Monday, 1 October 2012

BlogalongaBond #22 - Quantum Of Solace (2008)

(Here is a link to my IMDb review of Die Another Day, May 2003)

The opening of Quantum Of Solace is powerful. Daniel Craig's doughty, pitbull-faced British secret service agent is destroying a DB8 and much of the road traffic as he tries to outrun the bad guys. The brutal driving in such a beautiful car is just like the rock blasted away for the road curling along the edge of lake Garda. It's a super statement of the perennial juxtaposition that makes 007 such an appealing character.

'Come with me,' says Marc Forster's camera, 'and I'll show you the Romantic world of beauty and bestiary.' He does the same in the Bregenz sequence, one of the more remarkable scenes in the whole canon, where, his sabotaging of a villains' conference achieved, Bond escapes in violent slo-mo to the backing of the opera Tosca (Tosca, one mustn't forget, is a story of a political agent who's life is saved by a woman who eventually kills herself).

These romantic impressions are strong and, presumably, calculated to reflect that this is a true sequel. Bond is chasing the faceless organisation that gave him Vesper Lynd, then snatched her from him. The supercar-and-restaurant-trashing drive is a compelling expression of his rage housed in a high-end world whose surface elegance maximises the drama. It's looking good.

Forster has taken on too much though. Not only a sequel to a previous film, it also has to be a Bond film with all its trappings. The danger signs are there is the stylised opening, which reminds one of Lee Tamahori's aesthetic single-mindedness which squeezed out a coherent, aggregated narrative.

Who knows? Maybe Forster would have pulled it off were it not for the Hollywood writers' strike. It's a film of add-ons, characters, episodes and props that one glimpses out of 007's peripheral vision. Daniel Craig can't carry it alone this time and gets very little help from Mathieu Amalric's sleazy, thinly substantiated Dominic Greene. There might have been some mileage in reuniting with Giancarlo Giannini's Mathis but this reunion is effected too easily in the light of the Casino Royale betrayal and inexplicably concluded.

Tropes are repeated from other Bond films. Shirley Eaton's death-by-gold becomes Gemma Arterton's death-by-oil, so poorly staged that it requires a cross-faded insert to show us the body. I thought her costume (a full length camel mackintosh unaccessorised and concealing her dress) was a disaster at first - now I see that it's her character, Fields, trying to pretend to be a spy. Without the extra lines this idea isn't just dead, it's distracting. The final showdown in a 'desert hotel' shows us a single member of staff, like the risible scene in The Man With The Golden Gun where Scaramanga's Phuket lair is manned by a single henchman. At least Scaramanga had a charismatic manservant; Greene's (impossibly called Elvis) has a wig and a mince.

You know there's something lacking when a chase sequence is done in an electric car - without irony. Quantum Of Solace may be an environmentally conscious Bond film but to rush about in an electric Ka without reason or humour is death. Olga Kurylenko or not.

The end of Quantum Of Solace is almost identical to the end of the Bourne Supremacy. With its on-board camera work of the car chase it opens like it too. What happens in between is the result of too many demands on too little resources. Occasionally looking good is no substitute for being good.

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