Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: "Quantum of Solace" - Grade: C-

Quantum of Solace Review: Grade: C-

"Quantum of Solace" is the follow up to "Casino Royale" and the second in the new James Bond franchise. I must state immediately that I have never been James Bond person. I’ve seen "Dr. No" and I liked it but I would not want to watch 20 of these movies by any means and I never liked the feel I got from clips of various other Bond films. Daniel Craig is one of my favorite working actors today. In the top 10. When I heard he was going to be playing James Bond I became very excited because a. I saw it immediately and b. I trust the roles he chooses and I know he would not have signed on unless he was happy with what they were doing with the franchise. Then "Casino Royale" came out and I was blown away. It is hard for me to be really impressed with action scenes because they always cut out the action in a way that makes us feel like we are seeing events that in fact are being completely cut around and I can spot these lazy gimmicks a mile away. "Casino Royale" did not have this. It had genuinely exciting actions scenes, a strong female character who actually had a purpose and a really great characterization of James Bond played with cynicism, conviction and surprising amounts of darkness and depth by Craig.

So I was excited for “Quantum of Solace” but unfortunately I am a bit disappointed. It is not that I did not like it. It was OK. I wasn’t seething with hatred during it. But it was forgettable. Martin Campbell maybe should have stayed with the franchise because I feel that Marc Foster was out of his realm. Campbell directed a couple of my least favorite movies and frankly I am perplexed as to how he pulled "Casino Royale" off. Marc Forster, while a well respected director could not handle the action scenes in this movie. He is one of those directors who think that quick cuts solve everything and can feign excitement. That might be true for some people but I felt that the potential that these scenes had were squandered with a ridiculous amount of shots, more than I’ve seen any scene in recent memory. This technique can work, it is rare but it happens but here it does not. The action scenes have great concepts to them, great choreography and impressive skills by Craig, who you can clearly see is doing most of the stunt work. But the shooting of it was jarring, confusing, annoying and frankly a bit ridiculous at times. Particularly the climax of the film and the car chase at the beginning. The scene where Bond chases Slate was a lot of fun but all the more frustrating because of the potential it carried with it as an action scene. The scene at the opera was interesting. Even though I still felt their were too many shots to the point where I got a headache, using the opera as the score during the scene made it creative. The motorcycle onto the boat is notable as well. So in terms of the action, they are written well with the stunt work and choreography being clearly very admirable but I felt that the way it was shot but most importantly edited together made a great deal of the work that went into these scenes useless and ineffective.

I do really like the fact that the film basically continues right after "Casino Royale" ends. But I also have a problem with this. It makes the film sort of unnecessary. It wraps up some stuff from "Casino Royale" and presents its own little story within that but continuing so shortly after makes the film feel very disposable.

I do have some good things to say. I was interested throughout. I thought the cast was great. I liked how Camille did not have the typical job of a Bond girl. Jeffrey Wright can literally be in 15 minutes of a movie and manage to be a standout, he always is and he’s fantastic to watch even though he barely does anything. Bond and M’s relationship is the most interesting to me and the film had a decent amount about them. I don’t need to say how much Judi Dench rules. Gemma Arterton, while only having a small part, stood out to me. She has a 60's British feel to her and I find refreshing, simultaneously nostalgic and full of life. The real standout though is Mathieu Amalric who I’ll just watch in anything at this point. He’s becoming a quick favorite of mine and between this and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, he is starting to gain a fraction of the fame he has in France. I liked that he was just a guy with no special talents and yet was still intimidating. And those eyes, boy those eyes are fantastic. He conveyed an slight air of pathetic as well. My favorite part of the film is after the bodyguard falls off the roof and Greene asks “Is he one of ours?” “No” “Then he shouldn’t be looking at me”. So good. And of course Craig is very good as he continues to redefine the character of James Bond.

So overall great work by the cast, Forster had some great ideas and subtle inclusions into the Bond franchise and I was interested enough in the film. However I feel that Forster could not handle the action scenes, that the story was not strong enough, the film had a bit of a stale energy about it and overall felt sort of unnecessary and honestly forgettable. By no means awful but not what I was hoping for despite some nice elements. I am glad I saw it though.

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