Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace

“There is something horribly deficient about you.”

The film picks up immeadiately after the events of Casino Royale (read that review). After the worst car chase montage ever shown in a Bond film, more on that later, 007 (Daniel Craig) delivers Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to M (Judi Dench) for interrogation.

Before escaping, with relative ease (and a confusing moment where no one, including the director or the four screenwriters it seems, are sure if M is shot), White informs MI:6 that they are hopelessly outmatched by his secret origination with its hands in intelligence organizations worldwide.

Bond is sent to follow up one lead after another only to quickly kill everyone in his path who could offer information, much to dismay of British Intelligence.

Believing 007 has let his anger get the better of him, M treats him like a shop-a-holic by cutting off his credit and ordering him to be brought in, forcing Bond to go rogue to continue the investigation which leads him to an environmentalist (Mathieu Amalric) and his evil plans for taking all the oil (or is it water?) out of Bolivia.

The film has many flaws aside from the revenge plot which doesn’t play well in a Bond film. The opening stunt sequence, all shot on shaky hand cam by cinematographers who thought The Blair Witch Project wasn’t nausea-inducing enough, is cut together so haphazardly you can’t even tell what you are seeing. Thankfully the other action sequences are at least slightly easier to follow.

Also perplexing is the oil/water swindle. It’s not needed here and feels almost like an afterthought and an attempt to throw in a Bond villain-like evil plan (complete with a secret base made to explode) to make the story feel more a part of the franchise. But since Bond’s revenge, the main emphasis of the tale, has already put him on Greene’s tail what’s the point with this half-hearted plot-point which is never adequately explained?

I like Craig as a rougher Bond, but here all the fun of the character (which was shown in the first film) is missing. This Bond is without his swagger, his dry wit, and his theme song (the Bond theme doesn’t make an appearance, once again, until the closing credits - ditto for the gun barrel sequence). Instead we get a gritty hand-held action flick with a renegade spy where we’re not sure what is happening half of the time. Is this supposed to be Bond or Bourne?

We do get several locales including Chile, Austira, Itlay, and Panama City. However, there are no Bond gadgets this time around (except for the kick ass computer in Intelligence HQ which is, by far, the coolest thing in the film). There are two Bond Girls, the revenge focused Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who helps 007 on his quest, and the smaller role of a fellow agent (Gemma Arterton) who Bond seduces for her assistance. Well, at least one piece of the character, 007’s libido, is recognizable.

Quantum of Solace isn’t the worst Bond film, but if you divide the 22 films into thirds (the best, the mediocre, and the worst) then I’d place this one at the top of the least column over films like The World is Not Enough, Octopussy and A View to a Kill, but far below the best, or even the more mediocre, of the franchise.

Sadly Camille’s tongue-in-cheek comment about Bond’s deficiency (quoted at the top of this review) is all too telling of the film itself. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, and make us watch. We’ve seen Bond on the run and out for revenge in License to Kill (which even with its stupid drug dealer storyline was more fun than this), and Diamonds of Forever (probably the worst Bond flick ever made); it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. By making revenge the primary force behind the film it moves further and further from the formula which makes a James Bond movie work and more indistinguishable from any other action flick.

Although I don’t mind the continuation of the story from Casino Royale, though starting it immediately after the end of the first film wouldn’t have been my first choice, the plot isn’t handled well. With Casino Royale the new Bond franchise could lean on Ian Fleming’s original tale. Here the four screenwriters (never a good sign) are asked to create a Bond story from scratch, at which they fail miserably. I don’t know where the franchise goes from here; one or two more entries like this and I might not care.

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