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Quantum of Solace BD impressions

Blu-ray

Now this is frustrating. A number of people, whose opinions I value highly, have praised Quantum of Solace, but I must confess that, as I watched it, I kept thinking “Am I missing something?” I should, I suspect, say up front that I’m not a James Bond fan. I’ve only seen a handful of the films, and Casino Royale is the only other one I own a copy of. I found that particular film to be a very impressive reboot of a series that, from what I could see, had become very formulaic and rooted in fantasy. It toned down the over-the-top set-pieces and brought characterisation to the forefront, giving Bond a distinctive personality, something he never really had for me in any of the other films I’d seen. I had high hopes for Quantum of Solace, but was ultimately very disappointed. The basic plot itself isn’t the problem. I rather like it, in fact, and the thematic elements, particularly the recurring motifs of betrayal and trust, could have made for some meaty material. For me, it comes down to a combination of the script, which is muddled and unfocused, and the direction, which is confusing at best and staggeringly inept at worst, especially in terms of the action sequences. Newcomer Marc Forster appears to hail from the “shakeycam” school of direction and the “blunt scissors” college of editing, and as a result the film has too much in common with the Bourne franchise for its own good. Scarcely a minute went by when I didn’t find myself wishing Martin Campbell and his editor, Stuart Baird, had stuck around after Casino Royale and handled this one too. Casino Royale was genuinely well-made and its stylistic restraint was greatly appreciated in an age where every action film director seems to think making things as incomprehensible as possible is the way to go. Some striking images aside (Bond and Camille wandering through the desert is a particular stand-out), this just looks and feels like a generic action movie.

Daniel Craig is good in the title role, but he doesn’t have anything like as much to work with here as he did in the previous film, beyond the vague notion of him being hell-bent on revenge. Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton, meanwhile, do their best, but they don’t fare well on the heels of Casino’s Eva Green, who to be fair is, alongside Emily Blunt, possibly the most charismatic actress of her generation. The performance I enjoyed the most was that of Giancarlo Giannini, whom I’ve enjoyed in everything from The Black Belly of the Tarantula to Hannibal, and who manages to give the character of Mathis some real humanity.

For a more favourable take on the film, by the way, Baron Scarpia is your man.

Casino Royale’s BD release was handled by Sony Pictures, and a superb job they did of it too: it got my coveted “10/10” rating on the Discerning Viewer’s Ranking List, and to this day is almost always the first disc we reach for when testing new hardware. With Quantum of Solace, the home video rights have shifted back to MGM, who through their distribution partner 20th Century Fox have put out a very good disc. Detail is very impressive when the camera stays still for more than a second, and the compression is superbly handled from beginning to end. I suspect that a minute amount of filtering may have been applied - either that or I’m seeing the results of downscaling from the 4K master. What I’m referring to is a small amount of ringing around high frequency edges: check the location type in Example 1 and the subtitles in Example 16 to see it at its most obvious (and even then it’s pretty subtle). It’s the only black mark I can possibly give to this otherwise stellar presentation. 9.5/10

By the way, check out the extremely obvious selective airbrushing that has sporadically been applied to Judi Dench’s forehead. Always good for a laugh, and even better for taking you out of the film with its distractingness. Don’t you just love it?

Quantum of Solace
studio: 20th Century Fox/MGM; country: USA; region code: A; codec: AVC;
file size: 27 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 36.43 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Friday, March 13, 2009 at 10:01 PM | Comments: 12
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Gialli | Technology

 
Comments

1.

Now this is going to sound very odd, but I agree with quite a few of your specific criticisms. First off, the fight scenes are remarkably inferior to Casino Royale. Gemma Atherton is one of the worst casting choices in the film.

But somehow I still feel that the film as a whole rises above these flaws. (I've also mellowed a bit in my attitude towards Dominic Greene) I think I'll enjoy revisiting it.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, March 13, 2009 10:34 PM

2.

The below post contains spoilers, kinda, so be warned if you haven't seen Quantum of Solace or Casino Royale.

I enjoyed this one when I saw it in theaters, mainly because I like watching Daniel Craig as Bond be a badass, kind of a vagabond (heeyuck) out for revenge but keeping his cool at the same time, pretending he's really not out for revenge, and struggling with the loss of the girl from the first movie. The slightly misogynistic Bond kind of starts to come through, using women as sex objects, putting on somewhat of a suave persona while being a rather ruthless man.

With his healing of sorts at the end, with the assurance that the girl from the first film really loved him, and having vented a lot of his anger and aggression, it seems he's found some kind of peace, and is ready to be a cooperative MI6 agent again. I suspect Bond won't be so reckless in the next film. (This is all what I got out of the film, anyway...or at least how I remembered it.)

But despite kind of liking the story and watching Craig kick ass, I really did not like how incomprehensible the action is. I could follow along with it just fine, but it wasn't pleasant to look at. I'd have much preferred more clear-cut, "clean" or flowing action like in "the first film." I agree wholeheartedly that Martin Campbell should have helmed Quantum of Solace. It would have been far more enjoyable had he done so. The shaky-cam action and quick-pace editing is nauseating, and there's nothing cool about it. I like to be able to SEE what I'm supposed to be looking at.

I'll probably pick up the BD in a good while from now when I can get it fairly cheap.

Posted by: Christopher D. Jacobson, March 13, 2009 10:47 PM

3.

Looks great but the skin tones are pretty burnt.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, March 14, 2009 12:16 AM

4.

"Looks great but the skin tones are pretty burnt." That's how I remember the skin tones being from the 4K digital theatrical presentation.

Posted by: Sound Designer Dan, March 14, 2009 9:31 PM

5.

Anyone here know which films today use a 4K DI? Saw Watchmen in a 4K theater and it looked upconverted.

Posted by: Sound Designer Dan, March 14, 2009 9:42 PM

6.

Upconverted from 2k or something lower?

Posted by: Kram Sacul, March 15, 2009 2:49 AM

7.

"Upconverted from 2k or something lower?"

It looked like an upconvert from a 2K source. Sad, because while the film was absolute rubbish, it some some amazing visuals.

Posted by: Sound Designer Dan, March 15, 2009 7:21 AM

8.

I saw on a 2k DLP and thought it looked pretty detailed. Of course upconverting/upscaling to 4k could only make it softer.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, March 15, 2009 10:33 AM

9.

Hmmm... I can't exactly pinoint why people say this films looks like the Bourne franchise other than the action sequences. I actually think it looks stunning, Marc Forster is a far more stylish director than Martin Campbell. The opening scenes in Italy, M's headquarters, the desert landscapes, and the fuel hotel are some of the most impressive location/set design work that the series has seen since the 1970s.

Posted by: Marcus, March 15, 2009 3:07 PM

10.

BTW Whiggles, did you ever check out From Russia With Love or On Her Majesty's Secret Service?

Those IMO are must-sees for those who think that all of the pre-Casino Royale Bond films are all below the standard and formulaic.

Posted by: Marcus, March 15, 2009 3:12 PM

11.

Marcus:

Not yet, I’m afraid. I was going to pick up the BDs of Dr. No and From Russia With Love in a sale just before Christmas, but they were sold out by the time I got there, and with the current exchange rate, plus the prices Fox usually charges for their BD titles, I’ve decided to hold off for a little while. I will get round to them eventually, though.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, March 15, 2009 10:06 PM

12.

My biggest problem with this film was the horribly shot action sequences. There was too much quick cutting from one scene to another. Every action scene here was mostly inchorent and the viewer is just lost. Everything else is very much on par then what the film should have been, though Greene needed a bit of flavour. Also I know alot of the fans will disagree but Daniel Craig is the best James Bond ever. I say this as not only a fan of the films but as a fan of the orginal Ian Fleming novels as well. The literary Bond was a sometimes emotionally compromised killer above all and was not pretty like Pierce Brosnan. He was a very rough looking guy, a real ass hole at times, and of course he had a sense of good taste in cars,women, and food. Craig takes that character but adds a boat load of charisma and wit to grab audiences. I really hope Danny stays on for two more Bonds at the least.

Posted by: Rick Robets, March 24, 2009 4:08 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

https://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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