Saturday, November 15, 2008
From start to finish, Quantum of Solace was a restrained non-stop thrill ride, an introspective action film.
This contradiction defined almost everything right and wrong about the film.
Bond went through the entire picture in something of a daze, more numb than hurt following the events of Casino Royale. This did not, however, prevent him from traveling to exotic lands and painting them red with the blood of his foes.
Nor should it have: this is 007, after all. And we found ourselves fundamentally impressed that Bond didn't seem to want revenge as much as he wanted to want revenge, or, barring that, anything. He was cold and empty, in something of a rut, and it wasn't until the end that he started to regain feeling. With only a few exceptions, he seemed to be killing out of indifference rather than spite.
Let no one suggest it wasn't a brave directorial choice, and the library of 007 films is richer for it.
But there was a price to be paid. There is a sense of vertigo one experiences while trying to comprehend the setting. For the most part, this movie is deeply grounded in our world and the human psyche, so when elements reminiscent of Roger Moore's Bond appear - and they do in spades - it is dizzying to say the least.
Further, the action scenes were by and large over the top and empty. There was little excitement to be found, even when they seemed to be trying for it. The scene where Bond leaps from a plane is a perfect example: it was heavily CG'd, very fast paced, and ultimately dull. The moment was reminiscent of Schwarzenegger's Eraser, but not as much fun.
Fortunately, there were plenty of moments which made up for this. The scene in the opera house, for instance, was fantastic; one of the best Bond moments of all time, in fact, and entirely nonviolent. Well, until it turned violent, but that was less intriguing.
Likewise, the movie's conclusion was near-perfect. While the action-heavy desert hotel fight was perhaps a bit zanier than we needed, what came next was far more to our liking. We need to choose our words carefully here, in case there are readers who've yet to see the picture, but Bond's moment with Camille - the movie's primary "Bond girl" - at the end succinctly defined the difference between this version of the character and all earlier incarnations.
This is the 22nd Bond movie by most accounts. We could actually inflate that number by adding in Never Say Never Again, the 1967 version of Casino Royale, and The Rock (John Mason indeed), but there seems little reason to complicate matters further. If your favorite of the first 21 Bond films were a five star picture, we feel Quantum of Solace is deserving of a relative three and a half stars. It almost pulls four, but the opening credits just didn't impress us.