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Monday, November 3, 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) - Marc Forster

The reinvented James Bond franchise kicked off in 2006 with Casino Royale. It featured a brand new Bond with Daniel Craig and a brand new approach to the character and action. Gone were the gadgets. Gone was the campiness. Gone was the high-tech, slightly ridiculous approach to the character and stories. What we got was a Bond for the 21st Century. Angry, no-nonsense, ruthless. It was an approach not all were convinced about. But the film was a success, both critically and financially. And now, the latest Bond film, a direct sequel to Casino Royale arrives on our screens with (the cryptically titled) Quantum Of Solace. Can lightning strike twice?

As mentioned, Quantum Of Solace is a direct sequel to Casino Royale. It picks up pretty soon after the previous film’s events. Bond has kidnapped Mr. White, the only lead he has to the shadowy corporation whom La Chiffre was a member. His interrogation of Mr. White goes horribly wrong and an attempt on M’s life is foiled. Bond goes rogue. He claims to be hunting down M’s attempted assassins, but his motives are questionable as he’s also out for revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd, his lover who died at the end of Casino Royale. Bond’s investigation leads him to Dominic Greene, a businessman and philanthropist who’s motives are also questionable. He teams up with a woman named Camille and they both aim to take Greene down.

Casino Royale was a great success. The filmmakers seemed to get everything right, despite an ending that was a little sloppy. So where in the hell did they go wrong with Quantum Of Solace? To put it mildly, it’s a complete mess. The first problem the film has is the story. The script is dull, clunky and pretty much all over the place. They say too many cooks spoil the broth. Never is that clearer here. There are three writers credited with the writing of the film, one of whom is Paul Haggis, writer and director of the Oscar-winning Crash. Yet despite this calibre, Quantum Of Solace zips by with scenes that make no sense, motives that are pretty irrelevant and a Bond who seems to just wander from one scene to the other kicking the crap out of random bad guys and then meandering to the next story event. It seems that everything they got right with Casino Royale, they got wrong in Quantum Of Solace.

Let me get this down for the record. When Daniel Craig was announced as the Bond to follow Pierce Brosnan, questions were raised. Yet, I thought it was a great casting. And, I was right. Craig is the best Bond since Sean Connery, and he suits the reinvented Bond perfectly. And yet here, Craig is given a script that is really poor. They’ve made Bond cold and calculated. Perfect. And yet in this movie they’ve also made him someone subject to events rather than the driving force. It’s a bad move and allows the film to fall flat on it’s face.

Another question that needs to be raised is the question of the Bond girl. Vesper Lynd was a character with a little depth. Camille, the main Bond girl in Quantum Of Solace shows a little depth, but this is abandoned the more the character is developed. And she’s not developed very much. The character ticks two boxes; hot, and pissed off. But apart from that, she’s not got very much. It’s not Olga Kurylenko’s fault. She’s not bad as Camille. But there’s little for her to do in terms of character. And the less said about Gemma Arterton’s character, Strawberry Fields (good Lord), the better. She’s a bad leftover from the Roger Moore era Bond films, and is one of the most pointless and badly written characters in any movie I’ve seen in a long time. Her costume in her opening scene alone is evidence that the writers, and director Marc Forster have lost everything that worked in Casino Royale.

The other glaring fault in Quantum Of Solace is the action sequences. And man alive, this is where I get a little irate about the film. If I wanted to watch one of the Bourne films, I would have plucked one of the DVDs from my collection and not wasted the money I spent on this film. I wonder, if Paul Greengrass watched Quantum Of Solace, did he consider suing the makers of the film for plagiarism. Several action sequences are lifted straight out of the Bourne films. It was obvious from Casino Royale that the filmmakers were influenced by the Bourne films. They did, after all, reinvent the action movie for the new century. But here, Marc Forster et al make no attempt to hide the influence. If you’ve seen the Bourne films, don’t waste your time with Quantum Of Solace. The action sequences, for the most part, are lifted directly from that series. It’s actually quite amazing how similar they are. Marc Forster is a drama director. He did well with Monster’s Ball, and managed to reduce myself and a bunch of other lads to sobbing messes with Finding Neverland. So maybe it’s that he’s not used to directing action. But there is a marked difference to when he’s directing the action and when second unit director, and stunt coordinator on The Bourn Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Dan Bradley is behind the camera. One style is sloppy and confusing. The other style is, well... Bourne. Bradley does a great job. But we’ve seen it before.

When it comes down to it, Quantum Of Solace is a mess. There’s no other way about it. The lessons learned from Casino Royale are forgotten here. And what we’re left with is a sloppy, badly-developed and underwhelming film. There is a question as to whether this movie will stand as the bad, middle part of a trilogy. But that’s little in the way of an excuse. Many sequels and bridging films have been excellent, and stand-alone films. However, when, in about 5 years, we have the (possible) Craig-Bond trilogy, I think most will skip the mess that is Quantum Of Solace.



sandra said...

im from the Netherlands and im a huge Bond fan. Im too curious to wait . I am definitely going for watch quantum of solace so what are the english reactions on this movie? Too much action?

Moondog said...

Gotta agree almost entirely here, Pete. Almost saved by the force of nature that is Craig, but at the end of the day a its all over the place. Disappointing to say the least.

Aidan said...

My low expectations may serve me well. I thought Casino Royale was alright, probably in the lower end of the top ten Bond films. But very much in the Bond tradition, I didn't see any difference. They dressed the gadgets up a bit differently, but any car that contains a mobile hospital is a gadget in my eyes.

I'll be seeing it on Tuesday, in the daytime once the crowds have died down.

Patrick Roberts said...

it will be easy to make Quantum of Solace spoofs... every where this Bond goes he breaks glass, he can't get a gallon of milk from the store without it turning into a chase scene, and every time he punches someone in the face, they die