November 17, 2008

Quantum Of Solace (11/17/08)

Lettergrade: C

To be honest with you, I can take or leave most Bond movies. They're usually enjoyable one-time through, but after that I don't think about them much unless I happen to catch part of one when Spike TV runs them on an endless loop around the holidays. A big exception to that, however, is 2006's Casino Royale. That film introduced a new actor as Bond, Daniel Craig, but more importantly a very different kind of Bond. While I admired the cool suave of Sean Connery, the Velveeta-laden schmaltz of Roger Moore, and Piece Brosnan's skillful blending of the two, I think Craig's approach is by far the most interesting of the bunch.

Quantum Of Solace isn't quite as good as Casino Royale, but I enjoyed it for several of the same reasons; chiefly, Craig's gritty portrayal of a thinking man's Bond, and his interesting relationship with M, played again by Judi Dench, who joined the franchise at the start of the Brosnan era. I should give the disclaimer, however, that many of my friends who are long-time Bond connoisseurs (and fellow fans of Casino Royale), have told me that they don't think much of this one.

A universal complaint is one that I whole-heartedly agree with: The action scenes are shit. They hired the 2nd Unit Director of the recent Jason Bourne movies to shoot the action for this film, and the result is the same incoherent train-wreck of shaky-cam images that kept me away from the Matt Damon series to begin with.

The other big complaint is that the film returns to somewhat familiar spy-movie territory in a way that isn't particularly inspiring. If we're talking about plot, I must admit that I rarely understand what happens in these movies anyway. I know the genre well enough to know that they're not doing plot-lines involving micro-film anymore, and that these days Bond must thwart attempts to fund terrorism and reshape world governments, etc. As long as it looks like he's doing something that kinda sorta relates to that, and it doesn't get too stupid, I'm fine, really.

A key thing worth mentioning is that this is the first Bond movie which picks up directly from story-line of the previous movie. It's both a blessing and a curse: I'm glad that they've serialized the Bond movies a little (and I assume the next picture will pick up from where this one left off in some way as well) but at the same time, unless you've seen Casino recently, you might find yourself wondering who the hell some of these people are and what they're doing in the movie. The film also introduces a new insidious organization called QUANTUM (sort of a revival of SPECTER from the earlier Bond movies). I don't think we learn much about them in this movie, other than the fact that much like Mastercard, they have people everywhere, and much like Dick Cheney, they are able to operate covertly and completely outside of the constraints of national, international and maritime law.

The producers brought back Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) to co-write the script, and they picked an unusual director to make it: Marc Forster who has also made Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction, and last year's The Kite Runner. The most noticeable result is that the photography is a little more abstract and artful than previous Bond flicks have been. Again, I don't think Forster and his 2nd Unit Director handled the action all that well, but the dynamic between Bond and M is stellar, and their interactions are the heart of the picture. There's no Q character yet again, although we get a closer look at the techy side of how MI-6 conducts its business than we have in a while.

One last thought, and its about the Alicia Keys / Jack White song from opening credits. People who complained that it couldn't get worse than the Madonna tune from Die Another Day should be eating their words after listening to the shit-burger that plays over the opening of this movie. Goddamn, there just aren't words for how horrible it is. I challenge you to compare it with the cheesier Bond songs of eld... The Man With The Golden Gun, Moonraker, even the semi-classic but still obnoxious Goldfinger.... none of them are in the same league as this awful, awful musical abortion.

Anyway, that's it. Espionage, hot chicks, exotic locales and stuff blowin' up real good. What else can I say?

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