Updated: Jan 11
4K UTRA HD REVIEW / FIRST BATCH HDR FRAME SHOTS
Daniel Craig plays 007 in his fourth installment of the Bond franchise. He's on a mission in Mexico City after a tip recorded by M (Judi Dench) before her death during "Skyfall."
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital copy; 2015; PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality, and language; 4K/HDR digital versions haven't gone live on the streaming platforms at this point
Best extra: 20-minute featurette, "Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence"
FROM THE beginning director Sam Mendes wanted to ensure his second Bond film “SPECTRE” had exceptional detail and depth - especially since it would feature sweeping vistas and intense action filmed on three continents. He also planned to use Christopher Nolan's cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (“Dunkirk,” “Interstellar”) and planned to film on traditional 35mm film, with anamorphic lens. The aerial scenes would be shot digitally in 6K. The key to their post-production was the true 4K mastering scanning nearly every frame and rendering the VFX scenes at the premier resolution.
“We fought hard to go 4K for the most of it to maintain as much as possible of the original texture and sharpness of film.” ― Hoyte van Hoytema told British Cinematographer Magazine
The 4K Ultra HD results are smashing, part of the four-film Daniel Craig (James Bond) Collection from Fox Home Entertainment. The numerous wide shots are especially striking with the added detail with small and distant objects, for example when 007 walks across a cobblestone courtyard after meeting the new M (Ralph Fiennes). You can count every since stone from the overhead shot. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision are graded slightly darker than the digital 4K version without HDR, that's been featured on Apple TV (formerly iTunes) for over a year. The older Blu-ray also looks over bright and the color balanced toward the orange side, while the highlights are washed out at times, compared to the controlled highlights and deeper and darker shadows from the new 4K. The natural film grain is also more pronounced, which is a good thing since Fox seemly removed some amount of the grain from the 4K version of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
Daniel Craig continues to be the ultimate tough-guy with a license to kill. A fight sequence on a train with the taciturn Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista), a SPECTRE assassin, is brutally memorable – and reminiscent of the clash between Sean Connery and Robert Shaw in "From Russia with Love" (1963).
Craig strong-armed Mendes to direct again following their highly successful and critically acclaimed "Skyfall," the first Bond film to crack billion-dollar box office. "SPECTRE" had a grueling, eight-month shooting schedule. Locations included Mexico City, the Austrian Alps, Rome and North Africa. But Mendes wouldn't have it any other way. "I wanted to get back to some of the old-school glamor with fantastic, other-world locations," he says during the featurette. It gives "SPECTRE" the travelogue look of Roger Moore's best Bond film, "The Spy Who Loved Me" (1977).
(1) “SPECTRE” the 24th Bond film grossed $880 million globally. (2) Bond searches for SPECTRE assassin Marco Sciarra during Mexico City's Day of the Dead festivities. (3 & 4) Bond finds Sciarra and kills two men and shoots a briefcase containing a bomb Sciarra planned to use at a stadium. (5 & 6) Bond and Sciarra end up fighting inside a helicopter overtop of the historic Zocalo Square. (7) Bond recovers the SPECTRE ring.
“If anything happens to me 007, I need you to do something. Find a man by the name of Marco Sciarra... Kill him... And don't miss the funeral.” ― M’s final message to 007.
Still, back-to-back action films have taken a toll. Craig underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a knee injured during "SPECTRE," and last May he went through minor ankle surgery missing two-weeks of filming in Jamaica during his fifth outing with "No Time to Die." Mendes stepped away and Cary Joji Fukunaga ("Jane Eyre," "True Detective") helmed the 25th Bond film scheduled for release in April 2020.
"SPECTRE" begins during the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City at the historic Zocalo Square. The sequence runs longer than most Bond openings, just over 12-minutes. "It's the one time in the movie when you have the luxury to reel people in a little bit slower," says Mendes. There are 1,500 extras with elaborate skeleton makeup, huge puppets, musicians, and dancers – then everything goes haywire.
The audio is the same eight-channel DTS-HD soundtrack featured on the older Blu-ray, which gave my subwoofer one of its biggest workouts ever from a deep drumbeat. I thought my neighbors would be banging on the door and it even made my projector vibrate for a fraction of second during each beat.
Bond is on a desperate, international manhunt to end the diabolical SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) organization, and its mysterious leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). A tip from the previous M (Judi Dench) just before her death sets 007 on his mission. Back at MI6 headquarters, the new M, Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) are besieged by a young administrator, C (Andrew Scott), who plans to merge MI6 and MI5, pull the 00 agents from the field, and replace them with a network of digital surveillance.
Bond has a new love interest, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), a member of SPECTRE and a fixture since "Casino Royale."
Bonus features on the enclosed Blu-ray are overall light, with "Bond's Biggest Opening Sequence" highlighting the Mexico City shoot, and six video blogs running under two-minutes each. Extras also showcase the new Aston Martin, the biggest explosion ever filmed, Sam Smith's Oscar-nominated theme song, an introduction to the new Bond women, action sequences, and Mendes' vision.
"SPECTRE" is not in the same league as Bond's best – "Casino Royale," "Skyfall," "Goldfinger" and "From Russia with Love" – but it is a close second.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Sam Smith sang and co-wrote the Oscar-winning song "Writing's on the Wall" during the title sequence for "SPECTRE." (2) Bond meets Max Denbigh the head of the newly created Joint Intelligence Service. (3) The 4K disc reveals exceptionally clarity and natural film grain from the 35mm film negative, giving you the ability to count each of the courtyard cobblestones. (4 & 5) Bond waits for Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) who's bringing him the remains of his personal items from the destroyed Skyfall Lodge. Then he asks her, "Could you do a little quiet digging for me." Moneypenny responds, "You want me to be your mole?"
(1) MI6's Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) takes Bond to the MI6's headquarters via boat on the Thames. (2) Q (Ben Whishaw) shots a cutting edge nanotechnology microchip called "Smart Blood" into Bond's bloodstream. (3) Bond arrives in Rome for the funeral of Marco Sciarra and introduces himself to the widow Lucia Sciarra. He questions her grieving and promises he will protect her from Ernst Stavro Blofeld's men. (4) Bond arrives at the Sciarra spacious home. (5) 007 kills two men who had taken aim at killing Lucia and they both realize they must work together. (6 & 7) Blofeld chairs the SPECTRE meeting in Rome and calls out James Bond, which leads to a chase...