Thursday, January 08, 2009

Quantum of Solace

Exotic locations, amazing gadgets, fast cars and pretty women are staples of James Bond films, but like Casino Royal before it, one of these things is missing from Quantum of Solace. Given the pace of the film you would be forgiven for not noticing the omission until afterwards.

As I have come to expect with Bond films, it kicks off with a chase scene in an exotic location as Bond brings in a man for "interrogation" by MI6. Many of the shots are in-your-face close-ups of Bond or from his point of view, which gives the sequence a claustrophobic feel. The shots are very short and choppy which gave me a feel for the instant, death defying decisions Bond is making. But the shots are also quite disjointed which just made me confused. The harbour chase scene later in the film is also shot in short disjointed takes which likewise left me confused as to the overall situation.

The mission for the film is summed up by M: "Who the hell is this organisation Bond? How can they be everywhere and we know nothing about them!" They turn out to be some politically well connected rich guys just wanting to get richer and for some reason Bond and rebel CIA agent Felix Leiter want to stop this! But don't look for rationality in a Bond plot, just go with the flow. You know the sort of thing, Bond follows a series of leads (which might be as tenuous as following a pretty woman) in an chain of events that leads him to foil the bad guys' plans usually in a series of explosions and dead bodies. The film alternates frantic chase scenes with slower development sequences, but even the slow sequences are quite short so that the overall pace is quick and relentless. One could quibble that the flight to Bolivia scene was probably superfluous and the final confrontation (which wraps up the Casino Royale plot) felt like an afterthought. This contrasts with Casino Royale with its multiple fake endings and twists in the tail that drag on and on.

While I found some of the dialogue and acting in Casino Royale quite stiff, I thought Quantum of Solace was a significant improvement. Daniel Craig in particular was more relaxed and natural when delivering his lines, but he has a long way to go to reach the panache and humour of say Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan. Also, there are fewer of the drawn out strangling scenes that I thought detracted from Casino Royale (perhaps I am unrealistic and sentimental but I thought Bond preferred quick kills). Perhaps because Judi Dench (M) is a draw card in her own right (and probably a better actor than Daniel Craig) she gets many of the best lines and unrealistically gets out "in the field". In the scenes they play together Bond comes across as a petulant school boy -- something he is aware of (Camille: "Your mother?" Bond: "She likes to think so.")

There are two Bond Girls: Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) on her own mission of revenge who teams up with Bond for much of the film to their mutual advantage and Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) from the British Consulate in La Plaz who will be remembered for her 1960s cream coat and banter at the airport but unfortunately gets too close to Bond.

What's missing? Well it seems that Q and his gadgets have been replaced by a swag of product placements.

Overall this is an improvement on Casino Royale but unlike some previous Bond films I can't think of anything here that is particularly memorable.

Ian's rating 3.5/5 Anne's rating 3/5

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