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Movie review: Quantum of Solace

A new installment in the James Bond franchise has an irresistible pull on me. While I have few opportunities to go to the movies and tend to barely tolerate the distractions that accompany the procedure of sharing the viewing experience with a bunch of strangers, certain movie releases to me constitute “events” that I find hard to put off until their future availability on cable.

So, on Saturday, Natasha and I left the children to entertain themselves in front of TV and computers, and went for a matinee showing of Quantum of Solace.

I’ll give this movie purely on entertainment value, but I am ambivalent about it. On one hand, it has striking locales, fast-paced action, daring escapes, fanciful technology, great stunts, chases and explosions – all that I enjoy the most about Bond movies. On the other hand, I also expect a coherent storyline, and the sequence of events in this movie appears a bit too haphazard and disjointed to me.

There are a few spoilers below, proceed with caution.

For instance, even upon reflection, I don’t understand why Bond goes to considerable efforts to save Camille in Port-au-Prince, after seeing her freely walk into Greene’s “compound”. I can’t figure out what’s the point of Camille showing up at the party in La Paz to roil Dominick, only to be “saved” by James again and leave with him. I am stupefied as to why Fields needs to “help” Bond by tripping Elvis on the stairs, and whether that act contributes to her demise. The drowning-in-oil symbolism looks somewhat random, seeing as the sinister motives are all about water, and it is Americans, rather than the British, who are after oil. And so on.

I’m sure that after seeing it again, I may get a better understanding of all these seemingly illogical twists and turns, but at the first sight, the movie looks like it fell victim to aggressive editing which left some important connecting bits out.

Daniel Craig, conversely, has grown on me as Bond in this movie. I can’t help but think that he simply does not look aristocratic enough for the role, and his take was too… brooding, I guess, in Casino Royale. On his second try, he still falls short at projecting the right blue blood pedigree that I expect from James Bond, but he is getting more adept at being resolute and a smart-ass that I want my 007 to be. Brosnan and Connery remain my favorite Bonds, but Craig is putting in a claim of making that into a triumvirate.

I like Olga Kurylenko’s turn as the latest Bond girl, not least because there was almost no sexual tension between Camille and James. The genre calls for all women that Bond meets to be sexy first and everything else after, and while Kurylenko may not be Halle Berry, she is plenty stunning. I was waiting for the traditional final shot to be that of her and Bond snuggling under a bush somewhere in the Bolivian desert. The fact that it did not come not only reinforced Bond’s new “caring” persona, but also made Kurylenko’s character somehow more substantial.

The main villain, played by Mathieu Amalric, was neither menacing enough nor looked like a real “big fish”. But Quantum is clearly not set up similarly to Blofeld’s SPECTRE, and we are probably in for picking all of its members one by one in the future installments.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining film, and when I get around to rebuilding my Bond collection on DVD (after having sold my VHS collection several years ago), this will be a definite one to own.

Posted in Movies

6 Comments

  1. Patrick

    it will be easy to make Quantum of Solace spoofs… every where this Bond goes he breaks glass, he can’t get a gallon of milk from the store without it turning into a chase scene, and every time he punches someone in the face, they die

  2. Eric

    I think toning down the villains in Casino and QoS is a smart choice. First, because Mike Myers’ deconstruction of Every Bond Villain Especially Blofeld pretty much made it impossible to ever go back again (“No no no, I’m going to leave them alone and not actually witness them dying, I’m just gonna assume it all went to plan…”). And second, because they’ve toned down the scale of the schemes (appropriately, in my opinion): Greene may not be as impressive as an Auric Goldfinger or Hugo Drax, but I think he is scaled appropriately for a venal and backhanded plan to scam a Latin American government out of vast amounts of cash over the period of several years or decades.

    Like you, I enjoyed the break from Bond’s usual sexual persona. Not only does he not hook up with the main female character, but his motive for hooking up with another is apparently merely to avoid arrest–Craig’s Bond may get more emotional about some things, but in many respects he’s also the most cynical and depraved version of the character ever, which gives him a nice bit of depth that’s usually been missing from the series (he’s complicated).

  3. jason

    Ilya, I agree with you about the many illogical twists in Quantum (although I think expecting logic from a Bond movie is somewhat futile; have you really thought about the plot of Goldfinger, for instance? None of them make a great deal of sense, if you really start deconstructing them). However, I think I can help out with Fields’ death at least.

    As Bond is being dressed down by M for putting the unfortunate girl in harm’s way, he remarks that her killing is all about distraction; he’s already seen the secret underground dam and figured out what’s going on, but the body was left while he was out, and possibly wasn’t even supposed to be found by him, since he had people trying to kill him at more or less the same time Fields would’ve been murdered. The manner of her death (besides being grotesque and a nice homage to the iconic image from Goldfinger, of course) isn’t random at all, because it’s supposed to make whoever finds the body believe all the intrigue is about oil, i.e., a distraction from Quantum’s true plot.

    Everyone in the film is concerned with oil, not just the Americans. The General who takes over Bolivia (can’t remember his name) tells Mr. Greene he won’t find oil on the worthless desert land he’s trying to obtain. The British minister whom M meets with makes quite a speech about it and pretty clearly suggests that their government is concerned about what Britain is going to do to meet their own needs while the Americans, Russians, and Chinese fight over the big sources.

    Mr. Greene and Quantum are counting on everyone being obsessed with “black gold” while they are assuming control of the real “most precious resource on the planet.” It’s sleight of hand, just like the card-playing in Casino Royale.

    More generally, I liked this movie but not as well as Casino Royale. I think Daniel Craig is really excellent in the part; no, he’s not the aristocratic Bond we’ve seen all the previous actors playing, but that’s one of the strengths of this interpretation of the character (i.e., it’s fresh).

    The thing I had the biggest problem with was the editing. I really hate the current mode of shooting and editing action scenes, i.e., as jittery as possible with no cut lasting more than a few fractions of a second. While QoS doesn’t come near the Bourne movies in terms of visual incomprehensibility, I did lose track a few times of who was beating on whom, and that really ticks me off…

    Because of the shaky-cam and overcaffeinated editing, I would give QoS only three stars.

  4. Ilya

    Good take on the oil, Jason, and I must have been too startled by seeing the girl dead to register the significance of “distraction” properly. Still makes little sense that an organization so secret that virtualy no one knows about it, that is already in cahoots with the CIA, and that is only pursued by a single “rogue” British agent, actually needs this type of distraction, but in all of the illogical narrative, this one bit has some substance. Thanks for pointing it out.

    I don’t have a big problem with quick-cuts action sequences. I guess the shot of adrenaline overcomes any mental disorientation, in my case 🙂

    Valid point about the villains and schemes, Eric. I haven’t thought of that.

  5. kisintin

    Saw it. Liked it. Not going to type anything here, too big. So I’ll just plug my own blog as my take on the movie.

    Go to my blog, and tell me how wrong I am. Boost my statistics, while you are at it 🙂

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