Tuesday, March 31, 2009

QUANTUM OF SOLACE - 2-DISC SPECIAL EDITION

Daniel Craig returns in his second outing as British secret agent James Bond 007 in QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008), the latest installment of the long-running spy franchise.

Before I get into this, let me be clear – I am a gargantuan James Bond fan, and have been since I was fifteen, when I first saw GOLDFINGER on HBO in 1978. My first Bond film in the theater was MOONRAKER, and I’ve only missed one opening weekend since then. In high school and college, I was so obsessed, that I collected multiple copies of all the Ian Fleming original novels, bought the John Gardner continuation novels in hardcover, and tracked down the original pressings of the soundtrack LPs. I like something about every movie in the series, and QUANTUM is no exception. But still, I found the latest movie to be incredibly disappointing, and consider it to be one of the worst in the series, even if the box office grosses don’t agree.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE opens literally minutes after the conclusion of its predecessor, CASINO ROYALE (2006), and continues Bond’s hunt for the people behind the events of the previous film and his determination to avenge the death of Vesper, the woman who he’d fallen in love with and who’d betrayed him. This leads him to the discovery of an international criminal organization called Quantum, and a rather unimpressive Eurotrash villain named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almalric), who’s out to – um – corner the Bolivian water supply.

The film opens with a car chase that’s so incomprehensibly edited that it took me four viewings to determine exactly how many cars were involved. All of the action scenes in the movie – and they are many – are cut the same way, and it’s just infuriating. Director Marc Forster also seems to be determined to craft the first James Bond "art film," with excessive cross-cutting between his already incoherent action scenes and other locales… and it’s frankly exhausting trying to follow it all. He does handle the drama well, though, and pulls excellent performances from his cast; I have no complaints there. Nor do I with David Arnold’s fine musical score.

I do have a complaint about the filmmakers’ current take on the character of James Bond, though. All this talk of bringing the character back to the Ian Fleming original conception all sounds fine, but it bears no resemblance to what they’ve done to the character. He’s no longer the suave, slightly snobby secret agent serving Her Majesty’s interests and defeating international malefactors with style and cool efficiency, he’s now simply a thug. He's brutal, arrogant and indiscriminate in his use of violence; much more Mickey Spillane than Ian Fleming. Sigh.

Oh well, you’ve probably already seen the film, and have your own opinion, so I’ll discuss the 2-disc Special Edition DVD. In a word, it’s fine. There’s a beautiful, 2:35.1 widescreen anamorphic transfer, and 5.1 Dolby Surround and DTS audio options. The first disc includes several theatrical trailers and a music video of Jack White and Alicia Keyes’ theme song. Surprisingly, there’s no commentary track by the director.

Disc 2 contains a slew of behind-the-scenes and production featurettes, most originally prepared for British television. They’re the usual, self-congratulatory fluff pieces, but they’re nicely produced. No doubt, there will be an even more special Special Edition coming along in a year or so.

For fans of the film and Bond completists – including me – picking this up is a no-brainer.

BUY: Quantum of Solace (Two-Disc Special Edition)