PictureAlthough now over a year old, the original Blu-ray release of Casino Royale is still almost a benchmark Blu-ray disc in terms of video and audio, showcasing a picture that was one of the best viewers had seen thus far in high definition. Presented with a 1080p HD rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1, Quantum of Solace actually manages to succeed its predecessor on this level, giving you a stellar rendition of the movie that is pipped only by the likes of Iron Man and Transformers in terms of video quality. I'm still waiting for that absolutely perfect 10/10 vision but, until then, Quantum of Solace is just about as good as it gets. Detail is stunning throughout, the picture simply popping with three dimensional quality, despite the grainy - dare I say it yet again - Bourne edge that even the visual style adopts. From the opening close-ups of the roaring DBS to the cold-war-ish Bourne Supremacy-styled bookend, every nuance is keenly observed and represented, skin detail, cuts, bruises and even beads of sweat apparent in all the right places. Intentional grain still takes the edge off the detail being perfect, but it is worth the price as we are left with an extremely gritty, dark vision perfectly suited to the material that it is depicting. The palette looks largely good as well, giving us the multi-continental locations in all their glory, from the sun-baked blistering desert to the bronzed Haitian landscapes and the luscious green Tuscan locales, colours come across vividly, even if not always authentically (Tony Scott has a lot to answer for his contagious affection for over-saturation). Black levels are solid and allow for solid night sequences, although the majority of the shadowing has a sheen of that aforementioned intentional grain.
SoundOn the aural front, the Blu-ray offering is also outstanding, up there with the best of the best soundtracks available on the High Def format, with its DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track. Although easily the least important aspect of the material, the dialogue -mostly mumbles from all those involved - is presented reasonably clearly and coherently from across the frontal array. The effects are arguably of biggest note, right from out of the gate as the Aston roars onto the screen in a ludicrously loud, stupidly enjoyable fashion. You cannot help but get swept along with the explosive constant chase proceedings, smashing and crashing his way across roofs, gunning a DC-3 like it were a spitfire and speeding around in a wooden motorboat as if it were a racing powerboat. Although the fast cuts and editing do the majority of the work, the constant noise and calamity helps heighten the tension. Gunshots are powerful, explosions resound around your living room, and this movie will definitely leave you shaken, particularly in the bass department. In my opinion the soundtrack is far superior to Royale, David Arnold finally truly getting that classic Bond composer 'John Barry' feel into the mix, the massive setpieces (particularly towards the end) having a powerful, typically Bondian theme to them and the chases kept frantic and fast paced using just as frenetic beats. If there was one thing that really struck it right about this as a Bond movie, it's the score, capped even with a reasonably good title duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White, and on this Blu-ray release it gets simply perfect presentation.
ExtrasAfter releasing a second edition of Casino Royale, complete with a wealth of decent extras, it is no wonder that we are now only getting the practically bare bones version of Quantum of Solace. So thin are the extras on offer here that the Studios might as well write “Beware - Impending Double Dip” on the front of the case in a big 'Police Line - Do Not Cross' band. I personally find it quite insulting because few fans of the movie will want to wait a further six months, and yet many of the extras that will eventually come will be too tempting to resist buying the second version. Worse still, the most noteworthy extra - an alternate ending which would have seen Bond finish things off with Mr White and the nasty CIA character - is absent here, an almost essential part of any Bond completist's collection, should it eventually appear on a subsequent release. Designed to potentially hint at a trilogy tale, it was removed from the end (perhaps this explains the remarkably short runtime) and leaves things open for the creative team to take Bond wherever they like in the next two movies. So, be warned, even if you are a big Bond fan it might be worth just renting this to stave off your hunger until the conclusive edition comes out.
In terms of the extras that we do get, there are no less than 6 Featurettes, although don't let this fool you as only one of them is more than 3 minutes in length. Bond on Location is the only reasonably meaty offering, providing us with brief interview comments from many of the main cast and crew members as well as some substantial behind the scenes footage, although it was clearly made as a promotional Featurette, therefore feeling like little more than an extended trailer. The five mini-Featurettes are Start of Shooting, On Location, Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase, Director Marc Forster, and The Music, and all of them pretty-much speak for themselves, offering up nothing really tangible in their overly brief runtimes. We also get some Behind the Scenes footage in the Crew Files, which are basically 34 1 or 2 minute segments from the crew. Finally there's the Another Way to Die Music Video and some of the movie's trailers. With no extras that utilise any BD capabilities, and nothing really substantial on offer here, it is a shame they did not either massively reduce the release price or wait a little longer until the material for the full version was prepped (I bet it is all ready now, but MGM are just waiting for everybody to buy this disc before they put the next, double-dip-tastic offering on the shelves).
VerdictQuantum of Solace is just the second half of one long story, and taken as a whole they work well to give us a decent Bond reboot. However, whilst Casino Royale works as a standalone entity (albeit devoid of many franchise trademarks), Quantum clearly does not - without its predecessor it is nothing but just another post-Bourne spy action-thriller. Although it may be a quality production, entertaining for its entire runtime, it is the very fact that it is designed to be watched practically back-to-back with a movie released 2 years prior to it that compels me to knock a point off the movie score. Daniel Craig assures us here that he is Bond, although standing alone, this film proves that Bond has become indiscernible from the next superspy out there. On Blu-ray we get outstanding video and benchmark audio, but the extras truly disappoint - they spell out double-dip in such a flagrant, insulting fashion that I actually recommend NOT buying the disc just to encourage them to desist in this practice. As is, Bond completists will have already ordered this, and any fan of action thrillers out there - in the vein of Bourne - will find it hard to resist, but be prepared that this may just be one fans will need to upgrade from when the 2-disc special edition comes out.
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