MGM // 2008 // 106 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // March 27th, 2009
"It would be a pretty cold bastard who didn't want revenge for the death of someone he loved." -- M (Judi Dench)
This spicy South American adventure is the perfect chaser to an epic reboot of the lagging Bond franchise. Working from a script by returning scribes Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis, the pressure was on director Marc Forster (Kite Runner) to keep the magic going. Lucky for us, his team cooked up one heck of a feast.
Reeling from the events of Casino Royale, 007 (Daniel Craig, Road to Perdition) is bound and determined to find out who was pulling the strings. But when his investigation gets a bit bloody for his handlers at MI-6, James is left to his own devices, calling in favors from a couple old friends, and partnering up with a mysterious woman (Olga Kurylenko, Max Payne) with a mission of her own. The trail leads them from Haiti, to Austria, Panama, and Chile where the chips really hit the fan.
For those who claim this film makes no sense outside of the context of Casino Royale, I say nonsense. Yes, that knowledge does add a bit of backstory, but so does reading a book before seeing the adaptation. Here, the bad guys are established up front, the ball is put in play, the new Bond girl shoots first, and we're strapped in for one hell of a ride all the way to the end.
There is no fat to trim here. No unnecessary exposition. No self-indulgent romance. This is the leanest, meanest Bond to date. Tight story. Wicked double crosses. A high body count. No remorse. If Connery, Moore, and Brosnan's adventures were iconified by flirting with and making love to their audiences, Daniel Craig makes his time with us quick, raw, and dirty, leaving us hungry for more. As it should be.
Dominic Greene will not go down as one of the series' most memorable villains, but he is meglomaniacal, has a creepy sidekick, a viable master plan, and the resources to pull it off. The modern era Bond villains are businessmen who play their games on a much more realistic level. No space stations or underwater hideouts, no nuclear warheads or giant lasers, no plans to engineer a master race or turn worthless desert into prime oceanfront real estate. These men want money and influence. They operate in plain sight, control key resources, dictate policy, and play world politics as if it were a giant game of Risk. Why? Because they can.
While one wouldn't consider director Marc Forster the ideal candidate for an action picture, let alone a Bond adventure, his process serves the tale remarkably well. Marc's talent is steeped in realism, doing as much as he can in-camera and on location, avoiding CGI and ADR whenever possible; and boy does this man paint a beautiful picture, from the slick sanitized world of MI-6, to the Earthen decay backdrop of Latin America, and everything in between. If something can be both modern and retro, this is it. It's like an alternate reality where today's cast and crew have been dropped into a Sean Connery picture. Italy's Piazza del Campo in Italy. Austria's Begenz Opera House. Chile's Paranal Observatory. A magnificently dressed Casco Viejo in Panama City. All classic Bond. Cubby Broccoli would be proud.
The performances are more than impressive, with no hint of doubt or hesitation. Daniel Craig builds upon an already staggering start to his 007 tenure. Judi Dench solidifies herself as the finest boss in the Bond canon with an emotionally conflicted, tough as nails turn. Olga Kurylenko is one badass Bond companion with her own agenda and more than capable of taking care of herself. Mathieu Almaric does what any good Bond villain should do -- make you despise him. Joaquin Cosio is one sleazy Bolivian general with aspirations of greatness. Giancarlo Giannini has a brief but memorable appearance as retired agent Rene Mathias. The same holds true for Jeffrey Wright returning to the role of CIA confidant Felix Leiter, although there seems to be a permanent scowl etched upon his face.
As a series known for its mind blowing stunt sequences, it becomes more and more challenging to show us things we've never seen before. The opening car chase literally rocks, streaking past Brosnan's remote control adventure in Tomorrow Never Dies. The boat chase through Haiti drowns Central Florida in Live and Let Die and rivals the race down the River Thames in The World is Not Enough. The DC-3 dogfight outmaneuvers Roger Moore's pre-title air raid in Octopussy. And for as much balcony jumping as Bond does in this film, you'd think he had been trained by Jason Bourne. It's all good preparation for the final good guy / bad guy battle royale, playing out on multiple levels, and guaranteed to be a blast! But the ultimate payoff is much more subtle and rewarding.
Presented in 2.35:1 1080p widescreen, this Blu-ray continues MGM/Fox's rather pedestrian release trend. Having seen the digital theatrical presentation, there's nothing here that blew me away visually. While I don't have its low def companion on hand for direct comparison, the limited depth of field, soft focus forefront detail, color palate, and black levels are nothing more than one would expect from a modern DVD presentation. Where it does excel however is the robust DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track. There's nothing more phonically luxurious than Blu-ray surround, especially during the film's big action set pieces. Although, I'm still convinced the studios would be well served to remix their tracks for home theatre presentation. While not as noticeable as other releases, at times the dialogue does struggle to keep pace with the film's underscore and ambient effects.
Where the BD falls well short of expectations is in its packaging. Don't rush out to get this one, if you despise the studio double dip. The lack of features are almost sure to indicate a Special Edition is on the way, most likely as a precursor to the theatrical release of Bond 23. There is a nice menu design, extremely fluid in appearance and functionality, mimicking M's heads up office display, but no BD-Live functionality, and the only BD exclusive is a $5.00 coupon towards the purchase of another release in the Bond Blu-ray line.
What extras they have included are ported over from the Two-Disc Collector's Edition. No commentary. No deleted scenes. No outtakes. It's all very press kit oriented and often redundant.
Bond on Location (25 min)
A heady BBC-style documentary look at the composition of Quantum of Solace, and the challenges the team faced by spending more time on location -- away from the comfort, safety, and control of Pinewood studios -- than any other film in the franchise. When you understand what it took to capture these scenes, you come away with a whole new appreciation for the picture. It's not only the impact the production team had on the environments in which they shot, but the affect the locals and their culture had on the cast and crew.
Start of Shooting (3 min)
A quick EPK look at the first few weeks of principal photography, and how much more is demanded of Daniel Craig this time around.
On Location (3 min)
Another short featurette, one we actually ran on Cinema Verdict during the film's shoot. Much of this is just extended footage of what's already included in "Bond on Location."
Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase (2 min)
A brief look at the newest Bond girl and the training required to get her action-ready. Again, rehashing footage already covered elsewhere.
Director Marc Forster (3 min)
Exploring the pressure on Marc to keep the Daniel Craig Bond juju going strong. The cast shares their admiration for the man they were proud to have collaborated with. I'm not so sure the crew felt the same, given what they went through to make this happen.
The Music (3 min)
Hanging with composer David Arnold and his team, as he scores and records this emotionally ambiguous adventure. Also a quick glimpse at the Jack White / Alicia Keys theme song.
Crew Files (45 min)
Producer Michael Wilson introduces Roberto Schaefer (director of photography), James Grant (location manager), Ana Endara (extras casting), and many more talented staffers as they expand on the production, the departmental, and individual challenges faced. These 32 video blogs were created for and featured on the official Bond site, over a period of six months leading up to the film's release.
Jack White and Alicia Keys team up to breathe down and dirty life into the film's title sequence song.
Two Theatrical Trailers
Taken as a stand-alone adventure or part of a Casino Royale double bill, Quantum of Solace is a solid hit. The gritty realism of 007's current world plays extremely well to today's cynical and jaded audiences, and I'm all for seeing where Barbara Broccoli and Daniel Craig take us next. We've had a lot thrown at us by Hollywood in recent years, but there's something about James Bond that keeps us lining up for more.
Rock on 007!
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese, Brazilian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
* Portuguese (Brazilian)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Music Video