Monday, November 17, 2008

422 - Quantum of Solace review



“Quantum of Solace” takes the James Bond we met in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and strips him of nearly everything interesting. All that remains from Daniel Craig’s first outing as the British super-spy is the brutality, which has been amplified to the point where the knob breaks off and all we receive is noise, simultaneously ostentatious and bland.

Gone is the image of Bond as a ladies man, clad in an impeccable designer suit and irresistibly suave. Here, his suit is filthy from his dozens of fistfights and romps through the dirt. He looks more like the kind of guy targeted by a bouncer at a dive bar than a globetrotting secret agent. Good for cover, bad for a Bond movie. His legendary sex drive has been reduced to afterthought, subordinate to a bloody quest for vengeance. When he sleeps with a fellow agent here, it’s as if by custom rather than joy, pleasure, or work. Why copulate with a gorgeous woman when you could drive a knife through the throat of an ugly man, seems to be this Bond’s motto. Well, why should I watch the Bond character become pointlessly vicious when I could admire Jack Bauer’s grisly antics instead?

When “Casino Royale” reset the franchise, the results were beyond expectations. Bond was flawlessly portrayed by Craig as a neophyte to big league intrigue, a hard and predatory man with an axe to grind and a duty to fulfil. Bond’s glamour was combined with the degree of ruthlessness prior installments had whitewashed over, to great effect: here was an spy that clawed his way to the top, who fought and bled and then loved, ever so briefly, before he was crushed.

“Quantum of Solace” picks up immediately afterward, and sees Bond solely as a killing machine, an instrument of death that exterminates all in his way. Does anybody fondly recall the previous 21 entries for their double-digit body counts and perpetually scowling lead? Under director Marc Forster’s incompetent direction, Craig’s performance is one-note, and that note isn’t even the anger ostensibly driving the mayhem: it’s boredom.

Opening with a car chase through an Italian village, “Quantum of Solace” keeps the violence coming, presented to us via a series of borderline incomprehensible cuts popularized by the “Bourne” series. Bond gets in karate fights and shootouts and we might be able to set aside our incredulousness at the film as a whole if we could tell what was going on, but we can’t, so we won’t.

In “Casino Royale,” Bond traveled to places that made the film appropriately resemble a travel guide for the super-wealthy: the beaches of the Caribbean, Lake Como in Italy, Casino Royale in Montenegro. The destinations in “Quantum of Solace” are less inspiring: the slums of Haiti, an Austrian opera house, a Bolivian desert. What, did Bond villains stop enjoying nice scenery? The film climaxes in a palace that begins exploding when bullets begin to fly, which strikes me as a poor choice of home for anyone, much less those prone to attracting gunfire.

To add insult to copious injury, the opening titles are deadly dull, and the theme by Jack White is the worst I’ve heard, and I’d be amazed if many Bond aficionados disagreed. For a Bond film like this, allow me to say “never again.” And may I never have to say that again.

1.5 out of 5

For those in the know about guns, for the first time since "Goldeneye," Bond's sidearm of choice is the Walther PPK. Since "Tomorrow Never Dies," Bond had used the more modern (not to mention practical) Walther P99. My take: bad choice. The P99 offers a superior shell (9mm or .40) and magazine capacity (16+1 or 12+1) to the PPK (7+1 rounds of .380). Considering that this Bond is so intent on killing people, the switch is quite lame.

6 comments:

Ramin said...

Darn, yet another film that is one instalment of a series for which I had high expectations, only to have my hopes dashed by indifferent directors who seem to do their work knowing full well that the film's popularity guarantees people will watch it irrespective of any extra efforts to make it watchable. Well, I don't know if that's true about the director, but it sure seems that way sometimes -- e.g. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, The Matrix, and now James Bond. A notable exception is Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's Batman series.

The downside of pop-culture cinema is that the sole determining factor in profits is marketing marketing, rather than content. Marketing alone determines how much money a movie will make. Why bother paying for top-caliber directors and screen-writers when that money could be better invested into a few more 30-minute "making of" specials on MTV. People don't care about production values anyway, they only care about beautiful actors and rigid adherence to the genre. After all people hate it when they see things in movies that they don't expect, right?

Well anyway, that is both my opinion and the very reason I have become entirely disillusioned with the entertainment industry as of late.

Dustin said...

Ramin-

I'd say ignore the blockbusters and the new releases, which it sounds like you need no advice to do so, but instead of those you could attend a film class for the esoteric, high-minded, classics and hidden gems, or try Netflix or a video store to start logging through the movies more worth your time. Because the contemporary culture is invested in a lot of formula and foolishness, and as you've shown you know, once you've seen it a few times you know it and it's no longer intriguing or entertaining- rather quite grating.

johnsal said...

Your are on target with this review. What a disappointment. After the progress achieved in Casino Royale it all comes crashing down here. What was so positive about Casino was that it remembered that 007 had a license to kill. That means that the character must contain the threat of murder. The Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan versions never encapsulated the menace. Unfortunately, they moved that contrast over to full violence without he debonairness in Solace.

A couple of other negatives I'm sure you saw but didn't have space for. A movie such as this must have a delicious villain. Not to make too fine a point of it, but this movie's villain had all the hardness and hostility of a wet noodle. Some commentators have become incensed over the anti-American attitude. Actually that seemed laughably inane, more like some fever dream of the Iluminati-Trilateral Commission conspiracists.

All in all, a wasted effort. And there was not much hope here that the upcoming third edition will be any better.

Anonymous said...

I like your blog name "whispers of a cinematic echo". Nice.--Jess Love

Kevcham said...

Not only was the movie a let down but the anti-American tone was irritating and laughable at the same time.

Ramin said...

I don't know if Dustin will read this, but I just want to acknowledge his comment. Thanks. I imagine you and I are on the same page here, and sounds like you have found some respite from the pop-culture chaos in film classes and a palatable netflix queue. I don't know how international netflix is or whether or not they will deliver to my home in Yokohama, but in any case, it isn't terribly difficult to find good movies in Tokyo. I just never can convince myself to spare a few extra hours to go out and find a good movie and watch it.