Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Quantum of Solace Review

Can the series continue Casino Royale's lucky streak?

Much like the opening titles, the film was viscerally and visually impressive, but altogether lacked a coherent theme. However, this is not a negative, and in fact I believe it was intended to show the loss of Bond's direction, purpose and role in the world - in the wake of losing Vesper Lynd.

I applaud the writers (among them Paul Haggis of Crash fame) for having the film follow-on directly after the first of the new Craig series of Bond, as although many previous films in the long-running franchise have been held in high regard (Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, Goldeneye and more) they did lack in continuation and I feel that the protagonist suffered for it. While it was bold for them to kill off Bond's newly married wife at the end of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, set to Louis Armstrong's 'We Have All the Time in the World', we didn't get to see the aftermath- which we finally get to do here. Over both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace we can see the character progressing, developing and growing, instead of knowing of him ("the name's Bond...") we actually get to know him, or at least start to. As soon as the film begins the action is thick and fast, and although quite frequent, it remains intriguing and holds your attention. The intro car chase doesn't overstay its welcome and is bluntly and aggressively filmed in a highly realistic fashion. Soon after we are treated to an almost ballet-ic dance between Bond and the rogue MI6 agent, with a swinging scaffold set - almost 'pendulaic' (like a pendulum) in style. The choice of locations and sets (see above) is almost imaginative and inspired, with the generally unseen locale (on screen) of Haiti, along with Bolivia providing a stunning backdrop to the film (although both Haiti and Bolivia scenes were filmed in Panama, while Chile also doubling for Bolivia in other scenes). Along with the impressive vistas of Italy and Chile, the music also makes the film worth seeing in the cinema (it's the experience that counts!). Jack White's theme tune works well in the opening titles (a lot better than in the slightly dull music video) as well as when it's subsequently reused (in a trimmed down form) in later scenes.

Slightly uninspired was the antagonist in the film - Dominic Greene, who seems to be the second in a line of dark-eyed slightly strange-looking Europeans (La Chiffre) who has attempted to best Daniel Craig's Bond. That being said, he was sufficiently slimy and underhanded to be an ample wearer of the 'baddie crown', particularly shown in his interactions with the main female character in the film, Camille Montes (played by Olga Kurylenko).

Having only been alerted to Olga by her underwear shots in the national papers (following the announcement she was cast this film) along with her role in the abysmally reviewed computer game-adapted film Hitman, I was expecting little of the Ukrainian actress. However, she was refreshingly independent, managed a decent Spanish accent and remained mostly distant from Bond, which I felt was a good move considering her distrust of men and his getting over his love. I also liked the fact that her burn scars on her back, which were alluded to by her past, were not pointed out in dialogue, and the film felt much more realistic for it. On the other hand, the other female character Bond encounters (aside from Judi Dench's always well-performed 'M') , Strawberry Fields, didn't really bring much to the rule (to be fair, to role was very small), although I did appreciate the Goldfinger reference - with her corpse turning up covered in oil, much like the golden corpses of the 1960's film ( a comment on oil being the new gold?).

The relatively brief return of Mathis helps remind us of how much this film is rooted in its preceding counterpart, and their parting final scene together was touching, but quite blunt and rawly depicted. Another returning character is that of Felix Lighter, who has much more 'difficult' relationship with Bond, which I enjoyed as it's more politically realistic than the prior Lighters of past Bond films, who usually offered free-for-all, no questions asked US assistance.

Speaking of politics, the plot is quite aggressively politically charged (for a Bond film), with military dictators, coups and juntas, along with criticism (welcome and accurate) of US involvement/ assistance in them, for their own gain. The film also includes the concept of eco-terrorism and the environment, with the victims of the 'baddies plans' being local, poor Bolivians -as opposed to Western nations under threat (as is often the case).

Now, getting to the protagonist- Craig aptly plays the tortured angry man, disillusioned with the 'correct protocol', although the character emerges more stable towards the conclusion of the film- dealing with Vesper's former lover without resorting to murder. Bond realising his plight through witnessing Camille's personal vendetta against the general who killed her family was subtle and a nice touch. I particularly enjoyed the short moment of bonding between the two characters, when he cradles her during the hotel fire, much like he cradled Vesper in the shower scene in Casino Royale (he also cradles Mathis earlier in the film...is this a sign of a new cradling, hugging Bond?). Overall, he emerges more focused at the end of QOS, engaged with unravelling the secret organisation with (as Mr. White puts it) "people everywhere". Let's hope as we delve into the who, what and why of Quantum (as we're likely to do so in the future sequel) they can continue to make Bond relevant and engaging in a narrowing market for action films.

No comments: