I really, really liked Casino Royale. It was a superbly shot, written, performed and executed movie. Everything in it clicked exactly the way it needed to. As a result it became a tall order to follow. I certainly wouldn’t envy director Marc Forster taking on this challenge. Forster is a pretty decent director having put out a few interesting and well made films such as Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland. I have no idea what went wrong here. I know what he’d likely blame, that writer’s strike everyone was blaming back then, but that’s not really an excuse. I’ll tell you why at some point after the link.
In Quantum Of Solace Bond has set out to find out who was responsible for pushing Vesper Lynd towards betraying him. The film picks up a few moments after Casino Royale left off, where Bond had knee capped a villain called Mr White, with a very confusingly shot high speed car chase. Bond has Mr White in the trunk of his Aston Martin in order to deliver him to MI6. He does but before long it appears White has friends everywhere when an MI6 agent attempts to kill M and helps facilitate White’s escape. This leads Bond to go hunting for anyone else that may be connected to Quantum, this Bond film series version of Spectre, which eventually leads to a man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric). And then that leads places where things happen and stuff explodes and people get shot and it turns out the villain is doing the same thing as the villain from Chinatown. Oh and Olga Kurylenko turns up and wants revenge on some dude which is meant to make you think her and Bond have a connection to share but really she’s just there because they have zero character development going on with Bond himself.
I just don’t know how you mess this up? I wouldn’t have expected a film as great as Casino Royale from this but I expected something competently made. The entire focus should have been Bond’s quest for the truth about Vesper’s betrayal and him hunting for revenge all under cut with Bond’s inability to avoid killing people. Toy with the idea of him enjoying killing and that being so when he shows restraint at the end it’s a painful moment he has to force himself to accomplish. Instead he kills a few guys early on that he probably shouldn’t of and then the film meanders along with people dying around him for no good reason. It certainly doesn’t help the film’s story that the first 30 minutes is almost nothing but action scenes, and I’ll get to my issues with them later. Suddenly the film slows down and we get a few Bond like moments, I really like the moment he breaks up the secret Quantum meeting at an opera for example, but they fail to develop Bond as a character at this point. It isn’t until Mathis (Giancarlo Gianini) dies that we see Bond show a little element of humanity. Ignore the fact Bond just used Mathis as a human shield though causing him to be fatally wounded, which I’m sure Forster wants you too as well. Bond’s internal struggles and human side are only paid lip service in the last act and the scene where he finally tracks down Vesper’s old boyfriend, who set her up, Everything is played out with such little emotion it feels as if no internal conflict has been resolved. I suppose he’s being professional now, but where in the film did he discover he needed to get to that point?
The action scenes in this film come from the school of faux intensity. The first act of the film feels like it was shot during an earthquake by victim of Parkinson’s disease. The film does calm down in the middle but at this point everything slows down so much that it somehow makes the 100 minute film feel like 200. The action is some of the most confusingly shot and edited I have ever seen on film outside some real low budget amateur stuff. It’s answer for intensity is to frame poorly and shake the image about, when possible chuck in a digital Bond to do a stunt you can’t be bothered to work out how to shoot for real. Films are a spectator event. When you watch them you’re in the scene but not a player. By framing everything in close up and moving the camera about too much you’re trying to make the audience feel like they’re taking part in the action. Trouble is that an audience will generally like to see what is happening, have an idea of what sort of space the scene is taking place in and if at all possible not feel any sort of motion sickness and discomfort. I’ve voiced my views on how tired I am with shaky cam in films these days, Quantum Of Solace is one of the worst offenders.
Daniel Craig is still playing Bond as a cold distant blunt instrument style man of action but he’s given so little to play with here that he sounds just plain bored in a lot of scenes. His performance in Casino Royale was spot on. He conveyed his emotional distance from other well, he put over how much internal anger was boiling beneath the surface as well as I’ve seen any actor do and, when needed , his charms were charming. Here he’s stone faced, slightly moody and comes across a little smug when trying to charm the knickers off Gemma Arterton’s Strawberry Fields. That’s her character’s name by the way, not a euphemism.
In the end Quantum Of Solace is an obnoxious, poorly directed and weakly scripted film. It’s presentation is annoyingly distracting from the film on many occasions, especially those horrible location title cards that appear whenever Bond goes to a new country. Not only are they style for the sake of it but they make each establishing shot look like a cheap postcard. The romance of travelling around the world isn’t as palpable as it was in the 60s so making each location look like a postcard at first glance is the antithesis of what Casino Royale did. Hardly anything in this film works. Right from the horrible pre-credits car chase and that terrible Jack White & Alicia Keys song all the way through to an end battle which is essentially a series of explosions whilst Bond and Kurylenko’s Camille flail their respective foes into submission. For some reason Greene’s base has massive tanks of gas in it’s walls which Bond accidentally causes to explode by backing a car into one. Seriously, the whole final sequence is just explosions. I really don’t think I’ll want to see this film again. It’s not quite Die Another Day bad but it’s close and coming off of such a good previous entry it ends up feeling that more painful. At least the Brosnan films had the decency to gradually decline. Anyway, I’m off to see Skyfall tonight, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this. Hopes are high. Come back on Saturday 27th October for the review!