QUANTUM OF SOLACE **

*NOTE* I will be reviewing JAMES BOND movies all this week. I’ll kick it off with the latest in the series, QUANTUM OF SOLACE. So head back here tomorrow for more…

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QUANTUM OF SOLACE is not terrible. But it comes amazingly close to that mark.

Is it a major disappointment after the breathtaking action classic CASINO ROYALE? ABSOLUTELY. But it is more a series of missed opportunities than anything else.

It is, of course, a straight up revenge tale that begins exactly one hour after the events in CASINO ROYALE have ended. But dashed expectations seem to be an unavoidable part of this experience.

The plot (such as it is) has to do with JAMES BOND (the fantastic DANIEL CRAIG) attempting to unlock the mystery surrounding the tragic end of the love of his life, VESPER LYND (EVA GREEN). Along the way, he comes across the aptly named DOMINIC GREENE (MATHIEU AMALRIC), a supposedly benevolent environmental entrepreneur who is using his good will as a smokescreen for his terrorist activities.

Of course, James encounters the inevitably sexy women that arrive on the scene.

There’s CAMILLE (OLGA KURYLENKO), whose entire family was killed. Greene is not only involved but has essential information that he is withholding from Camille. She is determined to make him pay. Then there’s STRAWBERRY FIELDS (GEMMA ARTERTON), an officious embassy attache.

The acting ranges from excellent to disgracefully bad.

DANIEL CRAIG is game for anything. He’s as lean and hungry as a golden wolf on the prowl. James’ hurt runs so deep that he has almost completely lost touch with his humanity. He would prefer not to feel anything. He just wants to do his job and forget about the pain.

The undeveloped script (cowritten by Paul Haggis) will not allow him to break free. He’s confined to a lot of stunt work and physical action. But, with his stunning azure eyed brutality, he is never less than fascinating to watch.

JUDI DENCH (M), GIANCARLO GIANNINI (MATHIS) and JEFFREY WRIGHT (FELIX LEITER) return for the ride and they acquit themselves marvelously. They’re all wonderful actors that add considerable weight to the proceedings.

Mathieu Amalric is a starkly uneffective villain. Here he attempts to look alternately menacing and scary and merely comes off as crosseyed.

Olga Kurylenko is one of the most striking women that has ever appeared in a BOND film…and that’s definitely saying something. But she’s forced to trade on her considerable charisma as she’s an extremely uneffective performer at this juncture. Her accent is so thick she’s quite difficult to understand.

Gemma Arterton is attractive in an entirely different way. But she barely makes an impression.

MARC FORSTER (MONSTER’S BALL, FINDING NEVERLAND) is an extremely talented filmmaker who should never direct another action sequence AGAIN. He’s fine during smaller, intimate moments or straight on dramatic scenes. The rest of the film goes straight to hell.

This is some of the most abominable editing that you will ever see in a major motion picture.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE bangs out notes that are even harsher than THE DARK KNIGHT. It’s impossible to see what’s going on (even in broad daylight) and all of the action sequences look identical. The people responsible are MATT CHESSE and RICHARD PEARSON. (The latter worked on one of the BOURNE flicks.)

Those two gentlemen – along with the director – are the three people responsible for QUANTUM OF SOLACE hitting these particularly bleak lows.

There is an all consuming shoot out in the middle of an exquisitely staged version of TOSCA. It could have been sublime. Instead it’s just bland and confusing.

There is also an attempt at artistic cleverness that falls completely flat. Like most BOND flicks, this takes place at a variety of exotic locations all over the world. Every city involved has a different font style that comes up on the screen. It’s interesting and mildly amusing the first few times. After that, the joke gets old rather fast.

However, there are some bright spots…

The relationship between M and BOND is full of fire and plenty of high drama. This has to do with the personal chemistry between Dame Judi and Daniel. She never had this particular thing going with PIERCE BROSNAN.

M, for her part, is almost always entirely exasperated with James. She talks tough with him and refuses to cut him any slack until he can prove to her that he actually knows what he’s doing and isn’t going off half cocked.

(Sorry. Couldn’t resist…)

But underneath it all she loves James and worries about him incessantly. For his part, he worships M. They keep trying to hide their feelings for one another. It’s rather adorable. It essentially comes off as a mother/son bond (pun intended), but if they were closer in age, M may have just given Vesper a run for her money.

The song that gallops along while you’re reading the opening titles (JACK WHITE and ALICIA KEYS’ collaboration on ANOTHER WAY TO DIE) was surprisingly cool and involving.

The ending was perfection. Absolutely fabulous.

Now if only the rest of the movie could have measured up to the last ten minutes…

Then the classic JOHN BARRY retro theme came on as the screen darkened and it was difficult not to be vehemently nostalgic for something that you clearly didn’t get.

But what you’re left with is what is and what could never be…

If CASINO ROYALE is the Palace of Versailles, then QUANTUM OF SOLACE is a shrimp shack down by the East River.

Decent digs. Funky neighbourhood.

But, after that bout of severe indigestion, you’re going to hate yourself in the morning.

2 Responses to “QUANTUM OF SOLACE **”

  1. I think we largely agree on the high and low points but to different degrees. In the end I was fine with the movie, perhaps because my expectations had been lowered so much.

    The action was not good, but the interplay with M and Bond was terrific. We agree to disagree on Amalric, but I do think he made a pretty bland villain.

    Poor Olga was ok, but she didn’t impress much until the end.

    I loved Fields for some reason. Call me a sucker for a spunky woman with an English accent.

    As I said elsewhere, I think it was a fine middle part of a trilogy. Sort of the calm before the storm after a rousing opening.

    We’ll see where they go next.

  2. Nice to see you around these parts, honey.

    I’ll always give you a rousing leonine welcome. SO HAPPY to have you back.

    So you liked STRAWBERRY FIELDS? She was pretty good looking. But Gemma didn’t hit the spot for me.

    That’s what cuts to the crux of it. Certainly the BOND women don’t have to be actors of the MERYL STREEP persuasion. The films don’t have that kind of weight. But if they’re not larger than life and charismatic, well…

    Olga had SOME of that going. But ultimately it wasn’t enough for me.

    This is what REALLY bugged me. When they get the woman (or women) wrong then it’s an uphill battle for me. If they pick right, then I’m three quarters of the way there.

    There’s never been a truly bad BOND. I think that the one(s) that you prefer likely say more about you than the actors themselves.

    But (ESPECIALLY since we’re living in a new era) BOND needs strong, fascinating women to play off of him. EVA GREEN’S VESPER is a great example. She was fantastic.

    Now that the series has been rebooted with DANIEL, it’s a license to print money. (AGAIN.) I’m sure that there are STILL MANY women that are clamouring to be in those films. You get a lot of guaranteed world wide exposure and the movie is almost certain to be a hit. Would surely open a lot of doors for practically any girl jonesing to be a star.

    Plus a lot of the stigma is gone. Up until the last few years, appearing in a BOND film as a female actor had the same negative impact that appearing in a magazine like Playboy did. You were perceived to be a joke trading on your physical attributes.

    But now DAME JUDI is M. HALLE BERRY played JINX AFTER she won the OSCAR for MONSTER’S BALL. I do believe it was all ready in post production when she got the little gold guy. But she still was a prominent name that was taken seriously as an actor.

    That kind of stuff doesn’t exist for women any more in those flicks. With longevity the series has gotten more respect as well.

    Didn’t mean to jump all over you, sweetie. I think we are MOSTLY in agreement on this issue. I was just looking for an excuse to discuss BOND women.

    Now I have it.

    Certainly don’t have anything against you for digging Gemma. Maybe you’ve got a thing for redheads that you have yet to discover?

    That’s actually my natural hair colour, I’ll have you know. Not shocking deep red. But more red than I am now.

    I did think the M/BOND stuff was fabulous. Judi and Daniel have some kind of fascinating interplay and subtext that wasn’t apparent in her professional relationship with PIERCE’S BOND.

    Love that stuff. Keeps it interesting…

    You know, I never even thought of it that way. If I were predisposed to thinking QOS WAS a trilogy, then it doesn’t seem THAT BAD in hindsight.

    But I still can’t reasonably give it three stars. That would seem like an endorsement from me.

    Hope you do a full scale review. You haven’t done one yet, have you? However, I think we actually are on the same page regarding much of it.

    Thanks for stopping by, my darling Craig. It’s always cool to have you borrow a cup of sugar….

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