The Screening Room
james bond vol 3

By Bill Desowitz

It's a Blu-ray Bond Bonanza with "Quantum of Solace," vol. 3 of the box sets ("Goldfinger," "Moonraker" and "The World Is Not Enough") and "Never Say Never Again." It's especially good to see more of Lowry Digital's cleanup work on the vol. 3 catalog titles in its full HD glory.  

While "Quantum of Solace" has been met with much resistance (Bill Kallay included), I like it a lot (and subsequent viewings have only deepened my fondness and appreciation). It's a fitting companion to "Casino Royale" and works best, in fact, if you watch the two films back-to-back, completing the origin story/rite of passage for 007. While director Marc Forster is a curious choice, what he has accomplished with this transitional story of Bond achieving emotional closure and "solidifying his place in the world" after "Casino Royale" is significant. We've waited nearly 50 years for this moment: a character arc for the world's most famous superspy and a little unraveling of his mysterious nature. And Daniel Craig has offered a more vulnerable and accessible Bond. The story may be rather slight (going after the Quantum organization, which is a more stealth-like, modern version of SPECTRE); the action a bit too "Bourne"-like (yet conveying Bond's conflicted state of mind); and the tone a little more intense than we are used to (though nowhere near as dour as "License to Kill"). But this shortest Bond movie moves like a bullet (alluded to in the main title sequence) and the theme of trust is emotionally resonant.  

On Blu-ray "Quantum" really shines with great color and contrast and deep blacks: the earth tones are striking (especially in the early foot chase and fight in Siena and the desert where Bond is totally desolate), as is the modernistic and organic approach to the production design, honoring Ken Adam and evoking Craig's blue eyes and angular, chiseled and textured face as the focal point. Forster & co. came up with a marvelous pattern language. And we can more fully appreciate the key emotional relationships, with Camille (Olga Kurylenko) providing Bond with a destructive harbinger of what it's like to be hell bent on vengeance; Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) offering a world weary view of spying and the importance of knowing who your friends and enemies are; Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) providing a trusted ally; and M (Judi Dench) keeping him grounded as a maternal force. Indeed, there's a deeply moving coda between the two of them in which Bond makes a rare admission that solidifies his maturity, ending with the customary gun barrel shot.  

As for the older offerings, well, it doesn't get any better than "Goldfinger," which catapulted Sean Connery's Bond into the pop culture stratosphere. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the franchise amped up the stylish action, pretty girls and cool gadgets (introducing the iconic Aston Martin), while Connery appeared even more effortless as 007."Goldfinger" was my introduction to Bond in the movies, and it holds up very well: containing the best villain (Gert Frobe's Auric Goldfinger), the best henchman (Harold Sakata's Oddjob) and the first great Bond girl (Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore). It's never looked better: the gold aura is stunning and the detail very sharp (someone even commented about seeing Connery's wig lines).  

As for "Moonraker," after Roger Moore hit his comfortably absurd stride on "The Spy Who Loved Me," the franchise literally went into outer space, thanks to the influence of "Star Wars." No matter. The production values are the best of Moore's tenure (production designer Ken Adam was certainly inspired and Jean Tournier did the stunning cinematography), and the digital cleanup by Lowry really makes a difference for Blu-ray presentation. Plus, there's no denying the amusing antics of Richard Kiel, who returns as arch-villain Jaws and pretty much steals the film from Michael Lonsdale's lethargic Hugo Drax (the pre-credit sequence where Bond and Jaws tumble out of an airplane with one parachute between them is a hoot).  

On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan always wanted to stretch the limits of the franchise, but rarely got the opportunity, except for a few flirtations. "The World is Not Enough" proved to be his best Bond film, despite its uneven quality and the miscasting of Denise Richards as a sexy scientist. Like "Quantum," though, the franchise took a directorial risk with fish-out-of-water, Michael Apted. However, the move paid dramatic dividends as Brosnan got his one opportunity to dig a little deeper with 007. Matched against the superb Sophie Marceau as the co-villain, Elektra, Brosnan is allowed to experience pain (unlike the pain free villain played by Robert Carlyle) and express anger as a result of her betrayal. Also, the movie boasts the longest and one of the most exciting pre-credit action sequences in franchise history, and offers some tender moments between Bond and M (anticipating her maternal relationship with Daniel Craig's Bond). The movie looks very good on Blu-ray, which is no surprise, since it's only 10 years old, and benefits from Apted's eye for documentary-like detail and composition.  

The odd man out here is obviously "Never Say Never Again," the non-franchise remake of "Thunderball," which marked Connery's return as 007 in 1983 and going head-to-head with Moore's inferior "Octopussy." Not to get too complicated, but this project was spearheaded by Kevin McClory, who collaborated with Ian Fleming on an unproduced script before "Dr. No," which subsequently became the basis of the Fleming novel and first film adaptation. Even though "Never Say Never" pales in comparison to "Thunderball" (Irvin Kershner's direction can't overcome too many cross purposes and the production values and action are sub-standard for Bond), it's great having Connery back way past his prime and wittily making fun of it while still being Bond. The supporting cast is fun, too, with Edward Fox as M, Max von Sydow as Blofeld, Klaus Maria Brandauer as Largo, Kim Basinger as Domino, Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush and Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter (anticipating Wright). And it all really looks so much better on Blu-ray.

Photos: MGM/Fox. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse

MGM /Fox Home Ent.  

"Quantum of Solace" Director: Marc Forster "Goldfinger" Director: Guy Hamilton
"Moonraker" Director: Lewis Gilbert
"The World is Not Enough" Director: Michael Apted
"Never Say Never Again" Director: Irvin Kershner    

Cast: Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig  

"Quantum of Solace" is fairly slight with this first edition, but the webcasts with the crew are informative.

The vol. 3 box set ports over all of the fabulous bonus features from the SD boxes.

"Never Say Never" offers a few informative featurettes. 


Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

Lots of great vintage treasures from set visits to deleted scenes to screen tests to docs. 

Aspect Ratio:

"Quantum of Solace" 2.40:1
"Goldfinger" 1.66:1
"Moonraker" 2.35:1
"The World is Not Enough" 2.35.1
"Never Say Never Again" 2.35:1

DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio

March 24, 2009
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