Casino Royale: Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Review
PictureThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.40:1 1080p transfer with the AVC MPEG 4 codec. I have carefully compared the original UK BD release against this latest disc and can say that there is an improvement to the picture. I will talk about the Madagascar scene in particular to highlight the improvements.
The scene opens to an overview of the pit with crowds swarming all around, the detail is phenomenal with deep rich blacks, bold striking colours, all a touch on the warm side, but this is consistent for the scene whole. With the new disc there is an immediate difference with the richness of the colour, it is deeper and more vivid and still very much as warm, but the real striking change is to the blacks which are darker still, giving even more depth to the frame, detail level remains the same. Moving to the fight atop the crane where you have the blue of the crane itself against the blue of the sea and the blue of the sky. Now the original disc never had any problems reproducing this with grain and gradation aplenty. The new disc too has no problems in showing just how sweet blue can grade but does it even more so. Check out that azure water, it is now even more lush and deep. The reds and oranges of the gas tank explosions are now deeper, more vivid and display a fierceness that threatens to melt the screen.
Ok let's take a wider view of the picture, the detail level remains constant throughout and it is incredible. As far as I could tell there is no improvement to the detail level in any area with this new print, save the artificial enhancement from the darker blacks. Skin detail, clothing weaves, the baize of the card table, the twist of lemon in the vodka martini all are pin sharp in their accuracy and definition. Establishing shots are post card clear, St Marks Square with the throngs of people milling about, the waters and canals of Venice are prime examples of this.
Colours are intentionally over bight and vivid, particularly in the beginning, this is part of the imaging process and whilst not particularly natural is exactly how it is supposed to look; e.g. a near black and white image of Bond as he pulls away in the Austin after Vesper, yet the blue of his eyes stand out like a cats. There were no instances of wash or bleed and indeed all are striking and rich, more so than on the original release.
Brightness is set to give, as already mentioned, even deeper blacks. This is noticeable in daylight scenes as well as those set at night. Check out the torture scene for the best example of how to get your blacks right with a depth that pulls you into the picture. Also take another look at the staircase brawl which previously was so dark that detail was slightly lost, well now it's been toned better and now brings out previously unseen detail in Bond's and Obanno's clothing. Contrast is set high to give some astonishing whites, but there is no boosting so there is no detail lost. Look to the skylines in the brightness of the Bahamas and you'll see everything is as it should be.
I did have one scare in that I thought this new version had had digital noise reduction applied; one particular scene caught my eye, the distance shot of Solange dismounting her white horse. The horse looked a little 'too' smooth, but careful scrutiny of this (paused) scene between the discs show that they are in fact identical, right down to the slight aliasing of the palm trees and the swimmers in the foreground to the bleaching of the sand on the left hand of the screen leading me to believe that this slight detail loss is an artefact of the camera and nothing to do with any processing. In fact the grain is still nicely present throughout especially in the reaction shots of Bond's face at the end of the Madagascar scene.
Aside from the slight aliasing digitally speaking there were no other problems that I detected and the original print is also as clean as a whistle making this a stunningly clear and bright picture.
Now, and I must stress this, all I've said above makes it sound as if there is a vast difference between the old and the new print; the differences are there but they are not quite as dramatic as the text might suggest, i.e. it is not a night and day revelation, but close inspection does reveal them. It should also be noted that this is clearly a reference picture, an even more reference picture than the previous disc and should thus score higher, unfortunately our scoring system does not allow for point scores otherwise this one would have received 9.5.
SoundDue to what I can only assume to be disc space the outstanding PCM track has been dropped in favour of an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track, so let's have a look at that.
Right from the off you know you are in for a treat as the sound fully envelops you and it never lets up. A lot of design has gone into the sound field; it matches the visuals perfectly and is mixed with aplomb. Taking the Madagascar scene to represent the film whole, when it opens up there is an immediate rush of shouts from the crowd that rush towards and over you. As the agent spies Mollaka and speaks to Bond, his dialogue is clearly audible, just enough, above the general hubbub of the cheering, and Bond's tinny reply also. When he falls into the pit after failing to stop Mollaka his gun shot is satisfyingly deep and resonates above the escaping crowd. Move to the building site where the machinery and workmen noise surrounds you, plenty of directionality given; witness the left to front and away of the JCB, or the swish of the acetylene flame used by the workman to ward off Mollaka. The rumble form the sub as Bond pounds through driving the JCB is enough to wake the neighbours two streets down! Gun shots are loud and deep, but the tinkle of the expended shell is still audible as is exits the automatic. The resonating and surrounding crash as the pipes hit the floor after being dropped from the crane, whip and thump in such a realistic manor. The whizzing of the bullet shots and crashing of the glass, as Bond makes good his escape from the embassy, fly around the room. And the whoosh and rumble of the exploding gas tanks, both of them, is room shakingly exact, with the initial blast sweeping over you followed by the debris. And over all this is the score, ever present and filling out what little space is left in the sound field. Folks, this is one awesome sound track.
There is a full tonal range, dialogue sounds perfectly natural aided as it is by substantial bass, which, when called for, is low enough to rock the foundations. Surround activity is immense the speakers are hardly given any time to rest, be it ambiance or score.
So, a quite outstanding sound track and clearly of reference material, but, is it any better then the original PMC track? Hand on heart I could barely tell the difference between the two tracks, they really are that close both being fully engaging and nail chewingly good and I am at pains to recommend one over the other. If Le Chiffre had me tied naked to a chair and started swing that rope I think I would have to go with the PCM track as being infinitesimally better, but I'm prepared to admit this might only be my fondness for those three letters; seriously the difference is practically non existent.
- Picture in Picture commentary with director Martin Campbell producer Michael G. Wilson
The two sit casually watching the film and discuss many aspects of the production of the film through casting, camera techniques, colour use, effects, locations, you name it they cover it. Pretty engaging talk and both enthuse about the subject. Being able to watch the reactions and general mannerisms of the commentators adds much to this talk so it is curious that the PiP window is not on screen all the time. Contained a few pauses and was a little scene specific but on the whole a pretty good affair. It is also subtitled.
- Audio Commentary with the crew
This is a pieced together commentary hosted by Barbara Broccoli with contributions from but not limited to Michael G. Wilson, Peter Lamont, Chris Corbould, Lindy Hemming, Phil Meheux, Debbie McWilliams and Stuart Baird. This is edited quite well in that there is a reasonable flow and the comments have a natural progression, understandably there is a fair amount of overflow between this, the other commentary and all the featurettes on the second disc, but as commentaries go this one is entertaining enough containing plenty of information both technical and anecdotal, nice that every person introduced themselves before they begin speaking. Due to its very nature there are no pauses and information comes thick and fast. It is also subtitled.
- Ultimate James Bond Trivia Quiz
Test your Bond knowledge in quick fire questions where speed is also a factor and see if you can gain your 00 status. Actually only a cursory knowledge is required to gain it, but the questions are varied enough and some can be quite technical.
- BD Live
As yet not working, although the multiplayer aspect of the above game will use this.
- Four deleted scenes 0.07.48
Watchable individually or all together with the play all function; all are really scene extensions and add very little to the finished product save a little more exposition here and there that was deemed unnecessary. Nice that they are finished with 5.1 sound as well.
- The Road to Casino Royale featurette 0.26.34
Charts the time it has taken to bring a faithful version of Flemings seminal book to the screen from its humble American TV first outing through the 1967 film right up to the actioner we now know and love. We hear from plenty of authorities on Fleming's life and film historians and it is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining piece with little in the way of padding.
- Ian Fleming's Incredible Creation featurette 0.21.14
Takes a look at what went into creating Bond, the genesis and inspiration. Treads over a fair amount of old ground to fans of the franchise but is nevertheless put together well and we hear form the same knowledgably people as well as friends and acquaintances of Fleming himself.
- James Bond in the Bahamas featurette 0.24.16
Dissects and discusses why the Bond franchise seems to keep coming back to these wonderful islands to film, charting through Thunderball, For your Eyes Only right up to Casino Royale. We hear from the many island inhabitants that have contributed to the franchise over the years and how many of the same locations are used over and over again. Or particular interest was the unused, half built hotel that doubled up for the Madagascar scenes.
- Ian Flemings: the Secret road to Paradise featurette 0.24.28
A continuation of the above feature really in which we are introduced to the entrepreneurs that own and run Paradise Island who talk about Fleming and his immediate friends and how Bond was an amalgamation of several of these men. Goes together well with the Incredible creation feature but looks at it from the point of view of those that knew Fleming personally rather than wrote about him. Also looks the Island hotels that are used for the filming both past and present, man these people have serious money.
- Death in Venice featurette 0.23.19
Covers the sinking building in Venice from its initial design, building the full size set (on the 007 stage - a building that could sink and tilt on two axes), the miniature set, the plate shots and all the filming both under and on top of the water. A really in depth dissection of this scene and we hear from everyone involved, engaging and entertaining.
- Becoming Bond featurette 0.27.24
First of the features that are taken from the original release. Here we are introduced to Danny Craig as the new Bond and here from him, and a few others including Campbell and Dench. Promotional fluff really but does give a little background on Craig and the direction that the production company wanted to take. The video of the press release and the Thames stuff looks terrible though, upscaled video to 1080 with no cleaning, yuk.
- James Bond: for real featurette 0.24.33
Second of the features that is taken from the original release. Another promotional piece that attempt to showcase all the major stunts for the film and how little was GC preferring to keep everything practical (or 'real'). Plenty of padding as you might expect and is very lame compared to the Venice feature above.
- Bond Girls are Forever featurette 0.49.00
Last of the features that is taken from the original release. Hosted by Maryam d'Abo (from Living Daylights fame) we take a look through the various women that have been saved by, joined forces with or just plain snogged Bond throughout the years the franchise have been going. Nothing whatsoever to do with this Casino Royale and really harks back to an era the production company are now trying to move away from, which makes its inclusion rather curious; still for completists sake it's reproduced again.
- The art of Freerun featurette 0.13.38
A very short look at the quite awesome freerun scene through the building site with interviews from all involved. Comes across as a little fawning in places and is padded a little unnecessarily but nevertheless is still an entertaining enough watch.
- Catching a Plane: from storyboard to screen featurette 0.13.47
Standard material about storyboards and how essential they are blah blah blah, seen one seen them all really.
- Storyboard sequence: freerun chase 0.10.14
Watch the storyboard to the soundtrack, or watch both at the same time. Actually the second option is quite dynamically done and a new way to present this type of material. Still didn't do much for me though.
- Chris Cornel music video 0.04.08
Second outing for this video first scene on the original disc. Still only stereo sound.
- BD Live
As yet not working.
So, no one can say that there are no longer any worth while extra features on the Casino Royale disc. All are presented in 1080 HD with the exception of Bond Girls are Forever and Cornel's video which remain as MEPG2 SD and stand out like a sore thumb. The features themselves cover all aspects of the making of the film and some are extremely entertaining in their own right making this a fully filled out and engaging extras package.
VerdictCasino Royale is a terrific reinvention to the Bond franchise giving a new, grittier, more down to earth and essentially real characterisation to our favourite spy. Daniel Craig simply is Bond, a no nonsense, hard as nails ruthless soldier and a thoroughly believable character. The script while faithful to the book also opens up to the modern world and becomes very accessible in so much as even taking the name 'Bond' out of the picture you would still be left with a terrific action film.
At long last Sony have released the Casino Royale disc that fans have been waiting for, it is a shame that this is so clearly a marketing ploy in the lead up to Quantum of Solace. The set itself is extemporary and a marker for Blu-rays in terms of picture, sound and extra content all of which score reference marks. As an overall package it clearly tops the older release, but is it enough to convince a cash starved public to shell out once again?
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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- Picture in Picture commentary with director Martin Campbell producer Michael G. Wilson