Sunday, January 5, 2014

Quantum of Solace

  After the massive hit that was Casino Royale, people were eager to see how Daniel Craig would handle another go-round as the eponymous James Bond. Was he a one hit wonder? Was the appeal of his brand of 007 all but gone? Well, when Quantum of Solace hit the screens in 2008, everyone got their answers. For better or worse... The good at least? Daniel Craig was still a damn effective James Bond. The movie around him? ...Not so much. Quantum of Solace plays more as a direct sequel to Casino Royale than anything. Though you'd be forgiven for not keeping up on current events, Quantum of Solace is haphazardly plotted and only seems to really care about it's predecessor in a couple standout moments. Otherwise... it's only a shadow of Casino Royale. Let me break it down for you.

  First, I said in my review of the previous movie- a Bond movie's strength should be able to be determined by whether or not you can market the film entirely around the villain. In that case, let's look at the villain. Dominic Green is the chief bad guy this time, played with gusto by Mathieu Almaric. Unfortunately, this guy is about as interesting as a cardboard cutout. His unique Bond villain endgame is to control 60% of the water in Bolivia so that he can like... I dunno. Swindle then out of paying double for water. So... evil. And yes, while it is evil, it falls flat in a 007 movie. The guy himself has none of the on-screen presence of a proper villain, and comes across more like a greedy business mogul than anything. He has no unique traits about him, and all in all is uninteresting.

  Marketing the movie around him would've been disastrous. He's horribly boring as a character, as a villain, and doubly so in the wake of the profoundly sinister, Le Chiffre from Casino Royale. That's just one issue with this movie. There are plenty more. Secondly, things just seem to kinda... happen? The story is muddy, and the plot is too. Not to mention the Bond girl is entirely dead weight. She actually contributes nothing to the actual story aside from just tagging alongside Bond for the last act of the movie. Compared to how absolutely crucial Vesper Lynd was, this is just criminally disappointing. The movie seems content to be technically competent and only technically competent as he plot is advanced with one bloody action set piece after the next.

  This is wrong. This is a bad formula. Bond should not be reduced to being Jason Bourne in a suit. He has his own brand of suspense and danger, one that is only glimpsed here is a few scenes. Otherwise there is little to separate Quantum of Solace from being an entry in any action franchise. This is the first 007 movie to feature a foot chase, car chase, boat chase AND plane chase. Yet does this abundance of action make for a good movie? No. Solace is thematically weak, and stylishly inept. Director Marc Forster makes some mind bogglingly bad choices here, visually. Cutting to superfluous footage during action scenes, horrible shaky cam, and specific instructions to Almaric to not make any attempts to give his character any memorable visual attributes.

  On top of these issues, the first rough draft of the script was completed right before the writer's strike. It got so bad that Daniel Craig himself would have to re-write scenes, dialog, and even write entire new pages, on the set. It really shows too that the script was sort of thrown together. It's the kind of weak blockbuster formula of fill in plot holes with action scenes. Also, I've yet to find a movie with Olga Kurylenko in which her character has any intrinsic value to the movie itself, at all. Craig's character has little to do besides get shuffled along and swept up with the lackluster insanity around him. Aside from a promising opening, which is properly thrilling, Bond himself is wasted.

  The character we saw built up in Casino Royale has been hopelessly reduced to something with the emotional dimensions of an action figure. Daniel Craig must be commended though because you can see him trying to act right through the confines of this script. The direction was dire, but Craig tried very hard to breathe life into 007 again. And lucky for us too because we eventually got Skyfall, which was a superior effort in every way imaginable.  I cannot fully recommend against Quantum of Solace, because if you've seen all the James Bond films, you know they can get much worse than this. If anything, it scrapes by just enough on a wink and a bullet to be marginally entertaining.

  The camera manages to capture beautiful locales, stunning action sequences, and even some moments which teeter on artistic beauty. I'm willing to give them that much. Despite the fact the movie is a terribly disappointing misfire, it's a pretty looking one nonetheless. I suppose this movie works about as well as a car wreck. Something you can't take your eyes off of even though you really should look away. It's sleek visual style is somewhat captivating. It's sort of like the fact that anything in extreme slow motion is interesting to look at. Whether it's a water balloon being popped, a fly landing on a table, or someone falling off a bicycle. To watch the intricacies of such things, whether they are mundane or painful ends up being fascinating. I am hesitant to call Quantum of Solace fascinating per se, but it pays close attention to the mundane, and ends up being painful. Take that for what you will.

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