March 13, 2009

Reviewed by Jackson

Quantum of Solace pick ups pretty much right where the previous James Bond film, Casino Royale, left off with a revenge-minded 007 (Daniel Craig) ready to action against those responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd. If only the latest Bond flick could have also picked up where the last did in terms of quality!

It’s not that Quantum of Solace is a bad 007 film (it has none of the pain-inducing characteristics of, say, Moonraker). But after the re-energizing of the Bond franchise with the re-imagining instituted in Casino Royale, Solace simply falls flat in comparison, a thin attempt at replicating the success of the Jason Bourne franchise rather than a continuation of the reinvented James Bond series. Standing on it’s own, Quantum of Solace might have fared better.

Interestingly enough, Solace utilizes the same team of writers behind Casino Royale: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. But while the earlier film feels fresh, Solace feels generic. Perhaps that’s because Casino Royale was adapted from one of the original Ian Fleming novels, updated to take place in modern times, while Solace is an “original” screenplay. The problem is, Quantum of Solace doesn’t feel that original.

I remember reading upon release of the film in theaters a factoid how this was the first 007 movie with a non-British director with the exception of Die Another Day’s Lee Tamahori (and since Tamahori was born in New Zealand, he still comes from the Commonwealth). Quantum of Solace was directed by Marc Forster, who was born in Germany and grew up in Switzerland. It shows. Nothing against his Marc Forster and his style, but Solace lacks that unique English sensibility that is so quintessentially Bond, particularly in the film’s humor, which is almost non-existent. If 007 has taught movie-goers anything, it is that humor can co-exist with even the most violent of action.

Daniel Craig is still excellent in the James Bond role, although he’s not given the same degree of great Bond moments and one-liners as he was previously. That having been said, he still truly captures the essence of the Ian Fleming “book” Bond more than anyone else who has played the role, adding the dark, just on the safe side of sadistic edge that his predecessors lacked. Production values are what one has come to expect from the series: awe-inspiring stunts and chase sequences (albeit some are too frenetically edited as to make any sequential or logical sense), stunning locations, beautiful Bond girls… after all, what would a 007 movie be without them (all of the above, not just the women)?

Despite all of the above criticisms, I still enjoyed Quantum of Solace. It just didn’t feel quite like a Bond film… and after Casino Royale, my expectations were pretty darned high.

Video / Audio / Extras

The DVD looks and sounds great in its 2.40:1 widescreen, with pretty cool menus to boot. Although not of the level one would expect from the Criterion Collection, the two-disc Quantum of Solace does exhibit a degree of quality beyond the norm.

As for extras, there are quite a few. Disc 1 contains only a couple of stand-bys in addition to the main film (the Jack White/Alicia Keys music video for “Another Way To Die”, the teaser trailer and the theatrical trailer), while Disc 2 is jam-packed full of featurettes. By far the stand-out of these (and the longest) is “Bond on Location”, which goes into incredible detail on each of the locales used for shooting the film, the trials and tribulations of each location, and the overall importance of unique locations to the Bond canon. The production value of the featurette is exceedingly high, much better than I have come to expect from a general release.

The other featurettes maintain the high quality of production, but fall far short in content. Consisting of mostly publicity fluff and no real insight, they include “Start of Shooting”, “Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase”, “Director Forster” and “On Location”—yes, a second location featurette, only this one lacks everything that makes the first one any good, save for its style.

The only other bonus features of interest are the 33(!) video blogs of various crew members (blogs aren’t really the write word for them, but that’s how producer Michael G. Wilson described them in his introduction). They are brief and not hugely detailed (some more interesting than others), but just the fact that such a wide variety of crew—even the unit nurse!—are acknowledged is a nice touch.

Final Words

James Bond, meet Jason Bourne. Both are good on their own—but better when they stay separate.

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