Quantum of Solace Left Me Shaken, Not Stirred


I just came back from watching Quantum of Solace. I've been a huge Bond films fan for several years, having watched most of them three or four times, or where great, possibly more. Granted, not all Bond films are created equal, though they may seem like it to the untrained eye, the casual fan. This is okay. It's all right if the Bond movies are just an enjoyable romp with gadgets and villains for you. It's all right not to expect much from them, because you likely haven't looked at them as any more than action films. But, for me, I've become somewhat more selective. And so, for the past few Bond movies, I've been somewhat unimpressed.

Well, to be fair, Casino Royale was a fine Bond film. It attempted to return Bond to his more brutal roots. It rebooted a franchise which was in need of rejuvenation, even if not necessarily a complete redo (which frankly I dislike in modern film franchises- stop trying to reinvent the wheel). Daniel Craig is a suitable Bond, if just a tad too brutal for his own good. That is, he seems more suited to be a jackbooted henchman of the main villain than the hero of the story, but you really believe he is hard enough to get things done. He's no goofy clown like Roger Moore was most of the time (due mostly, I suspect, to poor scripts). My preference would have been to take the effort to make Casino Royale a period piece, taking place in the time period the original novel by Ian Fleming did. This would allow us to be transported back to a time where spy stories were actual stories, and not just long strings of action sequences. In addition, it would allow use of SMERSH, instead of this new group, Quantum, which so far seems like a modern SPECTRE, but not as interesting. Also, I frankly detested the replacement of baccarat, Bond's trademark casino game, with the more popular Texas Hold 'Em poker, a disgustingly popular hobby for obnoxious Hollywood show-offs, desperately trying to appeal to common jerkoffs. Still, it was a marked improvement from the previous two Brosnan-era Bond films, which were a waste of that Bond actor's talents.

So, then, what is my opinion of Quantum of Solace? It's the shaken vodka martini, more refined than the orange screwdrivers we got with the third and fourth Brosnan Bond films, but not as satisfying as its predecessor. But the shaking shook me up.

It's overproduced, for one thing. They simply try entirely too hard to be edgy and throw the audience into the mix of things, but it comes off as being more disorienting than engaging. I'm talking, of course, of most of the action sequences, most particularly about the painfully drawn out car chase in the beginning, the lackluster boat chase in which boats were used like bumper cars, and the ridiculous dogfight in the air over the desert just before the final act. Where did the more serious, stern, story-driven elements of Casino Royale disappear to? Sure, I want to see a Bond who can outchase, outdrive, and outshoot nearly anyone and everyone, but not in a way which makes Star Wars seem more plausible.

Another is the producer and scriptwriter's mean-spiritedness. You expect Bond to kill and for people around him to be killed. However- and I can't believe I can actually say this- it comes off as being gratuitous here. Everyone Bond meets dies. A fact which is delightfully lampshaded in the film, but I would prefer there not be anything to cast light upon in the first place. The only thing the audience gets from this is the obvious reference to Goldfinger, with a certain person painted in a certain something, splayed out dead on a bed in the same exact manner. Clever, but not Bond clever. Leave self-referencing to Kevin Smith movies.

It's not all grim and dankness, though. Olga Kurylenko, who plays Camille Montes (and as a Gundam fan, I chuckled at the name "Camille", if only to picture a certain pilot punching Jerid Messa), is in my opinion, one of the most beautiful Bond girls in the franchise. Never have I been so genuinely attracted. She handles herself so well in the role, being both determined and at times vulnerable. When she gets that fierce look on her face, you really believe she means business.

Another strength is the play between Bond and M (played masterfully by Judi Dench, a favorite actress of my mother's). I don't believe a M has ever recieved so many lines in a movie, and they aren't wasted. Besides just standing around looking exasperated by Bond's behavior, she really comes across as concerned and wise individual. They did a lot with her without overdoing it. I hope she can continue to play the role for several more films and that they write her as well as they did here.

One of my favorite scenes in the film, when Bond listens in on the meeting of Quantum during an opera, is probably a franchise highlight. Especially when he has the gall to interrupt them, then take pictures of them as they leave, and of course defending himself as he makes his escape. Another great portion are the scenes that take place in the eco-hotel. It reminded me of the Piz Gloria ski lounge from the movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Even though the climax of the film jump started a little faster than I expected, it was a perfect place to have a final showdown. It almost makes me want to go into the field of astronomy (look up the actual use of the place).

What bothered me about the last film was Bond's sickeningly cliché romance with Vesper. I disliked the romantic montage (but strangely enough enjoyed the one in OHMSS between Bond and the Diana Riggs-played Teresa) and his weepiness over it, which carried into this film, but was downplayed. The anger over her death was all there, but they didn't take every other moment to dwell on the specific events, and it was handled in a way which resulted in a satisfying conclusion. I just hope that Bond doesn't spend any other movies continuing to avenge a woman he knew no longer than a week or two. Even Riggs' character, who married Bond, didn't get an entire movie for avenging. I'm just happy the whole Vesper thing is behind us now. Bond got over it a lot better in the novels.

For all its faults, though, it wasn't a bad Bond film. It wasn't nearly as enriched as the previous entry, but I feel like there's plenty building up in this new series. I hope they can work its potential and not squander the rich history of the Bond franchise by assuming every person who goes to see the films are just looking for action sequences. And for god's sake, the gun barrel opening is just that, an opening. It goes first, not last. EON, you have a license to film, not to kill. Tradition, that is.

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