Sunday, November 30, 2008

Marc Forster's QUANTUM OF SOLACE

My anticipation for Quantum of Solace started right after I saw Casino Royale. Daniel Craig instantly became my favorite Bond, adding a studly swagger that Bond has not seen since Sean Connery. Also, I found the action in Casino Royale to be some of the most engaging that I had seen in some time. I'm not willing to say it is the best Bond film I had seen, but given I was able to see it in a theater, it was by far the most enjoyable. Whatever magic was alive with the new jump start to the Bond franchise two years ago has now died with Quantum. Neither story nor action was engaging enough to keep my attention for 106 minutes.

If you haven't heard, Quantum picks up almost exactly where Casino Royale left off. Bond is grieving for the woman he loved, Vesper, despite the fact that she may have betrayed him. Personally, I think the first mistake made was assuming that we would be that cognizant of the movie we saw two years ago. Am I alone in not remembering the exact circumstances of Vesper's death, or what M said about Vesper, or who Mathis was? Even though I liked Casino Royale, a lot, I still wasn't invested enough in the characters to carry it over to this film. Call me an armchair fan, but I don't think Bond films carry the weight of an epic; they are singular experiences.

Everything that I read prior to seeing the film was that director Marc Forster and Craig were going for a more realistic, more human Bond character in Quantum. Maybe they missed the first twenty Bond films that were built on fantasy and invention. The familiar Bond formula was dropped. Yeah, I know what his name is, but the concern for continuity even denied us an initial romp and the satisfying introduction to Bond, James Bond. And don't look for any cool gadgets or gizmos, because I guess that didn't fit into the new more authentic Bond either. About the coolest thing Bond uses is his cell phone. Seriously.

And how about those action sequences? Not! Sure, they were heart thumping and hyperkinetic, but totally unintelligible. Thanks to the success of The Bourne Supremacy, someone has gotten it in their heads that shaky cam equals realism (and furthermore, realism equals good.) First and foremost in a good action sequence is that it has to be visually legible. A chase scene early in the film only relied on visual disorientation to convey the action. Although I knew they were running and I generally knew that Bond was the one chasing, I was never given enough visual information to actually be engaged. Part of the brilliance of the initial chase sequence in Casino Royale was hiring the incredibly athletic free runner Sebastian Foucan. But the other part is being able to see and understand the physicality of the space (especially the construction sight) and the physicality of the two men.

The lack of creativity in Quantum of Solace is disappointing on all fronts. The script and story were dull, if not a little disjointed. Grieving for Vesper made seduction an afterthought for Bond, and that was exactly how it felt in the film. Mathieu Amalric is a great choice for a villain, but his skills were not put to good use. But those things would hardly matter if Quantum had half the finesse and ingenuity of Casino Royale. About the closet you are going to get to a good Bond fix this year is Transporter 3.

5 comments:

Dan said...

I confess I intentionally avoided this Bond.

Kathie Smith said...

You made the right choice, my friend.

Barry Kryshka said...

The Bond films have always been one-offs in the past, but how great would it be if they _could_ build a story arc over several films? I think that's what they're trying for here.

Kathie Smith said...

Your right, it would be awesome. But, in my opinion this was a failure. There was too much sacrificed (unnecessarily) for the sake of continuity. Casino Royale is certainly doing good business in the home viewing department - it has been checked out at the local video store every time I go in!

Daniel Getahun said...

Nothing I can do but fully agree with everything you've said here, especially in analyzing the action. Ugh...