Plot: What’s it about?
It’s been a few years since the last James Bond installment and the main member of the cast has once again been re-formatted with a newer, younger face and he’s a blonde to boot! Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ll know that the veneer of Pierce Brosnan has been replaced with the grit of Daniel Craig. This is, of course, a natural progression with a franchise like James Bond. I mean would we really want to see Sean Connery in a bathing suit nowadays? Ok, maybe some women actually would but with a 40 year old franchise, fresh blood is needed every so often and Mr. Craig is now the new Mr. Bond. And if anyone had doubts of a new Bond, Casino Royale certainly proved them wrong. The movie is the most successful in the history of the franchise and has given it a new shot in the arm so to speak. Naturally, critics call Daniel Craig “the best Bond in the franchise’s history” but I beg to differ. More on that later, though. Love him or hate him, James Bond has a new face, a new swagger and a new hairstyle. Are ya ready?
Casino Royale does venture into some unknown territory as we meet James Bond before he was actually a “Double O” agent. For the uninitiated the two zero’s represent two kills, which he happily provides early on in the movie. Bond (Daniel Craig) is sent on his first mission as a spy. He encounters the main villain, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a notorious gambler who’s trying to restore his bankroll in a game of high-stakes poker. Yes, gone are the days of baccarat (or maybe I should say they’re “yet to come”) as James Bond is now a poker man. Naturally he meets up with a treasury official who stakes him (all in the name of “her majesty” of course) by the name of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) who will be playing the role of “Bond Girl”. All treasury agents look like this? Can James Bond take down Le Chiffre in a game of Texas Hold Em or will he even survive the match?
Ok, now the bad part. I really didn’t find Casino Royale too entertaining. It’s a well-made movie and it certainly fits the role of “Bond movie” to a tee, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. First, the older James Bond movies always had entertaining villains which Austin Powers mocked with exuberance. This one didn’t have much of that. Instead, they tend to focus on how “gritty” this new Bond is and yes, that’s great and all, but I liked the gadgets, the “shaken, not stirred” and the fact that Bond never really had cuts and scars on his face. Call me old-fashioned but for all the glitz that this new movie had to offer, I wasn’t really in favor of things changing. I realize I’m in the minority here and let me set the record straight: I didn’t dislike this movie, I just felt that it wasn’t on par with other James Bond movies. All of the elements are there, or maybe I just need to warm up to a new Bond (I didn’t like Goldeneye either). Any way you cut it, audiences did like this new Bond and he’s on Blu-ray for the first time (no pun intended). Lastly, I will say that Eva Green is right up there with the most beautiful women in Bond history, if nothing else gawking at her in high definition is a treat in itself.
Quantum of Solace
James Bond (Daniel Craig) has just endured a brutal chain of events, but he has captured the man who killed the woman he loved, now taking him to be interrogated. As it turns out, the man is involved in a secret organization known as Quantum, which Bond is dispatched to look into. He soon crosses paths with the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who wants to avenge the death of her own loved one. Her vengeance is aimed at corporate businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Greene happens to be part of Quantum and as Bond soon learns, has a vicious plot to grab immense power. As he works alongside Camille, Bond also has to uncover the complex truth about Quantum and cope with his own emotions. Faced with such intense circumstances, can even Bond survive this ordeal?
Bond is back and this time, he’s even in a true sequel. The 007 series has numerous installments, but the films have been mostly self contained in nature. Quantum of Solace is a genuine sequel, picking up right where Casino Royale left off, so make sure you’ve seen that one beforehand. I admit, I don’t like the choice of Daniel Craig as Bond and while Casino Royale had its moments, it didn’t rank as one of my favorite Bond flicks. Quantum of Solace does little to change my mind about Craig, while also making me wonder if it might be time for 007 to retire. The film tries too hard to break out of the Bond conventions, which leaves us with a spy thriller, but not really a signature 007 adventure. The plot is complex and poorly executed, but the action looks and sounds good, thanks to ample production values. In the end however, Quantum of Solace just doesn’t feel like a Bond movie and even as a spy thriller, it fails to stand out from the pack.
While the forces at MI6 have handled countless threats over the years, the agency has never faced one of this magnitude. Trusted agent 007, James Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself out of action, as M (Judi Dench) and the rest of MI6 deals with the fallout from the entire organization being exposed. Deep cover agents are revealed and top secret operations are uncovered, leaving MI6 to relocate and attempt to salvage what little remains intact. And with so much turmoil and tension, M turns to the one agent she knows she can trust, Bond. As MI6 copes with the breakdown and an internal power struggle, Bond hunts down the man who is behind it all, the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem). Without the full support of MI6 and joined only by field agent Eve (Naomie Harris), Bond has to rely on his wits and little else to survive this mission. As he tracks down Silva and gets closer to the elusive man, can he uncover the truth and restore MI6, or is this too much even for 007?
Bond is back, but does Skyfall return the legend to greatness? While Skyfall is a solid Bond adventure, I wasn’t able to see the “best Bond ever” a lot of others found here. I’ve never been that impressed with Daniel Craig as Bond, so perhaps that colors my view on Skyfall, however. The technical aspects of Skyfall are fine, with some strong action scenes and a story that offers a more person take on Bond, but I just wasn’t that taken in. Craig lacks the charisma of the best Bonds and comes off as forced to me, whereas Connery was effortless on screen. But if you enjoy Craig’s version of Bond, then you’ll be much more likely to love Skyfall, as it is his best effort in the franchise. The bad guy in Skyfall was the highlight for me, as Javier Bardem steals the show and offers up a terrific Bond villain. I also liked a less gadget driven Bond episode and the inner tension at MI6 was an effective backdrop, so Skyfall works on many levels. I wouldn’t rank it as one of my personal favorite Bond installments, but Skyfall has a lot of positives and if you’re interested, it is well worth a look.
Spectre was always going to have an uphill battle after the widely praised and widely successful Skyfall. Expectations were high, and much like The Dark Knight Rises, the inevitable comparisons to previous chapter were unavoidable. As if that wasn’t enough, the film fell victim to the highly publicized Sony leak in which private emails regarding this film were leaked to the public. One of the comments was that the film had a weak third act. There was also a potential spoiler of a major villain played Christoph Waltz. You’ll get no confirmation from me, but it should come as no surprise to most diehard James Bond fans. Lastly, actor Daniel Craig made some less than positive remarks about returning to play the iconic character for the next film. Sure, these comments were taken out of context, and the actor was likely exaggerating, but the comments came just before the film hit theaters. That’s not always the best thing to say before a highly anticipated film of one of the longest running franchises. So with all that said, you’re probably wondering how the film turned out? Read on.
The film begins with a wonderful opening sequence in Mexico City. James receives a message from the past from the late M (Judi Dench). He takes a ring off the man he assassinates and this leads him to meet Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci). She’s the wife of the man he’s killed, and she informs James of the next meeting. James then heads to a last minute meeting called by the secretive Spectre organization. This sequence is one of the film’s highlights as there’s an eerie feeling to the whole thing. It also acts as the first official introduction to the Christoph Waltz character as the head villain. Also worth noting is the silent character of Hinx played by Dave Bautista. He’s a hitman who might bring up memories of some classic Bond henchmen. Meanwhile, back in London, C (Andrew Scott) is a sneaky agent trying to consolidate MI6 and shut down the 00 program. Ralph Fiennes returns as the new M as well as Ben Whishaw as Q and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny. There are a few other plot revelations that, despite being revealed on the back of the film’s Blu-ray case, I will choose to not reveal. I will say that the film attempts to bring things full circle with what was laid out in Craig’s debut film, Casino Royale.
After three viewings of Spectre, I can say that the film does improve on repeat viewings. One of the problems I had after my first viewing was some of the choices made during the last act. Some of the revelations got me asking more questions than they answered. While I still don’t think the film is perfect, the issues I had are starting to sit better with me. As for Waltz as the villain, I feel he does a good job although it takes a while for the film to come around to him. This is not far off from how Sam Mendes handled the villain in Skyfall with slowly leading up to him as the film progressed. Waltz certainly isn’t a physically imposing villain, but he at least feels threatening enough without ever veering into campiness. The same can be said of the film as well. The tone is in line with the previous 3 Craig films, but there are a few comedic bits sprinkled throughout for good measure. Thankfully, it doesn’t take it too far as some of the Roger Moore films did, but I felt it was just enough. I like that Mendes returned as director again since set up so much potential with the previous installment. I appreciate that this film takes Bond all over the globe as he travels to uncover answers. It really brings back the classic spy elements of the character. I feel it’s a step in the right direction for these films. There are also several homages to previous Bond films all throughout the film. It’s one of the longest films in the series, but Mendes keeps the film moving along nicely. There’s also plenty of thrilling action sequences that fans have come to expect from these films.
Much has been made about who will take over the role of James Bond after this film. While Daniel Craig is contracted to do more, there’s been a lot of recasting talk. While the film ends with a good sendoff for him, I would still like him to return for one more outing. While I still don’t think they’ve topped Casino Royale (my favorite Craig film and one of my favorite James Bond films), this is my second favorite one he’s done. Craig has always had a hard time with many people who questioned his look and grittiness as Bond, but I’ve always liked him. There’s a sort of underdog quality to him, and he’s always proven physically capable of handling the role. He also handles the emotional moments well. Here’s hoping he comes back for one more.
Video: How’s it look?
All four of these Bond films have gotten the 4K treatment and it goes without saying that they all look better. How much better is, of course, a bit subjective. Looking back at 2006’s Casino Royale, it was the only one of these films to have been shot on film. As such, it has a bit of a different look and feel to it with a bit more grain and texture in some scenes. Looking at the later offerings, notably Skyfall and Spectre, they’ve benefitted from being shot digitally and sport a more modern look with cleaner lines.
There’s a fine line with things being released in 4K. Odds are it’ll never be a night and day experience where the new transfer is so outstandingly good that you’ll take your DVD or Blu-ray and have no use for it. And if it ever does come to that point, we’re clearly (pardon the pun) not at it now. I won’t regale the readers with technical jargon or HEVC, etc. What I will say is that each of these Bond films looks as good as it has to date. There are some subtle things that stood out, like the wrinkles on the foreheads (Craig and Dench in particular), there’s a bit more texture in clothing and some finer details that maybe didn’t stand out too much in a Blu-ray viewing. Of course, the HDR gives us a bit more color and each film has its own look and feel. Black and white levels are both elevated, giving us more contrast and, in turn an overall better-looking picture. All of the moves have the same 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
In summary, do these films look better than their Blu-ray counterparts? Of course they do. Spectre and Skyfall do look better than Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, but that’s more due to the technology rather than a “better” 4K scan.
Audio: How’s it sound?
None of the films have benefitted from a next generation audio track. So while Dolby Atmos tracks are out there, we’re still laden with the previously-existing DTS HD Master Audio mixes (Spectre is the only one of the bunch that has a 7.1 track, the others are 5.1). But that’s not a bad thing. It’s not like these tracks are bad by any means, it’s just that (to me) an upgraded audio track can make more of an impact than an upgraded picture. To each their own. These four films don’t break the mold of any Bond movie, they all sound great. Of course there’ll be plenty of gunfire, car chases (tires squealing and all), boat chases and everything in between. Your speakers will get a work out, for sure. It’s a bit disappointing that these don’t have next generation tracks, but given the popularity of the Bond franchise, I’m sure this isn’t the last time we’ll see any sort of Bond collection released.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There haven’t been any new features added to this set, rather we get the same Blu-ray’s that were previously available in their own set. The exception being that the disc for Casino Royale is only one disc, so if you have the two-disc set – hold onto it. Links to our Blu-ray reviews are included, we have detailed the supplements for each disc in the respective reviews.
Casino Royale (4K) – Read our Blu-ray review of Casino Royale
- Audio Commentary
- Extended Version – This really isn’t much to get excited about, rather it’s an interesting bullet point for the front of the box. It’s about 25 seconds and unless you do an A/B comparison with the theatrical version, you won’t even notice.
Quantum of Solace (4K) – Read our Blu-ray review of Quantum of Solace
There are no supplements on this disc.
Skyfall (4K) – Read our Blu-ray review of Skyfall
- Audio Commentary – Sam Mendes
- Audio Commentary – Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and Production Designer Dennis Gassner
Spectre (4K) – Read our Blu-ray review for Spectre
There are no supplements on this disc.
The Bottom Line
This eight disc set takes the Bond franchise back to 2006 when Daniel Craig took the reins from Pierce Brosnan. Many regard the Craig films as some of the better Bond movies. What we get is an upgraded picture with these films in 4K. The supplements are the same as their Blu-ray counterparts with the exception of Casino Royale, so if you’ve got that two-disc set, it’s best to keep that one. The question you have to ask yourself is how much importance you place on the picture quality. These are better-looking, no doubt about it, but again they aren’t that much better-looking. It’s up to you.