007: The Daniel Craig Collection (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Oct 22, 2019
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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007: The Daniel Craig Collection (4K UHD Review)

Director

Martin Campbell, Marc Foster, Sam Mendes

Release Date(s)

2006-2015 (October 22, 2019)

Studio(s)

Eon Productions/Columbia Pictures/MGM (MGM/20th Century Fox)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B-
  • Overall Grade: B

007: The Daniel Craig Collection (4K UHD)

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Review

The wait for 007 to arrive on physical 4K has been long and somewhat frustrating, especially given the fact that many of the classic films have been available digitally in 4K for a while now on iTunes/AppleTV and Amazon (though without HDR). But it only makes sense that when MGM did finally try this franchise out on UHD discs, it would be in its newest incarnation.

007: The Daniel Craig Collection includes four films—Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and SPECTRE—in both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD in one set. Let’s take a look at each film in turn.

Casino Royale (2006)

Daniel Craig’s first outing as 007 is not only his best, it’s one of the best films in the Bond franchise to date. Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson returned to the series’ roots by adapting the very first Ian Fleming Bond novel for the big screen.

As it opens, MI6 agent James Bond (Craig) has just been granted 00 status by M (Judi Dench). His first act is to break into an African embassy to kill a wanted bomb-maker. But reckless as this is, Bond’s tracking a larger terrorist network that reveals itself when its banker Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) loses a huge sum of money betting against an airline stock—an airline he meant to bankrupt with another bombing. When his plot is foiled by Bond, Le Chiffre needs to recoup that money fast before the dangerous people it belonged to realize what’s happened. So he arranges a high stakes poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro, a game he means to win. M stakes Bond in the game—if he can win it, Le Chiffre will have no one but MI6 to turn to, cutting a major source of terrorist revenue and revealing their whole network in one stroke. But matters are complicated when Bond falls for Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the British Treasury agent assigned to watch Her Majesty’s money, and Le Chiffre’s gameplay begins to turn deadly.

What’s interesting about Casino Royale is the way it reinvents the Bond franchise by defetishizing its cars, gadgets, and villains without removing them from the formula completely. It also strips the Bond character to his essence; he’s a hard bastard to begin with, but this story breaks him. And it’s not Le Chiffre who does it, but Vesper, by revealing to Bond a heart he didn’t think he had left, thus leaving him open and exposed. What people tend to miss is that he’s still broken when this film concludes; the 007 character as we know it isn’t fully formed until the end of the next one. Green and co-star Giancarlo Giannini (as MI6’s contact in Montenegro, René Mathis) are outstanding and dimensional supporting characters, and each has terrific chemistry with Craig. Vesper’s introduction to 007 on the train to Casino Royale is one of the smartest and sharpest pieces of writing in the history of the Bond franchise. The film’s direction is efficient and its action is fast and brutal. And retaining Dench as M (a role she began with GoldenEye (1995) in the Brosnan era) was a masterstroke and a nice bit of stabilizing continuity for the franchise’s latest turn.

Casino Royale was shot on 35 mm photochemical film and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 scope ratio. For its UHD release it was upsampled to 4K and graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are included). Note that this version of the film is the Extended Cut, released on disc in the US for the first time, but it’s only 17 seconds longer (it includes a few more graphic moments during the B&W opening fight scene and the later stairwell fight at Casino Royale that were trimmed for ratings). Detail shows a noticeable uptick from the previous HD presentation, though the image has a slightly coarse and processed look that one presumes was baked into the DI. It doesn’t appear that the studio has rescanned the original camera negative in native 4K, which is a shame. But the image does look very good nonetheless. Grain is moderate, the restrained HDR grade makes shadows deeper and highlights a bit bolder, and the wider gamut enriches the film’s palette to a satisfying degree. Audio is the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was found on the previous Blu-ray. As before it’s excellent, with a big soundstage, atmospheric surround play, excellent clarity, and firm bass. But it’s a shame that MGM didn’t spring for a new Atmos track. Additional audio options include Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, with subtitles available in English, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, and Portuguese.

The only extra on the 4K disc itself is:

  • Audio Commentary with the Crew hosted by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Note that there are optional subtitles available for this commentary in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The package does also include the film on Blu-ray (the same disc that’s in the Bond 50 box set), which includes the same commentary and adds the following (in the original SD and HD):

  • Deleted Scenes (4 scenes – 7:32 in all)
  • The Road to Casino Royale (26:35)
  • Ian Fleming’s Incredible Creation (21:16)
  • James Bond in the Bahamas (24:17)
  • Ian Fleming: Secret Road to Paradise (24:29)
  • Death in Venice (23:20)
  • Becoming Bond (26:18)
  • James Bond for Real (23:34)
  • Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name Music Video (4:09)

It’s decent material, but missing are several features that were included on the previous Sony Blu-ray versions, including the BonusView PiP visual commentary with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael G. Wilson, the Know Your Double-O trivia quiz, the Bond Girls Are Forever and The Art of the Freerun featurettes, 6 Filmmaker Profiles featurettes, a storyboard presentation for the “Freerun” sequence, and the Catching a Plane scene deconstruction. Losing all of that is disappointing, so be sure to keep your previous discs if you wish to retain it. You do at least get Digital codes in the packaging (and there are two of them, which may include both HD and 4K).

Film Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/B-

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace is a film that many Bond fans deride, which is a shame because it’s actually better that most give it credit for. The problem is that fans were expecting a traditional Bond sequel, and this isn’t that at all, nor does it stand alone. It’s a direct continuation of the story of Casino Royale—in many ways, the second half that story. If Casino was about breaking Bond, this one is about Bond putting himself back together again, forging himself into the iconic MI6 agent we know he must become. It’s about Bond trying to understand what happened with Vesper and getting a bit of payback. If you care about the character of Bond as much as the formula, this film has much to offer. True, the environmental theme was off-putting for some (though it’s entirely plausible in today’s world) and the film doesn’t really have a compelling villain. It does, however, get points for the return of Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright (as Felix Lighter), and for a terrific sequence set at a performance of Puccini’s opera Tosca in Austria.

The film opens just minutes after Casino Royale ended. Bond has captured the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who was connected to Vesper’s death. But after delivering him to M (Judi Dench) at an Italian black site, White escapes with the help of a trusted MI6 agent. That means White is just the tip of the iceberg of a much more powerful and far reaching criminal organization. Clues at the agent’s apartment lead Bond to an assassin in Haiti, who’s been hired to kill a woman named Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She leads Bond to the elusive entrepreneur Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who’s working with the CIA and local warlords to buy up worthless land in Bolivia. But Greene’s real loyalty is to a group called Quantum, bringing Bond full circle in his quest to understand and avenge Vesper’s death.

Quantum of Solace was also shot on 35 mm photochemical film and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 scope ratio. For its UHD release it was upsampled to 4K and graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are included). Detail again shows a nice uptick vs the previous Blu-ray edition, and this time it’s cleaner and less processed looking too. The HDR grade is restrained, but grants the image truly black shadows with bold highlights. The audio is the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was found on the previous Blu-ray. As before it’s excellent, with a wide soundstage, atmospheric surrounds, excellent clarity, and firm bass. But again, it’s a shame MGM didn’t spring for an Atmos mix. Additional audio options include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, with subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, and Portuguese.

There are no extras on the 4K disc, sadly, and that’s a shame because there are rumors that director Marc Foster recorded an audio commentary for the film that was never released. You do at least get the previous Blu-ray version of the film (the same one included in the Bond 50 set) that adds the following (in SD and HD):

  • Director Marc Foster (2:45)
  • Bond on Location (24:45)
  • Start of Shooting (2:54)
  • On Location (3:14)
  • Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase (2:14)
  • Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Another Way to Die Music Video (4:30)
  • The Music (2:36)
  • Crew Files (3 segments – 45:30 in all)
  • Theatrical Teaser Trailer #1 (1:51)
  • Theatrical Trailer #2 (2:23)

This is actually a lot less material that it appears to be and again there’s no commentary. It is, at least, everything from the previous Blu-ray release. And you do get Digital copy codes, so that’s something.

Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/C+

Skyfall (2012)

Directed by Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, American Beauty), Skyfall marked the Craig era’s return to a more traditional style of Bond film, with gadgets, a supervillian, and the all-important Aston Martin DB5. But following a strong start and ominous foreshadowing, the film’s villain (Javier Bardem) is meant to be strange and unsettling but is weirdly mirthful instead and kills the momentum. And after M's great Tennyson speech, the film’s conclusion offers too many plot contrivances (including Q’s lapses of infosec and someone forgetting to switch off a flashlight) to be truly satisfying. It’s also a little odd that this is only Craig’s third 007 film and yet his character is already regarded as long-in-the-tooth. Still, the Roger Deakins cinematography makes this by far the best looking of the recent Bond films, and much is gained by the addition of Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), Ben Whishaw (Q), and Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory) to the cast.

The plot features Bond attempting to retrieve a list of Western undercover intelligence agents that’s been stolen by a computer hacker, an operation that results in Bond being shot and presumed dead. He resurfaces three months later when MI6’s London HQ is bombed, an event that’s meant to send M (Judi Dench) a message. With her superiors keen to retire her, and the hacker threatening to release the names of agents from the stolen list, M needs Bond back in the field whether he passes muster or not. But his investigation leads him to Shanghai and soon to the hacker, Raoul Silva (Bardem), who’s tied to M’s past and wants revenge against her. When Silva strikes MI6 for a second time, Bond’s only option is to take M to his family’s abandoned estate in Scotland for safekeeping, a place known as Skyfall.

The good news is that Skyfall was shot digitally in ARRIRAW and Redcode RAW (at 2.8 and 5K) and finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. That means it looks fantastic here on Ultra HD, with crisp and highly refined detail and texturing. Combined with a light-handed HDR grade (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available) that renders ink-black shadows and luminous highlights, as well as a wider gamut that significantly enriches the colors, the result is a winner image-wise. A highlight is the film’s nighttime skyscraper fight scene (in Chapter 12) that’s backlit by vibrant neon signage on the opposite building. At the risk of repeating myself, the audio is once again the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix found on the previous Blu-ray. It delivers a wide soundstage, atmospheric surrounds, good clarity, and strong bass. But again, MGM should have sprung for an Atmos mix. Additional audio options include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, with subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, and Portuguese.

The 4K disc itself includes two extras:

  • Audio Commentary by Sam Mendes
  • Audio Commentary by Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson, and Dennis Gassner

There are optional subtitles for each of these tracks in English, French, Castilian, German, and Italian—a nice touch. You also get the film on Blu-ray, which has the same commentaries and adds the following (all in HD):

  • Shooting Bond documentary (14 parts – 59:24 in all)
  • Skyfall Premiere (4:28)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:31)
  • Soundtrack Promotional Spot (:40)

The extras are a little thin, but the commentaries are interesting and there are some nice moments in the documentary, particularly the bit on The Death of M with Dench. Digital codes are included in the package on a paper insert.

Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/B-

SPECTRE (2015)

While SPECTRE earns points for trying to recapture the glory of classic Bond, it ultimately feels like a heartless, paint-by-numbers exercise the pieces of which don’t add up to anything. Craig is almost humorless here, playing 007 with a dour ruthlessness it’s hard to empathize with. There’s a telling moment when Bond discovers a videotape labeled “Vesper Lynd – Interrogation.” This woman was the love of his life, someone he nearly gave up everything for, yet Bond simply tosses it away. The film’s supporting cast members are good, but seldom feel integral to the story until the final act. The belle of the ball is Léa Seydoux, who doesn’t get nearly enough screen time for you to buy that Bond could care for her. And the filmmakers’ pointless effort to hide the fact that Christoph Waltz was playing the franchise’s iconic supervillian, Ernst Blofeld, isn’t helped by a ridiculously contrived plot as to the character’s origins.

SPECTRE is an almost complete misfire from start to finish. But it starts in a promising way, with an opening set amid Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebration that aspires to give Welles’ Touch of Evil a run for its money. Bond was sent there to kill an assassin by the former M (Judi Dench), who named the man in a final message delivered after her death. She’s also asked Bond to attend the man’s funeral in Rome, which eventually leads him back to Mr. White and his estranged daughter, Madeline Swann (Seydoux), both of whom are hiding in the Austrian Alps. From there, the trail of clues takes 007 and Swann to North Africa, where Blofeld has been waiting for them in his secret desert lair. Meanwhile, back in Her Majesty’s Kingdom, the new M (Ralph Fiennes), Q, Moneypenny, and Tanner must contend with the obsolescence of MI6 at the hands of Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott, ex-Sherlock), who believes that electronic surveillance and drones can replace the 00 section. Eventually, the two plot threads converge… and logic goes right out the window.

After going all-digital with Skyfall, SPECTRE was shot mostly on 35 mm photochemical film again, though some scenes were still captured digitally in ARRIRAW (at 3.4 and 6.5K). It was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39 “scope” ratio. For its UHD release, the film has been graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available). The film looks fantastic here on disc, though I would say that Skyfall has the slight edge on it, not for its digital capture but rather for Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography. Detail is crisp and clean, texturing is refined, shadows and highlights are appropriately enhanced, while the film’s somewhat muted color palette is more nuanced for the wider gamut. As is the case with all four of these films, the Dolby Vision offers just a little more pop and dimensionality (especially on the native 4K titles). Primary audio this time is English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, the same mix found on the previous Blu-ray. It delivers a pleasingly wide soundstage, with lively and atmospheric surrounds, excellent clarity, and firm bass. (But yes, we wish MGM had sprung for Atmos.) Additional audio options include English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, with subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, and Portuguese.

Unfortunately, there are no extras on the UHD disc, but you do get the previous Blu-ray edition, which offers the following (all in HD):

  • SPECTRE: Bond’s Biggest Opening Sequence (20:12)
  • Director – Sam Mendes (1:29)
  • Supercars (1:41)
  • Introducing Léa Seydoux and Monica Bellucci (1:42)
  • Action (1:37)
  • Music (1:50)
  • Guinness World Record (1:18)
  • Gallery (20 images)
  • Teaser Trailer (1:32)
  • Theatrical Trailer 1 (2:31)
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 (1:10)

Unfortunately, this content is EPK filler material at its worst, glossy from start to finish and completely lacking in depth, interest, or heart (not unlike like the film itself). There’s not even an audio commentary, which might at least have shed a bit of light on this train wreck. Again, you do at least get Digital copy codes on paper inserts in the packaging.

Film Rating: C
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/D

So those are the films.

Ultimately, (and once you get past any shock you might be experiencing upon learning that I like Quantum of Solace slightly more than Skyfall), I would imagine that most Bond fans will find MGM’s 007: The Daniel Craig Collection worth its current $40 sale price on Amazon. However, I strongly suspect that this is MGM’s litmus test for releasing the rest of the Bond films on physical 4K UHD. So while I know many of you would prefer to wait for an eventual Complete Bond 4K set, if do wish to see the Connery, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan films on Ultra HD one day, it’s probably a good idea to send the studio that message by jumping on this initial release now.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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