Sunday, November 16, 2008
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
I went into Quantum of Solace not quite sure what to expect. I have purposefully avoided reading reviews because, particularly when it comes to Bond, I prefer going in with relatively few preconceived notions. The most I knew before seeing it last night was that it made a lot of money and many of the critics weren't terribly pleased with it.
Well, then. Overall, I must say I was pleased. Very pleased. It did have lots of niggling problems, a few of which were enough to make me more than raise an eyebrow (such as a building constructed with highly flammable fuel cells), but its strengths so far outweighed its shortcomings that I must give Quantum a very enthusiastic "Hell yeah." Reason number one being that Daniel Craig is so damned good. He is Bond through and through, and if it's possible, he may have done it better this time around than in Casino Royale.
No need to go into the plot, but one of the biggest critical complaints that I'm seeing is its lack of larger-than-life elements. Personally, I find it rather a welcome aspect of the movie; it's darker and dirtier than many of the Bond blockbusters because it's a tad closer to the headlines. Yeah, it's still high espionage fantasy, no doubt about it, but there's something more authentically creepy about Mathieu Amalric's malevolent leers than a scarred Donald Pleasance threatening to start WWIII.
The biggest issue I had was the rapid, dizzying jump-cutting during the action scenes (and sometimes even the more static scenes). This vehicle for sensory overkill has been too popular for too long, and rather than immerse you in the picture, it achieves quite the opposite effect. It's a pity Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) didn't direct this movie, for his talent is far superior to Marc Forster's, with a true understanding of how to rhythmically blend quick cutting and lingering views to draw you fully into the scene.
One of the things I most admire about Quantum's script is that it gives Bond some real human depth. The most powerful moment in the film is the death of Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), in which Bond shows deep emotion, far more than he did with Vesper, with whom he had fallen in love in Casino Royale. Likewise, there's more dimension to the stone wall he erects around himself, which helps round out the character better than it ever has been. A lot of the credit goes to Craig's masterful portrayal, and I do believe he has proven himself the best of all the actors ever to wear Bond's dinner jacket. (Never fear, to me, Connery will still always be Bond. James Bond.)
I don't miss Q's gadgets, for their absence leaves Bond to handle deadly affairs with more "ordinary" high-tech acouterments. I do sort of miss the old, familiar byplay with Ms. Moneypenny and the traditional setting of Universal Export. Small things, though, given the darker, grittier drama of the new Bond universe. What I do miss, though, is a damn good, high-octane opening theme song. Good GOD, does "Another Way to Die" by Jack White and Alicia Keys suck. It sucks. It's pitiful. I think it may have topped Madonna's Die Another Day as the worst Bond song of all time. It. Sucks.
Happily, David Arnold's orchestral score rates very highly. Probably his best work to date, with numerous, distinctive themes and some atmospheric arrangements of the original Bond theme. When the soundtrack album to Casino Royale came out, I was rather put out that it didn't include the title song by Chris Cornell. This time around, I'm more put out that the soundtrack album does include the title song.
I expect I'll be returning to the theater to see Quantum of Solace a second time before it leaves, and when it comes out on DVD, it will most certainly be number one on the wish list. I do hope that for the next Bond film, we get to see more of what's right with Quantum and less of what's wrong. And hopefully, a few new tricks altogether. If nothing else, the last two Bonds show that they can still do it.