Quantum of Solace
Amongst the various gimmicks that I’ve come up with during the time I’ve been doing One Movie Each Day, I think that my Sunday Single Sentence reviews are both my most and least favorite. On one hand, it’s something of a fun challenge, to sum up a movie, using a single, elaborate but, (hopefully,) grammatically correct sentence. It’s also appealing as a time-saver. On the other hand, it’s often pretty tough to really give a movie its due with just one sentence. Case in point, one of the things that I didn’t have the chance to mention in yesterday’s review of Casino Royale, is that, in a departure from the rest of the Bond franchise, the film ends in a moderate cliff-hanger. I’ve never been one to enjoy waiting for a resolution when its not necessary, so with that in mind, I decided to dive right into Daniel Craig’s second appearance as James Bond, Quantum of Solace.
The film is a true sequel, picking up immediately after the events of Casino Royale. In fact, it feels almost like an extended epilogue to the first movie. It essentially takes everything that Casino Royal did to reboot the Bond franchise and does them again, only not as well. Where Casino Royale‘s plot was somewhat convoluted Quantum of Solace has a plot that’s damn near incomprehensible, it’s a mishmash of leftover threads from the prior film, some environmental politics, and a new plot that tries to setup a broader criminal organization to oppose bond, while inserting some token, evil government agents out to get the hero frivolity. Take that, and a massive overdose of the shaky-cam in the constant action sequences, and the film loses most all of its sense of what it is. It might as well be called The Bond Identity.
Daniel Craig turns in another solid performance as the lead, but this time it doesn’t seem like the character he’s playing is James Bond. Now, a lot of this is because the plot has Bond dealing with the emotional fallout of the prior movie, so he’s not his normal self, but for me it doesn’t really work here. Perhaps its because I haven’t seen enough of Craig as Bond-as-we-know-him, but the way the character is written here, he really seems more like a generic Action-guy. Meanwhile, the principal Bond Girl, Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes, is just a boring cliché. She’s not a typical “Bond Girl” but instead they’ve substituted that tired trope for an equally tired, if somewhat more contemporary, “female hardcase, bent on vengence” trope. Maybe a better actress could have made the character more interesting, but I doubt it, Camille is basically zero interesting. On the other hand the obligatory other Bond Girl, Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), is fantastic. She’s engaging, beautiful, and just fun to watch. So, of course she gets about five minutes of screen time.
This movie is absolutely loaded with stunts and special effects, and some of them are downright spectacular. Unfortunately, because the bones of the story aren’t enough to hold all the excitement together, it all becomes a bit of a mess. I also thought that some of these scenes are shot very poorly. The film begins with what should be a spectacular car chase. Unfortunately, similar to what I mentioned in my review of Safe, the scene is shot using so many extreme close-ups and shaky-cam that while certainly intended to make the viewer feel like part of the action, wind up robbing the film of much of its potential for cinematic spectacle.
Ultimately this movie’s biggest problem is two-fold. It’s similar to, but not nearly as good as Casino Royal so it looks poor by comparison, but its plot is so dependent on plot elements carried over from that film that it can’t stand on its own. So if you’ve seen Casino Royal you won’t like Quantum of Solace because it’s all the same stuff only not as good, and if you haven’t seen Casino Royal the plot will be almost incomprehensible. (There’s also a whole issue of the unimposing main villain, but I don’t even want to get into that.)
Overall this just isn’t a good movie. Its got some fun action sequences, a generally strong cast,, and one laugh-out-loud joke, but that can’t save it from its utter mess of a plot. If you’re a major Bond fan, or someone who’s just got to see what happens with the dangling plotlines from Casino Royale, then this movie is probably something you’ll want to watch. In that case you won’t have an all-together bad time. There’s even some fun to be had. However, judged on it’s own merits, I can’t recommend this film to the general public. As such, I’ve got to say that Quantum of Solace is not worth seeing.
[Quantum of Solace (2008) – Directed by Marc Forster – Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content]