Quantum of Solace, the new Bond flick, is a disappointment plain and simple. It’s incoherent in story and style. Bond is not the wise-cracking, cocky, womanizing, egomaniac we all have grown to love. Instead he has been transformed into a dour, mindless, kicking and punching action hero.
Solace is the first ever direct sequel in the Bond franchise. It starts about an hour after Casino Royale ended. Bond is out for revenge. He’s trying to find out who killed his beloved Vesper. Don’t remember who Vesper is? You’d better brush up on Royale before seeing this movie or nothing will make sense.
But, sadly watching the first movie still won’t help you much as this movie is so muddled it’s almost incomprehensible.
It’s time for the “shaky-cam” style of filming to quietly exit. This trend of filming for action movies is becoming more and more prevalent ever since it was made famous in The Bourne Supremacy. The reason I say this is because Solace opens with two extremely frustrating and nauseating chase scenes. The first is a car chase where each shot lasts no more than one second. The quick cuts fly all over the place, most of them a blur because of the shaking camera.
Director Marc Forster (why didn’t they keep the director for Royale?) has directed some great movies (The Kite Runner, Finding Neverland) but is a novice when it comes to filming action scenes. Forster tries his hand at a foot race between Bond and an unknown agent. Instead of trying to emulate the famous parkour-inspired chase scene through the construction site in Royale, Forster goes with a more personal approach — extreme close-ups of Bond’s face, legs, and torso crashing through glass and sliding down roofs. I wanted to yell at the director to tell him to move his cameraman back 20 feet so I could see what was going on. There’s a lot of action, but sadly it always feels like it’s just off screen.
Daniel Craig is a great Bond. He was amazing in Royale, and he does his best with what he’s given here, but sadly that’s not enough to carry the film. Solace has stripped away all that was Bond and replaced it with someone more closely resembling Jason Bourne. He has hints of humor, but nothing ever materializes. And seriously, since when does Bond not know the type of martini he’s drinking?
Even the villain leaves much to be desired. His name is Dominic and he has a genius plan that involves a deposed dictator and the Bolivian water supply. Dominic isn’t even worthy of being a villain. He’s a weenie, and he acts like one. He doesn’t even employ all that much cunning to warrant such a foe as the great James Bond.
The plot has Bond hop-scotching around the globe finding one lead after another. There is one scene of promise where the who’s who of the rich are having a secret conversation at an outdoor opera. But it’s rudely interrupted with another incoherent chase scene, but this time it’s inter-cut, for no apparent reason, with pointless scenes from the opera.
It all builds up to a showdown at the ‘Hindenburg’ of hotels (you’ll see what I mean). Bond is a shell of his former self, and we know as much about the plot as we did at the very beginning.
I’m not calling for the return of the old Bond, but there are certain things that distinguish Bond from other action heroes. There’s a reason this character has been in 22 movies so far. We adore his persona. He’s smooth and charismatic. But here he is not. Craig was allowed to be that bond in Royale. He’s fantastic in the poker game. He’s silky smooth, but still has time to kill some bad guys and revive himself with defibrillators during the breaks.
The Solace Bond has a one-track mind. He doesn’t even bed the “Bond girl.” While I loved the reinvention of Bond in Royale I do not like this Bond. He’s become like every other action hero. Dare I say, Bond has become generic.
Solace is presented in a1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video, with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
With what the movie lacks in substance and coherence, the HD makes up in overall beauty and clarity. I still think Casino Royale is the best film I’ve ever watched in HD, but Quantum of Solace comes close to replicating the majesty of it.
Even though most of the camera work in the chase scenes is incomprehensible, with the HD you can still make out every little detail whenever the camera is actually pointing at something. One scene in particular, the boat chase scene, is mesmerizing in its detail and splendor. The water glistens as Bond tears through it trying to evade the bad guys. As the boats cut through the water every tiny drop from their wakes is visible.
The beginning of the film does imply that graininess, during the first two chase scenes, giving it a more gritty feel. This doesn’t detract from the film in anyway, but does lend itself to giving the film a bit more atmosphere.
The DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 is just as good as the picture. If you have your speakers turned up at the beginning of the film, be prepared for the roar of Bond’s Aston Martin as it races through the tunnel on the coast of Italy. The sound of the engine through the sub is a deep and growling sound that can only be appreciated in its full glory with this Lossless Master Audio soundtrack.
Even though Bond is a lot less talkative in this film, when there is dialogue it is presented with the clarity you’d expect from Blu-ray. Solace provides a wide expanse of sounds, and they’re all handled here perfectly. Invite your friends over and turn up the sub-woofers, when the engines roar and the explosions happen you’re really in for a treat.
The problem with picking this up the first time around is that it’s pretty much written in stone that MGM will come out with a bigger and badder version, just like they did with Royale. Meaning, if you do go out and pick up this first edition be prepared for some paltry offerings when it comes to the bonus features. The best ones are being held back for the special edition that will no doubt be released when MGM has milked everything possible out of this release.
“Bond on Location” is the “making of” feature that runs about 25 minutes. Obviously this is just a prelude of what’s to come on the next edition. This is mainly a bunch of interviews from various cast and crew on-set and at the junkets. Interviewees include Marc Forster, Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, and Mathieu Amalric among others. This isn’t an in depth “making of” documentary at all. It’s more like something that you’d see on Entertainment Tonight to promote the film. It’s those kinds of interviews.
After that there’s a bunch of other little featurettes, which seem to be all parts of a bigger piece, but were cut down and spread out to fill up the menu. There’s five tiny featurettes here: "Start of Shooting," "On Location," "Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase," "Director Marc Forster," and "The Music.” Like I said before, this is just a lead up to the edition that will have all the bells and whistles. This is bare bones stuff at best.
“Crew Files” is an unnecessary 46 minutes of superficial interviews of 34 cast and crew members. It’s boring to say the least. Yet another feature to make you think MGM went all out when it finally reveals the next edition.
A music video featuring Jack White and Alicia Keys performing the title track is also included along with the original theatrical and teaser trailers.
All of the bonus stuff is presented in HD except for “Crew Files,” which is just in standard definition.
The film is beautiful to look at in high-def, that’s for sure. It’s clean and clear, everything you’d want from a Blu-ray. The sound is off-the-charts engaging, and the picture fun and vibrant. Sadly, those same attributes don’t apply to the film as a whole. Solace features a soulless Bond. He isn’t the Bond we know and love, he’s something different. He’s as bland as the special features provided.