Monday, November 17, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

So I loved Casino Royale and was really looking forward to the next Bond film, Quantum of Solace. Even though I've seen a lot of criticism against the title, I liked it, maybe because I knew what all the words meant. The reviews weren't that favorable. Some of the specific complaints I read about, particularly the quickly edited action sequences, I thought I might be okay with.

It had the same writers as Casino Royale and I think that showed. It's really a continuation of that story. Bond is seeking revenge on who killed his love, Vesper. There are a few references to Casino Royale and there's no quick summation or flashback, so it might be a good idea to watch the DVD before going out to the theater to see Quantum. It starts with a car chase in Italy and I didn't realize until I read it afterwards that it's only an hour after Casino Royale ends.

So the good things. First the plot is good. As usual, given a slim lead and some unlikely circumstances, Bond finds his way into a bigger and bigger plot. Like Casino Royale it doesn't get beyond human scale and there are hints of something deeper. The plot is about limited world resources and the various government agencies actually talk about political compromise.

Daniel Craig is the same strong, capable, determined, yet damaged Bond. I said last time that he might be the best Bond, but the role hasn't yet fully developed. It does by the end of this film, so we'll know in the next one how he compares to Sean Connery. Judy Dench is good as M and her role is a bigger. The Bond girl (Olga Kurylenko) is yet again a strong woman who isn't limited by the cliche role. There are some good conversations between her and James but the the relationship between Bond and M is the strongest and most developed and that's fitting.

I liked how the gadgets were done. There were no laser watches or invisible cars. Instead they just enhanced things that already exist. MI6 has Minority Report-like computers and Bond's mobile phone has a great camera and a tracking interface.

There were some disappointments too. First off the villain is lame. I've seen reviews complain about his mundane name, Dominick Greene but I'm fine with that and it's even appropriate. What bothered me was that he was a twerp. He never portrayed a villainous gravitas or presence. I think Mathieu Amalric was miscast and I didn't believe him lasting more than a few seconds in a fight with Daniel Craig.

The real problem I had with the movie was the editing. The action sequenced are edited as many very quick cuts, much like the Bourne films. But unlike those films, I couldn't follow what was going on. I could sense that this person is going there and then there's a punch and that kind of thing, but not enough to care about the scene. You already know Bond will survive so the interesting part is how.

In the opening car chase there's a part where they swerve to another road. I never saw that happen. I never saw the opportunity and I didn't follow that I was seeing the car make a turn. Then I see them on another road and pieced it together. That's not suspense or tension, it's confusion.

In a boat chase, another boat appears out of no where, and it's not clear at first whether it's a new boat or the one we've been following. A fight on some interior scaffolding reminded me of the first Mythbusters episode I saw and I wanted them to recreate it so I could follow what was going on.

Usually at the start of a sequence there's an establishing shot, a long shot that sets the scene. Most of the action sequences didn't have one that conveyed any sense of the location. There's an homage to a previous Bond film. A body is shown and for some reason they don't show the whole thing until the end of the scene.

Look, I'm totally fine with Jaws falling from a plane onto a circus tent and walking away (Moonraker). I wasn't ok with Bond jumping out of a 3rd story window and grabbing the cord on the window blinds and having it magically turn into a 3 story long rope for him to reach the sidewalk with (The World Is Not Enough). I expect big stunts in a bond film. Whether it's the longest boat jump or ski jump or whatever, they are a staple of the series. Casino Royale's opening parkour chase was fantastic. If you're going to have a stunt man make an impressive jump across roofs and onto balconies, have the decency to show it in the film for more than a split second.

Yes there's something to be said for quick disorienting editing to put you into the scene. But in a construction site, the events that happened were so quick and so involved and so unfathomable from various closeups of pulleys, I'm sure the characters involved would not have been able to follow what they were doing.

I was annoyed at most all the action pieces. I didn't realize that the four big ones represented earth, water, air, and fire until I read it in a review afterwards. My reaction is so what, I would have preferred to have enjoyed them for what they were, not a meaningless thematic reference. The film is not all action, there were other aspects that I enjoyed, but it's the action sequences that made this film worse than Casino Royale. Not the fact that there more of them. It's still better than many of the recent Bonds but Casino Royale remains the definitive Daniel Craig Bond.


The Dad said...

Aggh, that was an annoying movie. I managed to catch the 2nd half of Casino Royale over Tgiving, so I was hoping I might be able to follow QofS. Nope. I didn't follow a single bit. I was lost from the initial car chase. As you point out the action was annoying. There was only one bit of action I thought was well done, which was when Bond and the bad guy fall through a roof onto the scaffolding. The camera followed them to their landing and in fact went a little further. But that was the only part.

Okay, here's what really blew my mind. Ford had a ton of product placement in this movie. Bond is at (let's call it) the bad guy's lair, which is powered by this massive wall of hydrogen fuel cells. In typical Bond fashion he manages to shake things up and fend off attackers while the house proceeds to explode, cell by cell, in a hydrogen fury. Then Bond drives off in a hydrogen-powered Ford Edge. What idiot at Ford marketing thought it was a good idea to promo a hydrogen-powered vehicle driving away from a building doing an imitation of the Hindenberg?

The other thing that bothered me wa I never "got" the bad guy. In the end I didn't actually think he was the main bad guy. And he had some sort of plot to steal water, but I didn't understand how. Very poorly laid out.

On the other hand, Craig was excellent, Dench was excellent, and the use of multi-touch was fun. Ridiculous, but fun.

Howard said...

You definitely need a good working knowledge of Casino Royale to follow QoS and they don't make it easy with the initial car chase.

I agree when they fell it was good, but the rest of that scene, the fight in the scaffolding, was I thought the hardest to follow.

It's interesting to me that in Slumdog last night there were some chase scenes that were hard to follow but it didn't bother me at all. Probably because it wasn't the point of the story, a good chase, merely a plot point so it worked just fine.

The bad guy was one of the secret org that is the new version of SPECTRE or SMERSH. After a bit I forgot (if I ever knew) how he was related to Vesper. And at the end, when Bond goes after that other guy, I had no idea how he was related to Vesper even though that was more direct.

The bad guy was buying up land that was going to be rich with water because they had dammed up an underground river preventing it from flowing to other places it normally went. But I think I just realized that now. :)