director: Marc Forster
starring: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini
From what I’ve heard, reviews of the latest James Bond outing seem to be fairly split between “fantastic action that carries on the outstanding precedent of 2006’s Casino Royale,” to “a boring, poorly-edited, plotless waste of time.” I guess some people are just too hard to please, because I freakin’ loved it, albeit with a few caveats. If you haven’t seen Casino Royale recently, you might be a little lost early on, and forget about knowing what the frick’s going on if you haven’t seen Royale at all. So, if you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading and go check it out. It’s well worth your time, so much so that I even upped it a grade after having watched it again this past weekend. And my one piece of advice before seeing Quantum of Solace is to do just that: watch it again, even if you’ve seen it before. The plot here carries a bit more resonance if you’re familiar with the character arc Bond starts upon in Royale.
The other caveat is that Quantum suffers a bit of Bourne-itis; the shaky-cam made so popular by the Bourne trilogy of movies is in full effect early on in the film, and I’m not sure it works very well. I think, in one 10-second section of the movie, there were approximately 35-40 cuts, and I don’t think I’m far off with that number (I might be pegging it on the low side, in fact). It seemed to get better as the movie went on, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the editing toning it down, or because I’d just gotten accustomed to it. It’s gonna turn some people off early on if you don’t like that style of filmmaking. And I’d advise the next Bond director to stay away from it; leave that styling to Bourne 2 and 3 directory Paul Greengrass; he knows how to do it well. The action throughout is still outstanding, however, that’s one carryover from the Bourne films that’s positive. Car chases, streetfights and incredible stunts are littered throughout, all of them at breakneck pace. (Although, no Casino Royale spider-monkey-ninja chases on top of a crane this time around, to my chagrin.)
Some random elements I enjoyed:
- the Goldfinger homage
- the varied location subtitles
- the whole opera sequence
- Mr. Greene’s wounded-animal-backed-into-a-corner fighting style and accompanying vocals
- the final shot
Daniel Craig continues to be an outstanding Bond. He doesn’t have the swashbuckling playboy attitude that past Bonds have possessed, though you can see flashes of it from time to time. For the most part, he’s an all-business ass-kicker for the two films he’s played 007, all the while somehow able to portray the varied emotional shades of rage, exhaustion, compassion, and sorrow. While he looks pretty much the same if you were to compare side-by-side shots of his face, he manages to convey those emotional shades with almost imperceptible variations of the same look each time.
I’ve always loved Bond films, but was disappointed they never had any sort of multi-picture character arc or delved into the background that made Bond the ruthless killer he became (debonair charm aside). While Royale and Quantum haven’t gone into great detail about 007’s origins, the writers certainly touch upon it. References to Bond being an orphan are made in the first film and his trademark womanizing is brought into perspective by Judi Dench’s M this time around. His actions have consequences, sometimes fatal, and she calls him on it in one of her many scenes in a beefed up role as Bond’s boss M. That honesty, in tandem with Bond’s quest for revenge, lend some much-needed emotional subtext to the storyline.
I’ll be curious to see if this trend is carried on into the next film, perhaps with a deeper exploration of Bond’s origins before his employ in Her Majesty’s secret service. There are certainly enough unresolved storylines from the first two films to continue pursuing in light of some revelations about the globe-spanning Quantum organization (it almost conjures images of Ernst Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E.). One thing this new reboot of the franchise has done is make anything possible. You’re pretty much assured of action sequences, smokin’ hot women, an Aston-Martin, and Bond in a tux in the 007 films, but there’s plenty of room in there for different modes of storytelling than past iterations. I eagerly await the next entry.