Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace (2008)

<< Preface >>  This is a first viewing for me.

Okay.  I have a confession.  I love Bond films.  I’ve been told this is unsual for women to admit, so I’m hoping to break down a few action-myth-barriers here.  I love action films.  They serve the human race in a multitude of ways – especially in that they snake into your body and unhinge a little part of your brain that connects you to the real world.  If you’re looking for an escape, a Bond film is a great avenue.

With that said, I have yet to see the Daniel Craig Bond.  That’s right.  I skipped Casino Royale when I did something I don’t typically do – I listened to my friends, family, and coworkers.  Not one person I know favorably reviewed Casino Royale or Daniel Craig as the Broccoli family’s new Bond.  Now, the tricky part.  Quantum of Solace takes place mere moments after the Casino Royale storyline ends.  A Quantum quandry.  Let’s see if I don’t get totally lost.

In the first two minutes of the film, I’m already open-mouth-sucked-in.  There is no greater way to build tension than the crisp, quick editing of images in complete silence.  This car chase lives up to every car chase in any Bond film I’ve seen.  On Blu-Ray it stuns and delights.  And now, I think I need to take a breath because it seems as though I’ve been holding it.  My oh my, Bond always has such sexy rides.

The Alfa Romeo flat spin stunt as it veers off the road is gorgeous at the end of the car chase.  And it’s time for my favorite part of any Bond film – the credits.  It’s slick motion graphics using beautiful dust After Effects (that woman coming out of the sand dunes is spectacular, admit it) against warm and cool tones is compelling.  The fluidity of the animation is spellbinding.  Compare this sequence with say “The World is not Enough” in which elements from the film’s major theme of oil production are used.  And sorry, while I enjoy Alicia Keyes, I’m not feeling the theme song.  It just doesn’t grab me.

Why do I feel when M says “We never really know anyone, do we?” that we have just been given the film’s thesis?

Judi Dench returns as M

Judi Dench returns as M

Judi Dench is a great asset to the Bond franchise.  I don’t yet know if I can say the same for Daniel Craig.  I’ve enjoyed him in other projects (like The Jacket, Infamous, and The Invasion), but, as Bond?  He has a great, athletic presence, with a gritty face.  The “pretty” Bonds never made much sense to me, although I was a Pierce Brosnan fan if for no other reason than the man is elegant.  Craig, who I find to be a bit of a mumbler by the way, has a long way to go in proving himself — in the next scene, at least he proves he can wear the hell out of a suit in the rain (or, a black ripped up coat in the desert).

Daniel Craig, taking Bond to a different level

Daniel Craig, taking Bond to a different level

Time for the gadgets!  My second favorite Bond bit.  It sure does look like the Microsoft Surface is making an appearance as the MI-6 team reviews data.  Sleek and obtainable high-tech gadgets in a Bond film?  Is that a first?  Since when does the forward looking Bond genre with it’s fantastical gadgetry even come close to mirroring things that the general public will be able to utilize in their own homes?

Maybe I’m being overly ruthless now, but I’m not a fan of what the production team has done to the location titles in the film.  Bond films skate this really nice line between the cutting edge and the timeless – that’s what makes them stand apart.  The location titles, I find, are a bit jarring and incongruent with the film.  They detract where they should merely inform.  Little things like this kill movies for me because they break my suspension of disbelief.  Don’t spend the time luring me in if your only going to shatter the illusion.

The fight sequence that happens in Port au Prince in the Hotel Dessalines is fantastic, masculine, powerful, and deadly.  Moments later, Bond looks as though nothing has happened.  That’s hardcore.

Olga Kurylenko is Camille

Olga Kurylenko is Camille

Enter the Bond girl, Camille (played by Olga Kurylenko) – finally, a little plot amidst the action.  Why are Bond women always involved in these oafish ugly foreign men?  Camille’s husband, Dominic Green (played by Mathieu Amalric), is another classic Bond sleazeball.  Man, oh man he is creepy.

I spoke too soon.  Catch the boat chase and come back when it’s over.

Love it when M says “Get me the Americans” and the Americans are made to be seen as though they are in bed with the sleazeball, Greene, on a private jet discussing oil rights and military coups.  These so-called Americans (if they are Americans) even disclose the true identity of Bond.  Yes.  Thank you.  Americans care only about oil – not Bond.

The Tosca scene is a bit disingenuous, but everything in a Bond film should be bigger than life, and let’s face it, it may be the only time Bond fans are exposed to the opera.  The action sequence that follows is fantastic and leaves you feeling a bit shell-shocked.

The locales, as usual (thankfully), are gorgeous – in that regard you always win with a Bond film, especially in high definition.  You can almost feel the Italian sun, and since it has been raining here for days, that’s a welcome sensation.

Daniel Craig & Gemme Arterton

Daniel Craig & Gemme Arterton

Strawberry Fields.  Only in a Bond film would  a woman have such a delightfully ridiculous name.  Gemma Arterton is fun as the consulate agent sent to redirect Bond when he arrives in Bolivia.  And, of course since she cannot resist Bond’s acidic charms, she winds up in his bed, failing miserably at her task.  Tsk tsk.  MI-6 really needs to revisit their hiring standards for the female sex.

“You can’t believe how angry I am with myself,” she sighs afterward.  Of course we can’t believe it.  At this point, I completely lose interest and go off on the web to do some research on light sensitivity.  That’s something that’s never happened to me before, with any Bond film.  Uh-oh.  Not a good sign.

When my attention is once again on QoS it is only because Camille and Bond have fallen out of a plane and failed to pull the cord on Camille’s parachute.  They land, face down somewhere on the piece of property Camille’s husband, Greene, for which he has bartered the small political coup in Haiti.  It is then, they have the realization that Greene is not looking for oil, but water.   Imagine that.  Looking for a clean source of water in the desert.

Upon returning to the hotel, Bond is given a note which reads “RUN” – of course, he forges ahead.  He finds M in his room.  A verbal fist fight ensues and M gives up her trailer tagline – “when you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, it’s time to go.”

They discover poor Strawberry Fields, dead, in Bond’s bed, covered in some kind of black goo – could be oil, it’s hard to say.  M puts Bond on the MI-6 equivalent of administrative leave and collects his weapons.  In the elevator on the way down to the lobby, he takes down three agents and doubles-back.  Classic Bond.  Defiant to the end.

Primary Bond rule – never let them see you sweat, and always have an escape plan.  The last words spoken by the original Q hold true in QoS, only at some point, you will find yourself feeling exhausted by the quick info gathering followed by excessively violent escapes that are the film’s backbone.  All of this would be barable if you cared about any of the characters put into play.  Since I do not care, at this juncture, about any of the characters — after all, they’ve covered in goo and killed cutie-patootie Strawberry Fields — I’m concerned that the movie is now all but shot for me.  I think we’ve reached the final climax of the film and I’m bored (is that even possible when they have special effects that actually, realistically show flames burning off a man’s clothes down to his underwear before consuming him?).

Why?

The final word:  Sorry Bond fans, Quantum of Solace fails.  Too much relentless action without the time to absorb.  Not enough story development.  Not enough pithy dialog.  None of the sensuality, none of the undeniable chemistry between Bond and his leading ladies.  And what about Daniel Craig’s Bond?  Too rigid – takes himself too seriously and doesn’t allow himself a moment of self-deprecating humor seen in other Bonds.  Is it a sign of our times, that even Bond can’t take a moment to laugh?  What am I missing here?

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