– Summary –
Director : Marc Forster
Year Of Release : 2008
Principal Cast : Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Anatole Taubman.
Approx Running Time : 106 Minutes
Synopsis: James Bond must stop a ruthless businessman from controlling an entire country’s water supply.
What we think : Pulse-pounding Bond flick delivers thrills and spills, even when it’s not appearing to do much. The perfect sequel to Casino Royale!
Holy smokes, this film is one heck of a ride.
For the uninitiated, Quantum Of Solace is the sequel to 2006’s reinvention of the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale. James Bond, for the increasingly uninitiated and drastically out of touch, is creator Ian Flemmings’ indestructible, inscrutable, super-spy, whose charm with the women is only outmatched by his ability with a gun, vehicles, and explosives.
Director Marc Forster would not have been my first choice in directing a Bond film: he’s best known for Finding Neverland and Monsters Ball, two terrific films with nary a skerrick of action whatsoever. Forster has a great eye for acting, and is perhaps less known for action. That said, QOS is an action film containing some spectacular action sequences, and yet is somewhat uneven in it’s dramatic moments. The problem with Bond in recent years, especially in the later Brosnan era, is the fact that Bond is increasingly out-of-touch with modern sensibilities of today’s audience. Sexual innuendo, slick production values, cliched scripting and some truly ordinary plot contrivances all added up to put the kibosh on Brosnan’s (commercially) successful tenure in the title role. With Casino Royale, the franchise was reinvigorated – something it was almost required to do with the emergence of competitor super-spy Jason Bourne. The Bourne films, replete with their jagged, frenetic action sequences, supercool action sequences and non-pandering scripting, gave audiences something they’d not seen in ages: a spy that was brutal, cool and very, very exciting. Bond, however, had managed to reduce himself to a shadow of Ian Fleming’s original idea.
With Casino Royale, and now with QOS, Bond has clawed back some of the ground lost to Jason Bourne. He’s still not perfect, however, and I’ll expand more on that in a moment, however, both Casino Royale and QOS are terrific examples of the Bond franchise reinvigorating itself for the new millennium.
QOS begins with a bang, a spectacular car chase through the tunnels of costal Italy. Starting almost immediately where Casino Royale left off, Forster demonstrates his ability to generate screen excitement with a brilliant sequence reminiscent of both The Bourne Supremacy’s closing car chase and Ronin.
Daniel Craig is, to mix my sexual euphemisms a little, a stone cold fox (male version) as Bond, his steely resolve to avenge the death of Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale seemingly overpowering everything he does. However, he simply will not admit it: he’s too well trained for an emotion like revenge to play on his conscience. Thankfully, though, this Bond is more human than possibly any of his predecessors. Craig can be beaten, can be bloodied up; Bond is not afraid to leap, jump, roll, crouch, punch, or bludgeon his way into any situation to get exactly what he deserves. And I think this is a Bond we can more easily identify with. Sure, he survives impossible explosions, gun battles and hand to hand combat with assassins and henchmen, but as far as remaining unruffled and debonair, he’s less inclined to stay clean and tidy. Craig’s Bond is messy, a scrapper, a brawler, and I think it’s best suited to this character. No more slinking about hotel lobbies and casinos with a hot young woman at his side: this Bond is best suited to the back alleys and roadways never trodden by the good guys. He gets results, and doesn’t really care whose nose gets put out of joint in the meantime.
Alongside the wonderful Daniel Craig, is Olga Kurylenko, playing femme fatale Camille (she’s no Pussy Galore, but still…), a woman most definitely driven by revenge to kill a fallen Bolivian dictator, and perhaps representative of Bond’s own conflicted personality. Kurylenko plays Camille fairly straight, although to be honest, she’s not good enough an actress to successfully carry the role off; anybody who saw her in Hitman will realise that she’s got a great body, but no acting talent, something badly needed if you’re going to play with the big boys of cinema. And Bond is about as big as you get. Camille, as a character, is tormented, tortured (emotionally) and definitely broken, a female version of Bond, if you will. However, her story arc is not quite juicy enough to warrant such attention. Her arc, while admirably put up against that of Bond, is poorly plotted and badly formed, almost as if the scriptwriters needed somebody else to have some “plot” in the film.
There is one major flaw that I could see with QOS, and that’s the uneven pacing. Forster front-loads the film with his best action set-pieces, the gung ho editing and flashy stunts keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout. However, QOS hit’s a flat spot about half way in, when the espionage and “drama” of Bond start to kick in. The problem is, when it does kick in, we’re so pumped up on adrenaline charged chase sequences (and they are plentiful, with cars, boats, planes, rooftop footraces, and rope-hanging John Woo inspired balletic stuntwork all coming into play) that we feel slightly let down when the film evens out a little. Judi Dench, as M, gets a fair amount of screen time this go round, a surprising amount considering her almost cameo appearances in previous Bond outings. Still, she’s got M down cold, perfectly capturing the character who is the only one capable of standing up to Bond.
With all the action up front, the film fails to deliver the big-bang finish the story deserves, even if Bond and Camille are surrounded by fire and explosions in the film’s final act. Emotionally, we’re already spent, so to speak. There’s a giant lull in the film’s centre, which Forster tries hard to use to build up a new villain and plot development, an organisation powerful enough to infiltrate governments and topple nations, which smacks of SPECTRE a little, however isn’t fully explained in one of the movie’s best moves: we don’t quite know who Bond is really fighting, but by the end, we get that “watch this space” feeling of something bigger coming.
Central villain Mathieu Amalric is good, although perhaps not freaky enough to be a genuine Bond villain: Amalric’s eyes convey a sense of the crazy, however, this potential goes somewhat unrealised. We just never see him do anything really chilling, which negates his presence as the main antagonist. Jeffery Wright returns as Bond’s ally Felix Leiter, a CIA agent who crosses paths with Bond in Bolivia through their mutual pursuit of Amalric. Wright’s role is a little more complex this time around, he is seemingly more aloof and less inclined to help Bond. I found this departure from the earlier portrayal fo the character a little off-putting, although it did eventually work into the story quite well anyway, so I guess I can’t complain.
I might sound like I’m really getting stuck into QOS, and to a point, I am. But the film is still highly entertaining, a lot more raw than Casino Royale, and most definitely more exciting than most of the later Brosnan efforts. Craig’s stony faced portrayal of Bond is also fairly awkward at times, almost as if we aren’t allowed to know what he’s thinking… something I feel we need to know in order to empathise with him as a character. In QOS, Bond approaches almost not being quite human, as he begins his vendetta to find those responsible for Vesper’s death.
In the cold, hard, light of day, Quantum Of Solace is a wildly uneven, desperately frenetic affair, the action sequences a frighteningly quick epilepsy-inducing frenzy of cuts, flashes, banging and smashing: almost to the point of being insanely hard to watch. Coupled with an unbalanced middle act, with Bond on the run from everyone including MI6, Quantum finishes with a flourish of explosions, resolutions and a harking back to the old spy serials of old; blunt, brute force meets slick production values. There’s plenty to like about Quantum Of Solace, and truth be told, if this is the direction the franchise has decided to go, then I am most definitely interested in following it all the way.
Quantum of Solace is a well made, filmed and ultimately entertaining entry into the Bond franchise, and while not perfect, is certainly a cut above most of the action fare coming out of Hollywood these days. The action is fantastic, and it closes a chapter on Casino Royale, whilst opening up a new one with the formation of….. well, I don’t want to give too much away now, do I?
See it. You won’t be disappointed.