A "reboot" of the "Bond" franchise (because, reportedly, after the invisible cars of "Die Another Day", the producers thought they'd reached a ceiling with the gadgets shown in the tech-heavy Brosnan "Bond" films), "Casino Royale" was the debut of new 007 Daniel Craig. With "Goldeneye" director Martin Campbell at the helm, "Casino Royale" was a surprisingly successful reinvention of the franchise, and Craig was compelling as a younger, much colder ("Royale" did away with nearly all of the humor that the series had become known for) Bond.
For "Quantum of Solace", Campbell is replaced by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland"), who is the most unlikely "Bond" director since Michael Apted ("The World is Not Enough"). This time around, Bond (Craig) is searching for vengeance after the events of the last find, but finds himself up against Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a villain working with the underground Quantum organization. Greene - who's also working with the CIA - ultimately plans to control the water supply of Bolivia.
Coming to Bond's aid is Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a Bolivian secret service agent who doesn't serve as much of a romantic interest to Bond, but remains a fierce character capable of standing up to the agent - and who is also seeking revenge, as well. Kurylenko certainly won't go down as one of the best Bond girls of all time, but I liked her steely performance.
There's also Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), who's sent to get Bond after MI-6 believes he may have gotten out of control. No surprise that Bond gets his way with her within a relatively quick time frame. Arterton's part is minor at best, but she's amusing in her few moments on-screen. Judi Dench and Jeffrey Wright provide fine supporting performances, while Amalric makes a decent villain out of a somewhat thin character. As for Craig, he continues to make for a surprisingly good Bond - at least in this new colder and more fierce form.
Forster certainly provides a high quantity (more than the prior film) of action sequences (the story is a bit on the thin side, and seems to be largely a frame to build action scenes off of), but the results are somewhat mixed. While there are some thrilling sequences, such as a fight scene throughout the streets of Italy and an action sequence during an opera, but there are a few action sequences here where the editing becomes hyperactive and the scenes lose some of their impact as a result.
Forster seemed like a very unlikely choice to direct a major action film such as this, and while there's plenty of action sequences here, one wonders if another director could have made more out of them. It's too bad that Campbell couldn't have been pulled back in for another round in the director's chair - "Goldeneye" and "Royale" still stand as the most enjoyable efforts in the franchise since Brosnan stepped into the role in the mid-90's.
Craig once again carries the movie, as he's clearly able to pull off action scenes well and offers another intense, riveting performance. "Quantum" works as a popcorn film, offering up several sizable action sequences and moving at a rapid pace (as Bond films go, this one is a bit on the short side, clocking in at 106 minutes.) While "Quantum" entertains in popcorn movie fashion, hopefully the next director in the franchise will be a bit better fit.
VIDEO: "Quantum of Solace" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC). The results are a tad inconsistent, but most scenes look absolutely gorgeous. While a few shots look a tad softer, much of the movie looks crystal clear, with excellent sharpness and definition. The print appeared pristine, with no print flaws to be seen - which is certainly what one should expect on a recent theatrical release. Some scenes in the film do show mild-to-moderate amounts of grain, although this seems to be an intentional element of the cinematography.
SOUND: The film is presented on Blu-Ray in DTS-HD 5.1. It's no surprise that the film's audio is a slam-bang assault, with an array of effects (gunfire, crashing, etc.) coming from the rear speakers. The action sequences sound remarkable, with powerful bass and surround use that is quite effective. Audio quality is terrific, with crisp, well-recorded and punchy effects, as well as clear dialogue. This is an absolutely top-notch audio presentation that is sure to thrill viewers.
EXTRAS: "On Location" (HD) is a nearly 25-minute featurette that provides an overview of the production, showing interviews and behind-the-scenes footage as the film's crew heads from remarkable location to remarkable location across the world, including Chile, Panama, Italy, the UK, Austria and Mexico. I wish this feature had actually been longer, as it's a very informative and engaging look at the massive production trying to move around the world to film in a wide variety of fascinating locations.
"Start of Filming" (HD) is a short piece that looks at how the cast was pulled back together and production started up after the successful "Casino Royale". Also running only a few minutes is "On Location", which has Forster and other members of the production discussing filming some of the main scenes on location. "Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase" (HD) is another piece lasting a few moments that follows the actress as she films the movie's big boat chase.
Finally, we also get a short piece on director Forster, as well as a piece on the music and a over 30 short featurettes that discuss the role of certain members of the production, such as the extras casting director to the make-up designer to a location manager to the cinematographer and more. These short clips - which appear to have been originally posted online - are terrifically informative and enjoyable looks at the role of each of those profiled. There is also an opening and closing comment from producer Michael Wilson. Thankfully, there is a "play all" option.
The teaser and theatrical trailer are included, as well as a music video.
A particularly nice added bonus is a coupon for $5 off another Bond Blu-Ray (Die Another Day, Dr. No, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, The World is Not Enough or Thunderball), which can be found within the case.
Final Thoughts: While "Quantum" entertains in popcorn movie fashion with several action sequences and another solid performance from Daniel Craig, hopefully the next director in the franchise will be a bit better fit. The Blu-Ray edition boasts excellent audio/video quality, although the lack of more extras is somewhat surprising. Recommended.
The Film B-