Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

While it doesn't rank among the best of the series, Quantum of Solace is a solid effort and one of the better Bond outings. What is most remarkable about Quantum is its sober, and sometimes even somber tone. There is very little in the way of knowing smirks, sipping Martinis and pithy sexual innuendo with gorgeous women. Instead, director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) has chosen to pick up right where Casino Royale leaves off, with Bond seeking revenge for the death of the woman he loved, Vesper Lynd. Along the way, he uncovers Quantum, a worldwide organization so secret that even MI-6 and the CIA are clueless. Quantum is essentially the new SPECTRE from the Connery-Moore days. Their members range from high ranking government officials to corporate moguls.

Bond's adversary this time is Dominic Greene, an environmental philanthropist who secretly attempts to corner the market on Bolivia's water supply for profit (Is it me, or have Bond villains really lowered their sights?). Greene proves to be a fairly pedestrian villain and the Bond girls are forgettable, but that doesn't slow down a well-crafted movie that moves briskly from one location to another, one action scene to the next. What really makes the movie work is Daniel Craig's performance. Craig's 007 simaltaneously exhibits a cold detachment and a subtle depth of emotion not present in previous Bonds.

Many critics have pointed out that the choice to make such a dark, serious Bond does nothing to differentiate it from the Jason Bourne movies, or most other action movies today. Although I think this is a valid criticism, the movie works because it operates within the scope of the story established at the end of Royale with Bond out for revenge. I certainly wouldn't want this to be the norm for future Bond movies, but the quality of the film outweighs such criticism. Bottom line: lacking in fun, but good nontheless.

One last critique. A subplot of the movie involves America's complicity in the evil being done by corrupt governments and corporate baddies by virtue of it's relationship with them. One could view this as the filmmakers simply trying to make a realistic spy thriller that reflects current geopolitics. But in light of many recent movies with subtle (and some not so subtle) anti-American themes (Bourne Ultimatum), I found it a little irritating. But maybe I'm being paranoid.


Anonymous said...

So in your opinion it's better than, say, the one with Denise Richards?

I agree that it's more like the Bourne movies, but guess what? I liked the Bourne movies and this, while very similar, is not exactly the same and more importantly it's done well.

I like the last two Bond movies which have strayed away from the increasingly absurd gadgets that were showing up in the Bond movies leading up to them. I like that Bond is dangerous because he's skilled and resourceful and actually somewhat sociopathic, not because he's got a car that can turn invisible like the freaking Predator.

And I think that the detatched, mildly sociopathic nature of Bond fits in well with his enemies which so far have been members of the jet-set elite, so to speak, who are just as detatched from humanity by virtue of their social class.

And while I'm on the subject of Bond's enemies, the only real throwback to the days of Bond cheese seems to be the appearance of the villains in these last two Bond movies. In the last movie we had a guy with an eye that bleeds and looks creepy as all get out. In this one we've got a guy that looks so much like Pee-Wee Herman's mugshot from when he was arrested for public indecency that I actually found it distracting. Maybe in the next movie they can have a bad guy who isn't so wierd looking that I have an easier time remembering his appearance than his nefarious plans for world domination. Either that or go all the way in the other direction and bring in the lizard aliens from V.

I'd be surprised if they keep the darker elements of this story in future Bond movies, considering the tone of the ending. It seemed like the revenge story was pretty much wrapped up during Bond's conversation with M. I really hope they keep the director for at least a third Bond movie, but either way I'll likely see whatever he does next. I thought Finding Neverland was way better than I hoped it would be and I really, really liked Stranger Than Fiction. I never saw Monster's Ball for fear I would see one of Billy Bob Thornton's.

With admission, concessions and gas I probably dropped somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to see this movie (got a free babysitter) and I'm not complaining about being too terribly ripped off, so I must have enjoyed it.


Anonymous said...

Also, I almost forgot.

Ladies: I know that James Bond is dreamy and handsome and suave and all that. I also have been told that he possesses the "it factor," that nebulous quality that can only be identified by finding it and pointing at it and saying, "that is what 'it' is." But I would ask you to keep in mind before you go hopping lightly into the sack with MI6's top operative that it appears to be a safer course of action to become Dirty Harry's partner than getting between the sheets with 007. The mortality rate among Bond's indiscretions in unbelievably high.


Jason Campbell said...

Thanks for a thoughtful review; I think I'll have to knuckle under and see this one before too much longer. Not like there are tons of great movies out right now...