Quantum of Solace
However I do love James Bond, and I have loved these films in the past when they've tried to modernise and toughen the character, as they did with Timothy Dalton and slightly in Pierce Brosnan's last film. Now though they've gone all the way with Daniel Craig, and Casino Royale (Filmstalker review) was a master stroke for the Bond franchise.
I was thoroughly disappointed with Quantum of Solace for many reasons, but first let's look at the plot and see where we are with this film.
Quantum of Solace starts off pretty much where Casino Royale (Filmstalker review) left off. Bond has met with Mr White of this mysterious organisation and has bundled him into the back of his Aston Martin heading off to have him interrogated.
It's here that he and M discover first hand that the organisation is much bigger than they first thought. From this moment on Bond is on the chase, and once again he's going against his own guys and M is unhappy.
His chase leads him to the next step in the organisation, a man who is overthrowing a South African country's leader in order to gain a large piece of desert. What everyone doesn't know is that there's something special about that desert, something that they've been preparing for some time. It doesn't end there though, they're also playing the CIA for oil rights in order to be left alone, something Bond and M don't agree with.
Along the way Bond meets Camille, played by Olga Kurylenko, who is out for revenge against the man who will be the new leader of the country, and they form an alliance of convenience to achieve both their goals.
I have to open with the biggest problem I found with this film, and it struck me within a few minutes of the film, let up briefly for about a minute, and then just kept getting worse and worse even to the final scenes. The editing.
If you read my reviews you'll know that I hate the Bourne style of editing, close cropped and two to three cuts every second, hide the fact that the actors can't do have the stunts, and fast cut to give the impression of excitement and pace, because that seems to be the only way to do it these days.
However Quantum of Solace was much worse than that. The action scenes were, at times, nigh on incomprehensible, and once again there was the feeling of catch up – not seeing the action happening and being engrossed by it, but during a slower cut realising what had just happened through the last few moments.
What's even worse about the way that the editing is used in Quantum of Solace is that it starts to cut apart the story, particularly at the ending of the film. You know looking back on the film as the credits rolled I wondered just how much extra there was of the film sitting on the cutting room floor, and perhaps a director's cut might just deliver an extra twenty to thirty minutes.
The opening of the film sets the tone, and I have to admit as the camera flies over the water, zooms into the tunnel, and we hear the wonderful sound of the Aston Martin racing along, my heart began racing, a smile leapt to my face and I was caught.
Within seconds that was gone as the action began and we began to see cuts of up to three to four a second and so tightly cropped that it's hard to see what's happening as it happens. I remember getting a sense of something sticking through the car door, and only because we had a close cropped shot of something sticking out from somewhere near the front of the truck, then the car hitting the truck, and Bond looking down a couple of times at his door. We did see something there in a couple of fast cuts, but again it was so closely cropped I didn't have any awareness of where it was.
I was marvelling at some of the car deaths, but not truly understanding what had happened to get the car there, sure the stunts were amazing, but frankly they were destroyed by the editing.
The following action sequence was similar, and I was struggling to keep up, but there was a reprise. The third action sequence saw Bond being attacked by a man with a knife, and rather than follow the same template as the rest of the film, the camera pulled right back to see them both and showed them fighting. Well done. Yet it's back to business as usual with the next action sequence.
The opening car fight sequence was pretty hammered by the editing, as was the much anticipated plane battle sequence which, while filming, was promised to be utterly spectacular. It had elements that were, but overall it was wasted. We got lots of two planes flying side by side and one doing some stunt flying on its own, then some panicked goings on inside the Dakota that Bond was flying before a few more powerful moments of climbing the plane to leap out.
However, like the first car sequence, the destruction of the bad guy seemed to be by accident and incompetence on the part of the aforementioned bad guy.
In the last big action sequences in the desert hotel the cutting started getting heavily into the story, not that it hadn't been before, but here it gets really bad.
There's the two separate fight sequences happening at the same time, not only do they cut the fights but they also cut between the two fights, ramp up the speed and the confusion. It ends up going something like this - oh she's done something that's hurt him, he's done something to hurt him, I think he's fallen off, oh the walkway has fallen...and that's how it goes.
The reason for the fire is even more unclear, jeep, shooting, reversing, crash, huge unexplained explosion, other things start exploding, fire through the hotel, and it's only when you see the final explosion about to be kicked off that you realise exactly what was going on, that and the previous explanation by an ancillary character.
As I said though, it's not just the action sequences, it's the story that gets hurt too. The biggest example of this is late on in the film where Bond walks out of a burning building and sees the man he's after running away across the desert. The next moment he's in a car driving along the desert – what, he's found a car and he's driving to get him I hear you say, that's not too surprising – oh no, for the next scene he gets out of the car and drags the man out of the boot – well he caught him and put him in there, that's not too much of a stretch I hear you retort – oh no, for the man reveals that he's already been interrogated and told him everything he needed.
That is probably the most extreme example of what happens in the film, but it happens a lot, cutting the story progression down in favour of leaping to the next over edited action scene that tries to out-Bourne Bourne.
There's a lot of unnecessary editing and leaping to different angles throughout the film, and something that was annoying me was the desire to grab every characters reaction to everything, at times it almost turns into a comedy sketch. In one scene in the hotel when the bad guys are all meeting and there's some revelation, the camera shows each character in turn with fast cuts – bang, bang, bang – oh look, they were all shocked. I really got bored of this after a while and started to anticipate it happening. It was getting to be a little bit of a joke.
Looking back on Quantum of Solace it feels fast, shiny and sparkly to attract your attention and go oooh, ahhh, rather than concentrate on the story and engage the audience, and that's a shame because there really are some strong points in the film.
Olga Kurylenko and Daniel Craig are good, actually I was more impressed with Kurylenko than anyone in the film. Both gave great performances.
The locations are superb, and the cinematography (when the camera stops) is wonderful, and there are some great teased Bond moments. For example the moment Bond says “I was looking for the stationary", that's a great moment and has Bond written all over it, or the Goldfinger-oil moment which was a lovely nod to the past, or future depending on how you view it.
There are some excellent moments in the development of the Bond character too, when he's holding his friend and talking to him comfortingly, Bond preparing Camille for her first kill, Bond holding Camille in the fiery room, Camille talking to Bond in the car about her feelings about revenge and what fulfilling it means to her, and how that ties in with the moment that Bond has his chance to exact his own revenge.
These are strong moments, and you really do feel the power in them, but even with these great moments the rest of the film is mishandled. Even that closing scene of revenge just seems to fizzle out and pass you by.
The ending after that was a bit poor as well and delivers the studio two options, stay with the concept and do a third film as they climb up through the Quantum organisation taking out more of the members, or leave it and move on.
Believe it or not I'd actually like to see them keep going, the story is an interesting one and it's just the film that harms the run of the new franchise. I like the idea of this big organisation manoeuvring events behind governments with MI6 racing to catch up with them. It's not just Bond growing up, it's M and the whole organisation.
Yet that leads me to one last negative aspect of the film. Quantum and the bad guy that leads the film. What exactly have they done wrong? How come they are so bad?
In this film the bad guy has made a few dodgy deals and played people off of each other to make some money, isn't that every international organisation in the world? He's not really that bad, okay there is one thing that suggests he's bad, one of his henchmen shoots someone. That would be the man that just feel onto his car from the rooftop and looks rather menacing, I think most armed bodyguards might react in a similar manner.
Still it doesn't warrant MI6 trying to track them all down and put them out of business and kill them one by one. Then what has Quantum done? They've loaned money to some other organisations who have used the money to do some bad things, yes that's every bank in the world barring the Co-operative Bank.
So MI6 and Bond are chasing after the members of an international bank and killing businessmen.
I think it's very clear what I thought of Quantum of Solace and exactly why I thought so. It's a clear disappointment for Bond fans and fans of Casino Royale, and yet it's getting better box office figures. Well that's probably from the hype of the previous film attracting potential new fans and the fact that it's running uncontested in the cinemas at the moment, so for those looking to watch the biggest film at the weekend, that's the one.
There will be those that will like it though, the MTV, Michael Bay, Bourne fans will recognise what they like – sharp, flashy, quick fire images which please the eye and get the heart racing through rapid flashes.
There are some strong moments in the film though, it's just a shame that they are lost in a sea of everything else. I do get the feeling that perhaps a director's cut could bring a longer film with more meat to it, particularly that missing ending, but until then this is an MTV Bond/Bourne for those with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.