few dark sequences and the image is stable throughout the film. The digital mastering is clean and I don't recall any flaws from the source materials although film grain is present throughout the film to keep things gritty.
The audio of "Quantum of Solace" is exceptional and the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix sounds incredible. From the opening sequence where Bond is racing through the twisted Italian streets in a gorgeous car while gunfire erupts all around him to the explosive finale, "Quantum of Solace" sounds incredible. The film uses all six channels and while most of the heavy lifting is done by the front three channels, the rear surrounds and .1 LFE channel all are given plenty to do and provides a booming and enveloping experience. Bass is deep and directional effects pan perfectly between speakers. Dialogue is sharp. Additional language support is provided with Spanish, French and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes and English, Spanish, Cantonese, Portuguese, Korean and Mandarin subtitles are included.
The "Quantum of Solace" Blu-ray disc begins with promotional trailers for "Valkyrie," "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and "Australia." The film's flashy menu then provides options for "Special Features," "Setup," "Play" and "Scenes." What I found surprising is that "Quantum of Solace" does not feature any Profile 1.1 or Profile 2.0 functionality. There are no Digital Copy present nor other bells and whistles that are now commonplace on Blu-ray. In fact, the option list of the Blu-ray release is identical to that of the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD se. With the Bond films typically being the crème of the crop of MGM films, I found this shocking that "Quantum of Solace" didn't get at least a little next-generation love with the Blu-ray release. The only difference is that this is a one-disc set.
The special features begin with Music Video – "Another Way to Die," (4:30) which features Jack White of the White Stripes and Alicia Keys. Those seeking a little trivia may find it interesting this was the first ever Bond duet. I'm not a Jack White fan. Bond on Location (24:45) is a decent making of documentary that contains some great making-of scenes, but does fall prey to some of the familiar EPK traps. It feels promotional, but it is informative. Start of Shooting (2:54) finds director Marc Forster introducing footage from January 3, 2008 when shooting began on the film. On Location (3:14) has the director talking about the importance of choosing the film's shooting locations.
Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase Sequence (2:14) is another short clip about the film's ‘Bond Girl' and her action packed sequence. The Director Marc Forster (2:45) featurette is another brief clip with star Daniel Craig talking about the director. The Music (2:36) focuses on the recording of David Arnold and his take on the iconic James Bond theme and the rest of the film's score. I don't know why these short vignettes weren't rolled into one feature. Crew Files (45:30) is a collection of three featurettes featuring crew members Michael G. Wilson, James Grant and Ana Endara. These were blog-based footage that was shown on the Internet to help promote the film and is perhaps the best special feature on the disc. Finally, the Theatrical Teaser Trailer #1 and Theatrical Trailer #2 end the bonus offerings.
"Quantum of Solace" was not the awe-inspiring sequel that I had hoped for after Daniel Craig's awesome turn as James Bond in the previous "Casino Royale." It was edited to have too many quick cuts and the story lacked the power of the first film, but Craig continues to be a powerhouse as 007. While it may not be as good a film as I had hoped, "Quantum of Solace" is still superior to most James Bond films and an above average action picture. The Blu-ray release contains a very sharp looking picture and exceptional sound. Where I found some disappointment was that the bonus features are simply high definition ports of the features found on the DVD release. There is nothing next-gen about this title. If you enjoyed "Casino Royale," then there is absolutely no reason why you won't enjoy this sequel. Craig will be back for two more films and I hope he continues to take Bond to heights not seen since Sean Connery.