Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Quantum of Solace

Lowdown: Bond seeks vengeance for Casino Royale.
There's not much that can be said about the James Bond franchise that hasn't been seen, so I will say it here: the Ian Fleming books suck. That anecdote aside, the previous Bond film - Casino Royale - was a huge success; its successor, Quantum of Solace (QoS), has had a tough act to follow. I know I'm repeating virtually every QoS review written when I'm saying it failed.
QoS starts from the point Casino Royale ended. A troubled Bond is seeking to learn who is behind the death of his love subject, Vesper (or was it Vespa?). Bond and his MI6 (or is it MI5?) boss M (Judi Dench) know only that they are facing a yet unfamiliar international terrorism group that has people everywhere, including the kitchen sink. In a completely unexpected fashion for a Bond film, Daniel Craig's Bond character seeks out the baddies while travelling all over the world (with a focus on South America this time), killing a lot of them in a series of action extravaganzas.
Personally, I have found the most interesting thing about QoS being the baddie using the cover of a green organization to do bad things; sort of reminds me of the Australian government that signed the Kyoto Protocol on its first day at the office but stalled on global warming ever since and eventually came up with a revolutionary plan to reduce carbon emissions by a whopping five percent through a stupidly complicated and obviously completely ineffective system of carbon trading that would glaringly allow the big polluters to continue with their business as usual and remove any incentives others may have for taking their own initiative (because any reductions they might achieve will be offset by the big polluters polluting even more).
But enough of personal moaning. QoS is a solid action film, and like its ancestor it is very visceral. Problem is, there aren't that many other compliments to hand the film.
On the negative side, QoS is full of bullshit. True, virtually all Bond films are, but the thing is that Casino Royale had made a significant effort in the credibility department; QoS sort of goes back with its directional explosives (that is, for unexplained reasons things explode in the exact direction Bond would benefit from) or the stupidly complicated databases at MI6 headquarters that always have the information you want already on display and are mega-huge touch screen operated ala Minority Report. Come on, MI6 is a government agency; they probably use Lotus fucking Notes.
In a typical modern action film style, action scenes are shot with a deliberately shaky camera hold and the editing is quick; often enough you can't really tell what took place, you only figure out what the end result was. Me? I think this sophiticated style sucks big time.
Quibbling aside, QoS biggest problem is its starting point: By starting off where Casino Royale had ended it forces the viewer to know what happened in Casino Royale. Well, excuse foolish me, but it had been a while since I have watched Casino Royale, and I haven't done my homework and refreshed my memory on its intricacies prior to watching QoS; I must be in the minority, because it seems QoS' makers are dead sure you would do exactly that. Thus I spent most of QoS wondering who the different characters I'm supposed to already know are and what their story is. Let me tell you this: it's quite annoying.
Add over-recycling (see below) and not much meaning in it all and you end up with a very forgettable film.
Recycled scene #1: During QoS' first act we have ourselves a rough encounter in an old city's streets. The way it is all done is a cross between the crane scene from Casino Royale and Bourne Ultimatum's market chase featuring alleyway terrace to terrace jumps. Whichever way you look at it, QoS is a copycat.
Recycled scene #2: Oilfinger. Bond finds his girl dead, stuffed and covered in oil.
Technical assessment: Now, I don't remember me such an aggressive soundtrack since the good old days of watching T2 on laserdisc. The DTS HD soundtrack on this Blu-ray is not only visceral, it is also very loud; in my opinion it is probably too loud, as in loud enough to sacrifice some dynamic range. Still, I like aggressiveness in the sound department and I liked this one quite a lot. The picture, by the way, is excellent too. Indeed, Bond films tend to be very good in the technical department; I should probably revisit Casino Royale on Blu-ray, because that also happens to be a good film.
Overall: Shaken and stirred. 3 out of 5 stars.


Mike said...

You're being a little harsh on Oilfinger, there. That's supposed to be an homage. It's not as if they snuck that scene in there and were like, "Pshhh, nobody remembers that tired Goldfinger flick that Connery did. We'll just lift that from there, then."

But this was really disappointing on the heels of Casino Royale. I did like the last few minutes, and the tie-up of a somewhat-dangling plot thread from CR.

Moshe Reuveni said...

You're right about oilfinger. It's just that it was one of many examples of paying so much homage they were mostly living on past glory rather than creating something original.
I also agree about tying up the knot at the end, but that only resonates one of my main problems with QoS: me not remembering the details they obviously thought I should remember from Casino Royale.

Overall, a fun to watch yet totally forgettable film with nothing to stand for it but its brand name.