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007: Quantum of Solace Blu-ray Review

asino Royale was a reboot, revitalization and reintroduction to the world of James Bond. And boy, what a revitalization it was. Not only was Bond a blonde (Daniel Craig), but he was much more aggressive and raw than in outings past, and his favorite activity was seemingly murder, not martinis. The end of Casino Royale paved the way for an outstanding sequel, with multiple plot opportunities to have Bond get even more vengeful. With Quantum of Solace, Craig returns to avenge his lover’s death, but somewhere along the way he found an even more insatiable desire for carnage, almost to a fault. But boy, all that action sure makes for a great Blu-ray Disc experience.

In 007: Quantum of Solace, Bond is on the hunt for not only the man responsible for his lover’s death, but also for the person responsible for trying to kill his boss/mother figure, M (Judi Dench). If you thought Casino Royale opened with a bang, wait until you see the opening 20 minutes of Quantum of Solace. From a high-speed and destructive car chase scene to a vertigo-inducing chase on the rooftops and scaffolding, Quantum of Solace is among the most action-packed films of the past two years, almost to the point of excess. This lends itself well to the 1080p video, which is impeccable and tracks the action beautifully, with the sole problem being the quick edits within each scene. The fast cuts fit the action just fine, but because the video is so clear, you want to sit and take it all in but aren’t able to because the director give you enough time to appreciate the visual beauty.

Fortunately, the audio cuts are a bit more forgiving, as ambient and directional sounds don’t dissipate in the viewing room as quickly as the video fades from the screen. Oddly enough, though, the sound seems a bit more refined in the film’s early stages, as well as a bit more full and more incorporating of the surround channels. It’s not just a matter of the on-screen action being so hectic at first; the entire movie is pretty well packed. And it’s not just special effects, The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.because Quantum of Solace seems a bit more balanced between dialogue and explosion volumes in the first half of the movie than it is in the second. Maybe the large explosions early on just numb the ears, or maybe everything just pales in comparison after the mid-movie scene in which Bond and his new lover take a cargo plane into an aerial dogfight. In this scene, the environmental audio quickly gives way to distinct positional audio as bullets whiz through the fuselage and create miniature perforations through the plane’s aluminum hull. If you’ve got a great surround-sound system that takes advantage of DTS-HD Master Audio, this scene is well worth the demonstration time.

We all know how Bond movies end (Bond sleeps around and gets the bad guy), so I’ll spare the plot points here. When it comes to James Bond, the magic lies in the journey, not the destination, and Quantum of Solace is one heck of a journey for action-film fans. The climactic scene is a bit over the top, and the opening sequence thinks a bit too much of itself and lasts to long, but the movie on the whole is a good popcorn film and worth at least a rental.

The bonus features, on the other hand, are pretty weak, even if they are more than a half-dozen in number. It’s a sad day in bonus feature land when the highlight is a full-HD Music Video: “Another Way to Die” (4:30, HD). This video is the only full-HD feature among them, and it’s simply the introductory theme song featuring Jack White and Alicia Keys. Visually the video has great art direction and is incredibly clear, but it’s kind of weird to see a music video for a film that doesn’t include any film footage.

Next up is Bond On Location (24:45), a behind-the-scenes feature about scouting, choosing and working in all the locations worldwide that appear in the film. The brunt of the feature is comprised of interviews with the director, producers and various other members of the crew who discuss how Casino Royale set the bar for a worldwide set in Quantum of Solace, and how they had to “one up” themselves for the sequel. Of course, everyone also reminds viewers that it’s the Bond tradition to take viewers to exotic locales. Personally, I think this feature is just a “told ya so” piece for the producers to justify their desires to travel the world. But that could just be the jealousy talking.

Start of Shooting (2:54) is an incredibly brief collection of Day One footage and interviews with cast and crew talking about being nervous on the first day, getting the jitters out, and feeling a bit more pressure this time around since Casino Royale did so well. It seems like this should’ve been inserted elsewhere, but looking at the lineup of features, it’s hard to say where else it would’ve fit. Probably nowhere — which is why it stands out here as an orphaned feature.

On Location (3:14) is a very high-level recap of the different locations where they shot the film. While interesting, it’s so brief that it feels like it was cut from Bond On Location and just jerry-rigged here as a stand-alone feature.

Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase (2:14) is theoretically a short overview of the training that the leading actress (Bond’s new love interest) did to prepare for this scene. But honestly, there’s more footage of cameramen shooting the scene than there is of her training for the scene and rehearsing.

Time to get up on the soapbox for a moment. Why is Director Marc Forster (2:45) even included here? In this feature, the cast and crew talk about the excellence and vision of the director. Bla bla bla. Why do people even include these? They’re so self-serving to the director and such pointless fluff, not to mention (no offense) that only a half-dozen consumers worldwide actually care about the director in a Bond movie, that it boggles the mind to even include this “bonus.”

The Music (2:36), on the other hand, is an essential feature, particularly for a Bond film because the song is so well known. It’s clearly a challenge to incorporate music and chords that work well with the theme yet stand out as unique elements for the film, so this feature includes lots of in-studio footage of the composer dinking around on his keyboard to come up with the songs, followed by shots of the orchestra recording the real deal for the film. Oddly enough, though, about half of this feature talks about the theme song with Alicia Keys and Jack White.

Crew Files (45:30) were shot for the movie’s Web site to give insights into production, with nearly three dozen members of the crew letting viewers learn about their experience on the film. I’ve never seen something quite like this, and it’s a great use of material that already existed for the pre-release marketing. These interviews provide the depth you’d expect from an extended making-of feature, but from the unique perspective of the film’s production specialists. If they’d been produced in HD, this would be leaps and bounds above any other feature included on the disc.

But really, do you watch or buy a Bond movie for the bonus features? Maybe if you want something playing in the background while you’re shaking, not stirring, your martini in the kitchen, but bonus features are hardly the meat of a Bond film, Quantum of Solace included. Casino Royale is the better of the two new Bond films, both for its slightly more-complex characters and because it doesn’t overly rely on action to get people’s attention, but Quantum of Solace is still a good sequel and does everything that a sequel needs to do. Hopefully if Craig gets another turn in the Double-O role, the action and character development will find a bit more balance. But if you’re just looking for a good audio demonstration reel, look no further than this Blu-ray Disc until further notice.

Score: 8.8
The movie itself isn’t as strong as Casino Royale, but the multimedia aspects shine just as bright.

— Jonas Allen

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