Thursday, 9 August 2012

Quantum of Solace

"This is about trust. You said you weren't motivated by revenge"

A direct sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace stars Daniel Craig as British Secret Agent James ‘007’ Bond. Following the death of someone close to him Bond sets out to enact revenge while also uncovering a Coup d’├ętat in Bolivia. Enlisting the help of Bolivian Agent Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Bond travels the globe tracking the environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is in fact a member of the secret organisation Quantum, about which little is known. Despite frequent calls for restraint from his boss M (Judi Dench), Bond is unable to control his urge for revenge and ends up with both MI5 and the CIA hot on his tail.

The fact that it’s taken me four years to watch this film may give you some indication as to my indifference when it comes to 007. I used to like watching the Sean Connery and Roger Moore film’s as a child and remember enjoying the Pierce Brosnan Bond when I was growing up but there is something about ‘modern Bond’ which I just don’t get. Nevertheless I gave this a go and here’s what I thought…

One of the strengths of the James Bond films has always been their glamorous locations. Back in the 1960s when foreign travel was still rare they were one of the few ways in which ordinary people could see far flung exotic places. Quantum of Solace follows on from this tradition with its opening in the Italian Lakes before a chase through the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to; Sienna. The scenery is breathtaking and the action is exhilarating but I’ve seen it all before. Bond chases a man across the rooftops of the medieval city before a tense showdown inside a building under renovation. Aside from the added twenty-first century grittiness it’s nothing new.

One thing you can say about most Bond films is that they look great and that is certainly the case here. At around $200 million you can certainly see a lot of that money on screen with plush locations, expensive stunts and lavish interiors. Quantum of Solace is never dull to look at but I have to be honest and say that the plot didn’t interest me. I barely remember Casino Royal, (although I did see it) so a lot of the continuing themes were lost on me. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about 007 is that each film has a self contained story. The fact that this was a sequel did not make me want to see it any more than any previous Bond. I also thought that a lot of what was going on was either predictable or spelled out for the audience. It was obvious from various comments that water would play a part in the plot and a scene towards the end in which someone describes a building’s power source as “unstable” gave away what would be happening shortly afterwards. I don’t remember being surprised or intrigued at any point.

The acting is pretty good overall. Although I’m not a fan of Daniel Craig’s Bond, I do think that he plays his Bond very well. He has that gritty, worn out but swarve demeanour and adds to this with an uneasy killer side to him here. Judi Dench is once again impressive as M, becoming more and more like a concerned mother with each appearance. Of the Bond Girls I liked the contrast between the two female leads. Olga Kurylenko is the archetypal modern Bond Girl who is able to kick butt and look after herself without much need of Bond. Gemma Arterton plays a more traditional Bond Girl, swept off her feet by the merest sight of the smooth 007. I was also really pleased to see a brief cameo from my second favourite Chaplin and future wife, Oona. The film’s villain is played wonderfully by French actor Mathieu Amalric who plays Greene with much more realism than previous Bond Villains. In the past villains have been stereotypes or mad men but in keeping with modern Bond’s quest for realism here the bad guy is merely a businessman after greater influence and wealth. He doesn’t live inside a volcano or have henchmen in matching grey jumpsuits but gets chauffeur driven from hotels to parties and conducts clandestine and illegal dealings to further his and his organisation’s interests.

One of the things that disappointed me about Quantum of Solace was the lack of gadgets and other traditional Bond mainstays. While the occasional gadget was produced and MI5 looked very modern I miss the days where Bond would be shown around a laboratory by Q while touching things he shouldn’t be and getting told off like a little boy. Here the immortal phrase “Bond, James Bond” isn’t uttered and he never orders his favourite drink. I can understand that the film makers may want to leave the cheesiness in the past after countless parodies but I missed it. What did impress me were the titles which are almost always excellent. Jack White and Alicia Keys’ duet for the title song was also very good although I’m a big fan of White so may be biased.  

Overall Quantum OF Solace isn’t a bad film but I was never interested in the plot and wasn’t as excited by the action as I should have been. The slower paced scenes were generally better and the style and design was excellent.          

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