Sunday, December 16, 2012

Review: Quantum of Solace

[EDIT: This is late. This was supposed to come out a few days ago but I was distracted by a Protomen/MC Lars concert and a few other things going on the last few days. To make matters worse I was supposed to see Skyfall this weekend but that ended up falling through. Life, eh?]

Quantum of Solace is the second film in the Daniel Craig era of James Bond movie, one of the few in the series to be a direct continuation of the previous film. Now, assuming you read my last review, you should know that I though this film’s predecessor, Casino Royale, was the best Bond film so far as it had everything I wanted out of an action film while lacking most of the issues I normally dislike from the series (campiness, misogyny, bad puns). But at the same time the film set a pretty high standard.

In 2008, two years after the awesome Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace hit theaters and you know that I was super jazzed about seeing this flick. As I’ve said before Casino Royale made me incredibly excited about future films and, with the cliffhanger it left us with, I was consumed with eagerness to see what happened next. Did it deliver or did it fail to live up to the hype?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are some spoilers for this movie as well as Casino Royale. Keep this in mind when reading.]

Chase scenes, which make up roughly 87% of this film
Taking place immediately after the events of the last film James Bond (Daniel Craig) has managed to capture the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), a member of the mysterious organization reasonable for backing Le Chiffre and the betrayal (and suicide) of Vesper Lynd. But before he can be questioned he escapes after the bodyguard of MI-6 chief M (Judy Dentch) turns out to be a double agent. Their best lead to learn about the group now gone Bond is sent to Haiti to following up on some clues. However all evidence points to Agent 007 having gone rouge, consumed with vengeance for his lost love, and he is targeted by both MI-6 and the CIA. James must not only uncover more clues about this group but he must also avoid capture by his own people while doing it.

Let’s talk about the theme song for the film, “Another Way to Die” but Jack White and Alicia Keys. Like with “You Know My Name” the song doesn’t share its title with the movie, which for me is still kind of sad. Unlike “You Know My Name” the song is a little dull. It’s a pretty good song that feels a little more traditional than the last one but that kind of hurts it in that it isn’t very memorable and not really on the level of classic tunes from the Bond series. It’s fine and there are certain parts I really think are cool but it probably could have benefited from going outside the comfort level a little bit more.

Can't complain about the song's intro though
On a side note here's some weird trivia: Jack White went to my High School. Not at the same time or anything as he's got some years on me but I always find it kind of sad that he's a big star and I'm writing an internet blog that no one reads. (Other alumni from my school: Diana Ross and Lily Tomlin)

On the film itself a lot of what I loved about Daniel Craig in the first film returns here. The same dangerous, ice cold version of James Bond is still in full effect. In fact I do believe that there’s even less silliness and one-liners in this movie than the last one, if you can believe that. It was also cool that, despite the trailers, this wasn’t really a revenge film. While roaring rampages of revenge are usually pretty awesome it fits in with the character of this new James Bond that he could keep it together long enough to do his duty…which he does.

The evil plot of the organization Quantum, the primary enemies of the series so far, is really cool. It’s not world domination or even holding the world at ransom; it’s an eerily realistic scheme that you could totally see happening in real life (especially the CIA’s involvement). But my favorite aspect of this flick has to be that the filmmakers resisted the urge to actually have Bond get together romantically with the female lead Camille Montes (played by Olga Kurylenko). I thought this made both characters stronger, especially Montes who otherwise might have come off like a lovesick damsel in distress if she was romantically linked to the film’s main character.

The problem is that, aside from those good points, the film falls flat on pretty much every other level.

The grittiness of Casino Royale is gone, replaced by the more stylistic action that I associate with Pierce Brosnan’s era of films. Truthfully it’s not as bad as the Bond films before Casino Royale; it’s more like it’s a hybrid of the two styles and it doesn’t work. There are more mindless explosions but less brutality which saddens me. Let me ask you this: how many chase scene would you say an action flick needed? One? Two? How about four, because that’s how many goddamn chase scenes are in this movie. The opening is a car chase then five minutes later there’s a foot chase, then later there’s a boat chase and later still they actually put in a f**king plane chase. Not an aerial dog fight but Bond flying a plane trying to escape from other dudes in planes! How in the hell did the writers and director think this wouldn’t get super dull to have that many segments with James Bond either running form someone or running after someone! This movie isn’t Catch Me If You Can, it’s Quantum of Solace!

Though James Bond is pretty much the way I liked him from the previous film there wasn’t much to like with the other characters. I found Camille Montes to be pretty uninteresting. Plus she’s a South American but isn’t played by a South American, which is weird to me. Dame Judi Dench is pretty good as M, as always. Felix Leiter (Jeffery Wright) returns but is barely in this movie at all. RenĂ© Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) also returns but only just long enough to be killed off-screen. This is doubly frustrating when you take into consideration that Mathis was a frequent supporting character (and long term ally of Bond) in the books, appearing in several stories. In this movie he exists only to raise to the tension, which was already really high to begin with so I’m not sure what the point was. Perhaps this is a case of “Old Italian Men in Refrigerators”. Speaking of that concept Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), whose full name is never said in the movie but goddamn does it still feel out of place, is a completely superfluous character that I’m pretty sure only exist to have sex with Bond and to get killed. Yay feminism?

Pictured: James Bond and some chick he's banging
The villain Dominic Greene is a pretty big disappointment as an antagonist. Like with Le Chiffre Greene is little more than a middleman which is the first problem. But unlike Le Chiffre Greene possess no memorable or interesting quartiles traits nor does he ever seem like a plausible threat to Bond at any given time. At least Le Chiffre was very smart and periodically wept blood; Greene just stands around looking like a weasel. The more I think about it the more I believe Mr. White should have been the villain since he's pretty much the only member of Quantum that actually seems somewhat intimidating. It really sucks that even after two movies Daniel Craig has yet to face a villain worthy of his James Bond.

I don’t hate this movie but the thing about it is that it doesn’t live up the greatness of Casino Royale. On its own at worst it’s a slightly above average popcorn film that is more concerned about keeping action junkies happy than telling a good story or having interesting characters. I feel that this is a typical Bond film in that it isn’t smart and it’s pretty dull. I will say that it’s not the crappy movie a lot of people say it is but it’s also not a movie I’d like to see again. If you like dumb action films you’ll like this but if you’re expecting more of what the franchise gave in the previous film you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Thankfully Craig is still pretty awesome
I give Quantum of Solace 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Daniel Craig continues to be pretty good as James Bond

-Quantum’s scheme is pretty cool

-The relationship with Bond and the Bond Girl is platonic and pretty much all business


-Most of the supporting characters are poorly utilized

-The movie is more about style than substance

-The villain isn’t great

So now I just need to see Skyfall, the long delayed next chapter in the franchise. While Quantum of Solace didn’t end on the huge cliffhanger Casino Royale but several important plot threads are left unanswered. Quantum still needs to be taken down and Mr. White is still at large (and this film clearly sets him up as a big threat for future movies). So I have to assume that everything will be answered in this next movie. Right? Right? Why are you looking at me like that?


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