Saturday, October 20, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 22: Quantum of Solace.

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a couple weeks, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the twenty-second entry, with a full review of the inexplicably maligned Quantum of Solace. I hope you've enjoyed what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall, because, to quote Adele, this is (nearly) the end. Without further ado...

Quantum Of Solace
Director:  Marc Forster
Starring:  Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright
Rated PG-13

Take a deep breath, you only got one shot, make it count.
                        ~James Bond

Kills:  17
Bond Girls:  Camille Montes, Strawberry Fields
Car:  Aston Martin DBS V12
Locales:  Siena, Haiti, Austria, Bolivia, Russia
Odd Villain Trait:  Elvis, tall and has a wig that makes him look rather silly
Song:  “Another Way to Die” performed by Jack White & Alicia Keyes

Quantum of Solace (QoS) is considered the first ever direct sequel to a Bond film, starting up moments after the closing events of Casino Royale.  One could argue this untrue as Diamonds Are Forever picks up right where On Her Majesty’s Secret Service left off.  Going further, Dr. No through to Diamonds (minus Goldfinger) all carry along Bond’s battle against SPECTRE.  While calling it a direct sequel is the easiest way to spin it, the two films are more closely tied than any previous two films.

Quantum of Solace has been berated over the last couple years and it seems, more strongly as the years go by.  It’s a noticeable step down from Casino Royale in terms of quality, but I just cannot see how this can be thrown in as “one of the absolute worst” of this series, ESPECIALLY after I have just one through all of them.  Quantum of Solace is thoroughly entertaining romp and not once had me bored or turning against it.  The film is very short, surprisingly does feel a little long, but is never dull or dragging.  It's is not as good as Casino Royle, no, but that’s not a bad thing.  I think we live in an entertainment society now-a-days that can’t appreciate the middle ground or see in between at all.  Everything is either greatness or it’s the absolute pits.  And considering greatness isn’t delivered all too often, there’s a lot of “sucks” thrown around. 

When Marc Forster was chosen to direct QoS, it was an odd decision, but to me it was harkening back to Lucas tapping Kirschner to direct The Empire Strikes Back.  A direct known more for more small, intimate character dramas being thrust into a large scale blockbuster.  Things didn’t work as well as Lucas’s choice, but they aren't all too bad.  His choice to bring a lot of Bourne series alum for the 2nd unit and go the shaky-cam route is unfortunate choice, but it doesn't malign the picture.  The biggest peeve is that there’s a lot of beautiful shots, locations and action frames that I wanted to linger on and marvel, but there’s just too many cuts and too fast a rate for most of it.  It feels really weird every time there’s a shot that lasts or frames a scene.  However, Forster was able to bring some great performances out of the cast and make them count.  Camille Montes could have just been a throw-away Bond girl or one we just go with because the film dictates it, but she really earns her keep here.  She comes off as more than just a pretty face with a great body.  And the film actually doesn't force Bond to sleep with her when it seems all obvious for a film that they would.  It’s a nice surprise and something that should be respected.

The action bits, while done in the modern aesthetic aren't all horrible.  There have been numerous complaints as to people having a hard time following what is going on, and I really haven’t had that problem with any viewing.  It’s a bit much to take in, but I get the gist and follow quite fine.  I rather enjoy the car chase at the beginning and the drop from the plane later on in the film.  I’m not going to lie, I found a lot of the action in the film to come off with quite a bit of intensity.   Daniel Craig very much gets his License To Kill for this entry.  The plot is all set on revenge for Vesper Lynd and Bond defecting from MI:6 to see it through.  It's quite a violent, bloody time.  There’s an emphasis on 007’s excessive killing with his newly acquired license.  M plays a recurring role of teaching to maintain his composure and acknowledge the consequences of his every move.  It’s a nice bit of growth to their relationship.  It’s a rather cold relationship with the Craig-Bond, but some of it is rather humorous in its approach.

The villain is the weak link to this one.  Dominic Greene is rather just plain and uninteresting.  The thought of being a piece of a larger, more powerful organization that has people planted all over is threatening, Greene is not.  There’s not enough really there for him to be any sort of match, mentally or physically, for Bond.  The best moment of Bond vs. villainy is the opera scene.  Its one of the best pieces in the film, where Bond listens in to their secret meeting and lets them become aware of his presence.  However, at the end, when Greene just grabs an axe and swings, it’s quite ridiculous and pretty stupid.  It doesn't ruin the film or negate its finale, but it’s kind of silly, but Camille’s disposal of the general is satisfying.  Greene does meet a fun demise, albeit most of it coming from M’s debrief.   Ending on the gun barrel is a very fun moment.  By this time you've forgotten it wasn't there and it’s a nice surprise.  It’s basically saying that, as a character, all the origin/reboot/prequel stuff is done and we’re ready to get back to a more typical James Bond adventure.  

While the gun barrel is fun, the fim's title song ("Another Day to Die") isn't really.  It sounds like a demo and really doesn't benefit from being the first duet.  In my opinion, Jack White should have just written and done the instrumentals while Alicia Keys sang it solo.  The verses are cool, but the chorus just sounds heinous with both of them.  It works much better watching the film than it does standing alone, I’ll give it that much.   Quantum of Solace was another film victim of the 2007 writer’s strike.  Craig and Forster had to come up with any changes and scenes that needed redone.  It does show a bit here and there but nothing is too distracting or noticeable.  The film’s plot of hoarding water in Bolivia and causing and overcharging for it has been accused of being weak, but I found it just to be one of many things the Quantum organization could be capable of.  SPECTRE didn’t stop at just scrambling radio signals from space shuttles did they?

In time, I think QoS may find more appreciation (it’ll probably take another poor entry or two) some years down the road.  It’s not near as good as Casino Royale, but it works fine as a nice epilogue to it.  It’s not the best of the franchise but is far from being the worst.  I’ll admit, it’s a lot to take in on a first viewing.  There’s a lot of plot that’s not being spoon-fed to you and giving the audience a lot of credit.  Take that and mix it in with rapidly paced action sequences that pops up frequently, and yeah I’m sure a lot of folks are scratching their heads.  If you think it’s the worst, go back through the series, one-by-one.  You’ll find you’re very mistaken.  In the end, it’s mainly a glorified fast paced modern action thriller taking place in the Bond universe.  And better than most that I've seen.  From the beginning, I've discussed the series borrowing from other genres.  Quantum of Solace is just of that.  This time it’s taking from the Jason Statham/Jason Bourne mold of an action picture.  It's arguably the equivalent of a modern License To Kill.  It’s not the best Bond film, but it’s a fun piece of entertainment.

Brandon Peters will return with his final analysis of the 007 Series

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Alison B said...

Finally, an intelligent review of QOS that actually feels honest. I've never understood why certain people seemingly couldn't understand the nature of the water plot. Given there are water shortages worldwide and millions who die because of their inability to access clean and healthy water, that's actually a pretty smart plot, I would think. I mean, yes, it's not on the scale of say, Drax's plan or even one like the Brosnan films, but I thought we were meant to be 'getting away from the excesses' of the Brosnan years.

corysims said...

Absolutely agree with you. Again, it's the final act/epilogue of the building of Bond. And in that context, it really works.

Alison B said...

This. I never really thought about it in terms of it basically being the second half of Craig's 'Bond-Origin', but it does work in those terms too. It's a relatively low-key plot that suits a Bond who was just starting out. People who complain about the 'water-plot' of QOS seem to forget that Casino Royale's 'evil plot' was centred, arguably, around little more than a card game.

Alan Worsley said...

I have never really understood the poor reviews of Quantum of Solace. I quite liked it. It is not as good as Casino Royale, but I think most would agree Casino Royale is at least in the top 3 if not the best Bond. Personally, I would place QoS on about the same level as Tomorrow Never Dies, and much better than the latter Brosnan movies.

Alison B said...

The problem is that CR set the bar insanely high, just like Goldeneye did for most people with Brosnan's run.


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