This is it, or almost it, the third to last entry in 007(x3) Weeks of 007, a series that will end next week with two entries, one on “Skyfall” and one on “Spectre.” First though we have to work our way through “Quantum of Solace,” Daniel Craig’s second outing as everyone’s favorite superspy.
You want me to say it? Find, I’ll say it, “Quantum of Solace” makes me angry.
Every time I watch the movie I get angry, and I get angry from the moment it begins. It is filmed as though James Bond is Jason Bourne, it is an overly conscious way to update a film series which, particularly after the massive success commercially and creatively of “Casino Royale” did not need a stylistic update. What is worse, is that the updated style is little more than mindless quick cuts, cuts that take away from your actually having any idea what’s going on.
The film starts with this car chase and it looks like it could be a great car chase, but one can’t say for certain because rather than actually getting to watch the car chase what we get is a bunch of close-ups and quick cuts. There’s a shot of the gear shift, one of the brake pedal, a close-up on Bond, a close-up on one car, a close-up on another car, a shot of a gun. It goes on and on and on and so by the end of it we’re all well aware that Bond is in a car chase but exactly how many vehicles are following him is a mystery, where he’s driving is a mystery, why he doesn’t get shot early on (because it certainly looks like he’s should have been) is a mystery.
Director Marc Forster, for whatever reason, finds it impossible to introduce a location, and that’s a problem for a film series which rests so heavily on the locations the hero visits. Here, in his obsession for “style” and that which he must perceive to be “interesting” filmmaking, he can’t ever properly establish exactly where our hero is visiting. We have to get titles thrown up every time Bond is somewhere new. It isn’t just frustrating, it’s inane.
Then there are the ludicrously bad computer screen graphics used in the movie. Why in god’s name would MI6 spend so much money on graphic design for their computer systems? And, if they did spend money on it, why would they have made them so horrifically ugly? Truly. Go back and watch if you don’t believe me, the MI6 computer screens are hideous.
On the upside, I do think there is some interesting stuff going on in “Quantum of Solace,” it’s just that it’s all buried under mounds upon mounds upon mounds of bad filmmaking. Through the Dalton era, even if there were different directors and consequently somewhat different feels to some of the movies, they tended to be stylistically similar. That even continued with Brosnan, but it’s all out the window here and I think it’s not just bad for James Bond, but at best it’s a generic sort of filmmaking, lumping this movie in with any number of others. “Quantum of Solace” does have some interesting other things happening for the franchise as a whole, but they all get lost.
Well, as we’ve seen more than once, Bond is big on vendettas. He takes things personally even when he shouldn’t and he has no problem going off the reservation when he feels it’s required. “Quantum of Solace” asks what would happen if Craig’s version of Bond, the one we met in “Casino Royale” went off on a vendetta, just how bad would that get? The answer, naturally, is that many folks would die. Plus, he helps uncover an evil, SPECTRE-like, organization and saves a country if not the world (which is exactly what one would expect from him).
In 2008, when “Quantum” was made, EON didn’t have the rights to SPECTRE, so they built Quantum in its stead. Here is an evil organization, fingers in many pies, doesn’t mind toppling dictators, etc. Plus, the film links in Le Chiffre to them and Vesper as well. It is really an interesting notion and was building towards something with the franchise… until they decided to not have it build anymore after “Quantum.”
Or did they? Will Quantum somehow fit into the picture with “Spectre?” I certainly hope so. It is sort of implied in the trailers for “Spectre” with Christoph Waltz’s character explaining to Bond (how he is the “author” of all Bond’s misery. Now, Vesper has to be a big part of Bond’s misery and as far as we know at this time, it is Quantum responsible for Vesper’s life and death, but what if SPECTRE controls or gobbled up Quantum? I would love to see that return this time out, I would love to find those movies linked.
One other important thing to note with “Quantum of Solace” is that we may be 40 years on from “Goldfinger,” but the franchise can’t escape their (perceived) greatest success. When Fields’ body is discovered, she’s lying on the bed covered in black oil, it’s a callback to Masterson’s body being covered in gold. It is a good callback, too, but I would have liked to see it referenced in the dialogue. I don’t quit know why, just because it would have linked things more fully.
Last thing for the week – in “Casino Royale” there is no gun barrel walk at the opening, only the shot after Bond makes the kill at the end of the pre-title sequence. Here, again horribly, they do the gun barrel walk but they do it at the end of the movie. Nice that they put it back, but there’s just no reason to have it at the end of the movie, unless the argument is that Bond isn’t Bond in “Casino Royale” or “Quantum of Solace,” that he only becomes Bond at the end of that second movie and that’s why we get the walk then. I could have accepted that sort of logic had the walk occurred at the end of “Casino Royale,” but not here. Here it’s just misplaced.
Well, next week is it. The culmination of the project. 007(x3) Weeks of 007 will return with “Skyfall.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment