Jan 18, 2015

Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

With Martin Campbell's second departure from the Bond series after having been on for reboot/savior Casino Royale, in comes German-Swiss director Marc Forster. Not a bad choice either if you ask me. He didn't have much experience at the time in directing action sequences which is maybe a bit of a concern, but he's an international man which fits in with the 007 globetrotting lifestyle who's also got some pretty good movies to his name.

The production of Quantum of Solace unfortunately ran into some trouble with the Writer's Strike of 2007. Incredibly, this actually forced director Marc Forster and Daniel Craig to re-write the script that Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade had put out. I can't even imagine being put in this kind of situation. Forster and Craig managed it to pull it off with some help from Joshua Zetumer who interestingly enough went on to become one of the writers for the RoboCop remake. QoS also holds the distinction of being the shortest film in the James Bond series, if that means anything.

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Genre: action, adventure, thriller
Directed by: Marc Forster
Produced by: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson, Callum McDougall, etc.
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Music by: David Arnold
Running time: 106 minutes
Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures, Eon Productions, etc.
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, etc.
Country: United Kingdom, United States
Language: English, Spanish, Italian, etc.
Budget: $200,000,000
Box office: $586,090,727 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith, Joaquín Cosio, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Jesús Ochoa, Lucrezia Lante della Rovere

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Synopsis


With a captured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in the boot of his Aston Martin DBS V12, James Bond (Daniel Craig) makes his way to Siena, Italy to meet up with M (Judi Dench). Their interrogation goes south when M's personal bodyguard Mitchell (Glenn Foster) turns out to be part of the same organization that Mr. White is a part of, Quantum. Following the trail from Mitchell, Dominic Greene head of an environmental group becomes the main person of interest in the case of who is responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green)

Review


Quantum of Solace opens to the kind of car chase action sequence you'd expect in the beginning of a James Bond movie. It's also where one of its main weaknesses are revealed. While Casino Royale hinted at influence from the Bourne movies, QoS dives headfirst into emulating its shaky cam and quick cut style. Producers even hired Dan Bradley as second-unit director who was also the S-U director on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.

While it's a style that can work, director of photography Roberto Schaefer can't quite manage it. Action sequences for the most part may be quite wild and energetic, but it's barely possible to see what's going on. This shaky cam style ends up being extremely distracting, almost completely ruining the action sequences. It's a shame because the opening car chase is full of scrapes, crashes and bullet holes that makes for quite the gritty feel. I'm afraid that mostly gets lost in translation.

For the opening titles, I would personally rank the duet of Jack White and Alicia Keys near the bottom of James Bond themes. Their individual styles don't work together at all in "Another Way to Die" and I don't get that feeling of anticipation that I'm about to sink into another 007 extravaganza. The music blares into my ears long after I wish it wouldn't and the title design comprised of sand and women lying in the sand isn't all that impressive either. The whole thing honestly just feels completely soulless and empty.

Marc Forster does try to put his mark on Quantum of Solace and I do find his ideas pretty interesting actually. For two action sequences, he dresses them up by intertwining them with something else that's happening. For example, in the ensuing foot chase when Mitchell reveals himself, there's also a horse race going on nearby which is shown alongside the action. The same thing happens later on in an opera house. It's an interesting technique that's never really done before in the series and I quite like it. 

What Forster especially tries to do is make QoS a modern film. Where we were once used to villains being out in the open and obvious to find, that's not really the case anymore in today's world. Shady stuff could be happening all around us which I think is why Forster intertwines some of his action sequences with something else like I mentioned before. Main villain Dominic Greene reflects that reality quite well by working under the guise of environmentalism.

But does that make Dominic Greene a good villain? Not really. He's honestly pretty lackluster as a Bond baddie, never coming off as very intimidating or even evil. His plan is kind of cool I suppose and more grounded in reality than the kind of thing you'd see in Moonraker let's say, but it's just not all that interesting. I think Bond villains always demand a certain level of extravagance and Greene doesn't have that. Actor Mathieu Amalric is more weasel than villain and he will never be atop the list of best Bond bad guys I'm afraid.

Daniel Craig on the other hand continues his intense and merciless performance from Casino Royale. He's among Quantum of Solace's main strengths every time he utilizes those piercing blue eyes or grapples with one of his enemies. He's still an awesome James Bond and we're lucky to have him on board.

Olga Kurylenko as Camille actually isn't too bad of a Bond girl. She doesn't have a single love scene with our main man which strengthens her character some and she's out for revenge just like 007 is. She's given an extensive enough back story and there are some pretty emotional scenes with her actually. These emotional scenes aren't as effective as they could be though and Kurylenko is a bit of a weird choice to play a Bolivian. Her accent while decent is not always spot on.

Later action scenes don't seem as shaky as the early ones, but they're still problematic. There's an airplane chase that's particularly disappointing because of its inability to focus on a larger scale. There's almost never more than one airplane that's shown, making the whole thing seem really cramped despite the fact that these are planes flying through the sky. It's also a shame that the finale despite all its explosions falls flat despite two fights going on at the same time. 

Marc Forster ends things very nicely though and ends up neatly tying Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace together. As an entire story dealing with revenge, CR and QoS are pretty compelling. That doesn't change the fact that QoS is still pretty disappointing compared to its precursor. With action that has evolved in the wrong way and a story that at times is a bit hard to follow among other things, this is like a hangover after an insanely good night out. 

Rating


6/10