Quantum of Solace and Gromit
Quantum of Solace in ten words or less: Bond is back to answer hanging questions from Casino Royale
The last real eagerly awaited film of 2008 falls short of expectations and attempts to ape the Bourne trilogy by having the action scenes tell a story. While the pacing of the film is totally engaging, the film is generally unsatisfying. The plot sees Bond trying to solve the identity of the villains who coerced dead ex-lover Vesper to betrayal. He comes across a secret organisation whose identity is thrown away rather glibly by the ominous Mr White (who was kneecapped by 007 in Casino Royale) and is led to pursue Dominic Greene, a weedy environmentalist who plans to profit from drying up water in the desert.
Generally what sets a Bond film apart from other action films are the gadgets, the car, and the little Bondian touches which give weight to the charisma of the lead, such as the scene in Casino Royale where Bond wins a knife struggle by using the old ‘Look over there’ fake out. The gadgets are still gone, gone is the car, and there are few Bond-esque moments in the film, although there is a very entertaining one with a motor bike.
The film tends to disregard Bond fans by making unnecessary changes to the formula, like putting the gun barrel sequence at the end of the film instead of opening with it. Not only that, but also takes for granted that everyone in the audience is well-versed in the Bond universe as the film follows on from Casino Royale with little explanation or exposition on who Eva Green’s Vesper character is and her death, which is the driving force behind Bond in this film.
Because of this it does not seem that you can enjoy Quantum without having seen Casino Royale recently beforehand, as if the Bond series has become a package deal by necessity, which was never a case before. Taking into consideration the bald villain Blofeld who murdered 007’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; in the following film, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is tenaciously hunting for him with personal interest, but his wife is never mentioned. Diamonds Are Forever succeeds in not letting any member of the audience feel disorientated by Bond’s hunt, whereas Quantum fails.
The film is also unsatisfyingly short, and the shortest Bond film in the entire run at 100 minutes. And if you consider that Quantum runs on from Casino Royale, the longest in the series, it might have been more conducive if they saved Vesper’s death at the end of Casino for the beginning of Quantum. This holds particularly true as Casino Royale seems to end with her and Bond together, then has a random extra twenty minutes added on to kill her off…stick those twenty minutes at the beginning of this film, you would have two films with satisfying running times, rather than one extra long and one extra short.
We all know if you are making the 22nd film in a series, repeating ideas can become an easy mistake to make but did Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have to mimic the most enduring image in Bond history, the iconic scene from Goldfinger where Shirley Eaton’s Jill Masterson lies dead on a bed painted in gold (motor oil in this case)? Is this a rebuke to the capitalist desires of today? No longer do we desire gold, but oil? If they were trying to set up their own inventive, unique, and subtextually grabbing contributions to the Bond series, there are more plausible ways to create a shocking death, without sparking the ire of die hards.
I wish producers actually took time to craft a good film, rather that just setting release dates: that way Quantum’s poor CGI could have been bettered. Considering that all Quantum has going for it is the action, director Marc Foster really should have seen to it that it all looked thumbs up on screen.
The film is not without its good bits however. There is a scene where you see that 007’s boss M actually has to answer to someone, and that she has been defending Bond for years, maintaining that he ‘gets results’ which is a nice touch. Daniel Craig is adept at making 007 the witty, down-to-earth, cold-blooded killing machine we deserve. His patois with Judi Dench’s M is the best developed relationship in the series, and when they are on screen together deliver the film’s strongest moments. Olga Kurylenko, who looks reminiscent of Sophie Marceau’s Elektra King with a bad haircut just sulks in her role, lifted identically from Carole Boucquet’s Melinda Havelock from For Your Eyes Only and randomly gains a bogus foreign accent halfway through the film. The film lacks a threatening villain in Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric), a weak pale little man who looks like a cross between David Mitchell and Jools Holland and almost as threatening. At no point do we ever feel Bond is going to ‘meet his match’ as it were, whereas in 007 films of past we always had Bond cornered in a dire situation where if not for his wits and pain threshold would be dead.
Quantum of Solace lacks all this! But all you need to make a Bond film work is a guy who looks good in a tuxedo to have killer aim and a sexy car which fires missiles. As this film lacked the sexy car, we can only hope that they learn their lesson next time around. They have slipped up in the Bond universe, don’t even get me started on the abhorrent opening credits, but if its just plain balls to the wall action you are after, you won’t find much disappointment with Quantum.