Quantum of Solace

quantum-of-solacepreview.jpg picture by barbedheart
UK/USA. Action/Adventure/Thriller. 106 minutes. Directed by Mark Forster. Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith, Joaquin Cosio, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Jesús Ochoa, Lucrenzia Lante della Rovere, Glenn Foster, Paul Ritter, Simon Kassianides, Stana Katic, Neil Jackson, Oona Chaplin. Cinematography by Roberto Schaefer. Edited by Matt Chesse, Richard Pearson. Production Design by Dennis Gassner. Art Direction by James Foster, Mark Harris, Paul Inglis, Chris Lowe, Marco Robeo, Mike Stallion. Set Decoration by Anna Pinnock. Music by David Arnold. Casting by Debbie McWilliams. Costume Design by Louise Frogley. Written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

15 November 2008

Quantum of Solace is about as fun as watching a car crash in slow motion. All you get is the collision, but it takes forever to get to that conclusion – The car has been crushed. Yes, we noticed. When the credits rolled for this movie, I had a difficult time trying to understand what it was about or what really happened in it, or rather which parts of these loose story threads they intented to be the actual ”story”  – all I knew for sure was that James Bond had killed a shitload of people. Actually, I’m going to make it easy on you.Quantum of Solace is about James Bond killing people. That’s all you’ll get from it. The verdict? Well, despite having less pretentions it is better than the downright horrible Rambo movie that came out early this year. Apart from that, it’s probably the worst Bond movie since the disaster Tomorrow Never Dies(1997), which in turn was the worst since Moonraker (1979) and everybody knows why that one sucked. Basically, in the 007 francheise, there’s 2 movies that’s worse that this one. And there’s 20 movies that’s better. But I’ll get on with a review anyway.

As most know, this is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006), picking up just about exactly where that one left of. There are actually one or two people who actually visit this site, and they will know my concern about that movie since I wrote a great deal about it back then – I didn’t like the idea of a prequel and I didn’t thought it was neccesary for such a radical reboot. But I was the minority, and you’ll just have to let those things go. As I said in my review of that movie, despite the fact that I unlike most 007-fans wasn’t as pleased by it, Casino Royale was still a good movie. It was a well-made piece of spy action, be that as it may that I didn’t connect with it in the same way others did. Point is, I went in to Quantum of Solace knowing what to expect. There had been a lot of complaints regarding the fact that Bond in this movie would not drink the shaken and stirred martini or say his famous introduction line, which left me a bit confused. Ditching the very gun barrel sequence in Casino Royale was alright? Doesn’t 007 even get the question of how he wants his martini, and doesn’t he answer ”does it look like I give a damn”? What’s the problem, all of a sudden?
No it was not the fact that I knew it would be a movie that had simply taken all of the things that were special with movies in this series, marked it and pressed delete, that made me disappointed with it. Though I pretty much knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near great because of this, I had gotten over that. I knew I would have to take this movie for what it was. Problem? That’s just not very much.

So, the movie starts off with a routine car chase in Sierra, Italy. Along the narrow roads, Craig’s bitter face is observing the random machine gun blokes in his windshield. I am already annoyed. I don’t know who’s to blame for this, it could be director Mark Forster or it could be the editors, but somebody is clearly not familiar with the action genre. Not only is this sequence tired and clichéd (and we are now talking about a 007 intro, where even the worst movies in the series could conjure up something imaginative in the first minutes), but it also has that classical flaw of action movies made by people with no knowledge of the genre – the scene isn’t stage, but barely composited by a number of cuts. It’s the easy way out, and it just becomes frantic, you loose your sense of orientation and eventually you just loose interest and starts to wait for the scene to be over, letting us get on with the movie.
As the movie does get on, it is almost immediately interrupted by a chase sequence, also with every possibility to be good but spoiled by this boring mere montage of quick cuts, and once it’s over, we get into the plot about 007 finding the people responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, Casino Royale’s Bond girl, and 007’s one and only love interest (or ”life interest” aswell, you might say). As it is, these people have also tried to knock of M herself, and as it turns out the people behind this is a crime organisation with a lot of members being mighty in society and with ”people everywhere”. Sound familiar? Yes, it would be good old Spectre, had it not been for Ian Fleming banning the movies from ever using their name all those years ago (around the same time 007 movies started having him acting foreign by saying ”I am English. Who is your floor?”)

From the on, the movie goes on and on and on and on. We are introduced to Camille, an ex Bolivian secret service agent who wants revenge for the death of her family. I guess she’s supposed to be a good female character, but the first thing she does in the movie is to visit the man who moments ago tried to kill her; even if she’s got her shit together, that’s not a smart move. We are also introduced to the whiniest, most pathetic villain in the history of this series, Dominic Greene (Amalric). We also get a car chase, a boat chase, an airplane chase, a fist fight, another fist fight, a shootout, an escape run, you name it, we’ve got it all. But it’s all done by the numbers, you may say that a movie like The World Is Not Enough (1999) was hitting the marks of the formula, but Quantum of Solace is an action movie where every scene is obligatory and on the marks. Bond enters a quiet room, closes the door behind him, takes a few steps in the room. Count to four and there’s a guy jumping out from the closet. There are two plot-point characters introduced… when will one be knocked off by the bad guys and when will the other turn out to be a double-crossing spy? And as I said, all of the action sequences are done with the same type of forced editing that isn’t exhilirating, but will merely give you a headache. Not only is this just another action movie, it’s a bad action movie.

You won’t get anywhere trying to follow the story of this movie. Bond is on the trail of a crime organisation, well I guess that’s natural. We don’t get to know if 007 really is motivated by revenge or something else, and not in that top-of-the-iceberg/think-for-yourself kind of way, but we are simply not being told what he’s thinking, what he’s up to or, by that, what the point of the movie is. The villain, Greene (the only name in the movie tying to the tradition of funny names) is acting out as an enviromentalist hero, but is actually in to buy up the water supply of Bolivia, by dealing with some mafia Lawrences there. Pretty exciting stuff, right?
No, the story is a backdrop for a whole lot of action that is done poorly. At least, that’s what I make of it. That calls for a movie that has failed every attempt it had. Daniel Craig is still a great actor, and does a great job into making his character realistic, but James Bond has never been less sympathetic than he is here. Somewhere in the movie I realised in shock that I wouldn’t give a damn if the bad guys finally got one shot right and whacked him. Yes, I was watching a Bond film where I could accept Bond being killed by one of the random henchemen. Alternatively, given the ultimate sack by M and getting hunted down by the MI6 or the CIA, spending a couple of years in jail. That would have made for a good ending, actually, surely making this ”reboot” worthy of it’s name. As it is now, it’s not really making it’s mind up. The gun barrel sequence is cowardly and sloppily thrown in towards the end, as if it doesn’t dare to break the rules even if it wanted to. I guess what you do then is try to move towards the middle, and bring on enough action to make everybody distracted from the fact that you’ve lost direction with your creation.

I want to write more about Quantum of Solace, but I can’t find anything interesting to say about it and that pretty much sums up the whole thing. It’s a cold, grey, dead and poorly executed action film that’s pretty boring to watch. That’s it.