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This review is from: Quantum of Solace [DVD]  (DVD)
After the pure excellent of Casino Royale maintaining that standard for the next film was going to be hard. We were promised more action than CR, more! There was plenty of action in CR for me, and you can actually see what is going on. In QoS the film makers have gone down road of the last two Bourne (and countless other films) of having jerky, close in, fast cut action scenes, which I have to say are not my bag. Having got back to 'doing it for real' it is a shame that the viewer can't really see what is going on a lot of the time. With the stunt people risking life and limb it would be quite nice to be able to see their hard work - if I want to 'be in the action' I'll go to Skirmish or a rollercoaster for the day, I don't want to get motion sickness in the cinema! That's that gripe over with.
QoS opens with one of these 'high octane' action scenes, a confusing and confused car chase, but where is the suspense? the opening scenes have been getting longer and more involved recently, where as the best of them, From Russia With Love, had a short scene, with tension and a great pay off. A car chase just doesn't do it for me, and as this is meant to have happened directly after the end of CR, where did all the bad guys come from? A smile was given when Bond opened the boot to reveal Mr White, but that was quickly wiped off with the worst, and I mean the WORST, titles scene ever. I just hope that Danny Kleinman was ill or working on something else when the producers came to make the titles, because if they passed him over for the morons that made these then shame on them, especially as CR had just about the best title sequence of the whole damn series!
The rest of the film seems to move along at a muddle, at the end you are thinking, what was that all about? Marc Forster's remit to get the four elements into the film are probably responsible for the overall muddled feel and his arthouse pretensions at odds with the awful fast editing wobbly camera work of the second unit, who thought they were making Bourne 3! 007's final scene with Vesper's ex-boyfriend is about the only thing that really ties it in with CR and Bond achieving his quantum of solace. There are good moments, and there is possibly a good film in there trying to get out, but I think Marc Forster missed the boat on this one, bring back Martin Campbell for the next (also Moneypenny, and Danny Klienman for the titles) and lets get back to Premium Bond!
The Quantum organisation, is, I think, a good one, but they need to be less shadowy to the viewer (MI6 can be kept in the dark) and Mr White could/should be a recurring character.
Parts of this film went against Bond's character for me, and I thought the callous and slightly sick scene with Mathais' body was totally out of character and unnecessary, Mathis would have been a good recurring ally for Bond.
Although this is the most expensive, (doesn't look it) and the shortest (doesn't feel it) Bond film, and has has excellent box office I think it was a missed opportunity.
The DVD is a two disc 'special edition' that really isn't that special - you'll have to wait for the Ultimate/De Luxe Edition for the cut Bond/White scene and Daniel uttering the words "Bond, James Bond". The DVD menus are fairly average, though I have to say the picture and sound quality are excellent (as they should be!) It comes in a nice stiff cardboard slipcase, but (and I think this is a first) no booklet, and for a DVD retailing at close to £25 that is unforgivable. Also there is a fair amount of repetition in the featurettes.
A mixed bag then at best, lets hope that Bond 23 delivers a better, viewer friendly picture and some humour, which is lacking really in this film.
Even Bond film can suffer from sequelitis it seems. But thankfully, that does not make Quantum Of Solace a bad movie, just a disappointing one. It was always going to be hard to follow the massive critical and financial success of Casino Royale, and in some ways Quantum has improved over it's predecessor, and in others it takes a significant step back.
Beginning straight after the events of Royale, with Bond holding a captive Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in the boot of his Aston Martin, Quantum pumps up the testosterone immediately with a high speed car chase through the mountains and countryside of Italy. After he escapes to Siena, Bond and M (Judi Dench) interrogate Mr. White, who reveals that the Quantum organisation is much larger than either of them imagined. After an assassination attempt on M by a Quantum spy and a chase through Siena's rooftops, Bond follows his leads to Haiti, where he crosses paths with Camille (Olga Kurylenko) - a woman with vengeance on her mind - and Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the shady leader of Greene Planet and a member of the Quantum organisation. Greene is negotiating a deal with exiled General Medrano for control over Bolivia in exchange for a seemingly worthless piece of land in the South American desert. Bond, determined to get revenge for the death of his lost love Vesper, sets out to foil Greene and Quantum's scheme while looking for the man who blackmailed Vesper in Casino Royale. His quest raises questions among his superiors, who are not sure about Bond's ability to be trusted.
Okay, I'll start with the postives. Craig is an outstanding Bond. No question about it. His acting ability is second to none. The scene where Bond talks to Camille about his grief over the loss of Vesper was powerful to watch. He has cemented himself in the role in just two films. The development of Bond as a character is the only reason Quantum could be considered superior to Royale. Kurylenko also shows promise in her role, which actually requires her to do more than just stand around and look pretty. The chemistry between Craig and Kurylenko is decent, even though she is the first Bond girl not to jump into bed with him, another sign of the change that has engulfed this series. More interesting is the development of Bond's relationship with M, played with immortal enthusiasm by Judi Dench. They exchange banter and sly digs back and forth while M struggles to figure out whether Bond can genuinely be trusted, and this relationship elevates some scenes above standard expositionary material. The action is good, as is the norm for a Bond film, but it is shot in such a way that it is often hard to follow, something I will comment on later.
It's hard to pinpoint where exactly the problem lies with this film. There are many flaws and many changes, sure, but none that would make me call it a bad film. I really wanted to love it, considering the love I have for Casino Royale, but in the end it fell short of expectations. It just feels disjointed, you can just see that something is not quite right. The major problem I had with Quantum was that it jumped from place to place with little or no warning, something which lies at the feet of the editor. Some scenes make no sense, such as the aftermath of the Tosca shootout where a bodyguard of one Quantum member is shot and killed by the henchmen of another. The action is sometimes draining to watch due to the intense camerawork, with the footchase through Siena's rooftops and the boatchase in Port au Prince suffering especially from shaky camerawork and overly kenetic editing. The car chase in the beginning, the fight in the abandoned gallery after the footchase and the plane pursuit in Bolivia however, are extremely well done and are the standout set pieces in the movie for me, as they maintained that Bondian feel to them, instead of the Jason Bourne style the others have. Many have commented on the similarities between this Bond installment and the Bourne films directed by Paul Greengrass, but to be fair, apart from the editing and camerawork during the action sequences (the work of regular Bourne 2nd Unit maestro Dan Bradley), there are very few other things that can be proved to be influenced by that series.
Supporting characters are pretty weak in comparison to those that have gone before it, Kurylenko offering the only respite. Gemma Arterton's character, an MI6 officer in Bolivia ordered to return Bond to London, is interesting but not allowed time to grow. Amalric's villain is creepy, but comes across as more of an corrupt businessman rather than a genuine villain and as a result he is largely forgettable, as are his henchmen. There are no Oddjobs or Red Grants here. The plot for the use of the land for water in the desert seems quite bland when it is revealed before the big finale in the Bolivian desert, where Forster resorts to blowing up as much as he can. Despite the small scale of the villain's plan, it does stick with the new realistic and gritty direction these films are taking.
The great score by David Arnold sticks close to the style of Casino Royale, and again refrains from using the theme by Monty Norman as this is technically the same story carried on, and Bond has yet to accept his position as 007. The music is probably one of the main factors in the film keeping its identity as a Bond film. The title song however, is totally forgettable, and a step back from Chris Cornell's splendid effort with 2006's You Know My Name. As with every Bond film, cinematography is excellent, and the film is visually arresting, with stuntwork and computer graphics all top notch. The opening of the film, a swooping shot over the water at Lake Garda, is quite gorgeous.
Forster gives it a good go in his first action picture, but in the end, despite many positives, there are too many flaws that let the film down. It is not a bad movie by any means, and at the very least provides a decent 108 minutes at the cinema. But it just didn't reach the heights I expected it to, which will make fans think it is a worse film than it actually is.
However, it is exceptionally divisive and as many people dislike it as like it (possibly more). Critics, particularly Mark Kemode, sliced it into little slivers when it came out because it was unlike any Bond that had come before. To them it was incoherent mess with a non-existent storyline and directing choices that scuppered the action. I can see where they are coming from but think the pluses to this film far outweigh the minuses.
For a start, the story is all there. Quantum is slowly flexing its muscles by interfering in a third world country and its natural resources. This makes more sense than rocket stealing volcanoes and exists in a modern world where countries literally are fighting each other over water. Quantum is being introduced here, it’s not a obvious enemy like SPECTRE became. We see members at the Tosca performance. They are ordinary world leaders and businessmen coming together in a cartel rather than being ruled by a man stroking a white cat. The way to obtain power around the world is through the acquisition of natural resources rather than stealing atomic bombs or diamond satellites.
Another criticism is the steady-cam editing. The cuts are too fast and you can’t follow the story. There is some truth to this and the film is better on the small screen then big when it can be confusing and overwhelming. But I like the action scenes and the chase across the rooftops of Siena os one of my favourites of the series. You can’t zone out with his action scenes or you will miss something. The whole film requires concentration at all times. Forster does excel at other touches such as art direction and an eye for colour and locale. The performances by the cast are launched off a canvass using a distinctive colour palette of blacks and whites, blues and the warm earth tones of beiges, browns and terra cotta reds. The film is a work of art disguised as a blockbuster.
Craig as Bond is the driving force here. Originally the audience thinks he is going off the rails due to the death of Vesper – he wants simple revenge. The bitterness of Vespers betrayal in CR resurfaces as does the realisation that she did it for him because she loved him. It’s not actually the driving force of the film. That is the conflict between him getting revenge and doing his job. At the beginning he is angry and goes on a killing spree and gets himself into further trouble. But than he realises that the deaths aren’t going to change anything (the scene saying goodbye to Camille may be the penny dropping moment) As we see when he spares Yusuf, at the end he finds his comfort (his solace) and makes the right choice. His job wins out.
Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes is also very good. Fleming had been experimenting with physically and emotionally challenged female characters and Camille is the hub at which the spokes of Melina Havelock, Honeychile Rider and Holly Goodhead meet. She’s a very rounded character who carries emotional and physical scars and her going after Medrano is the secondary driving force. It’s right that she doesn’t sleep with Bond because that would have cheapened the character – and somehow wouldn’t have fitted.
People have complained that Dominic Greene is no threat to Bond and is pretty uncharismatic. He worked for me. I bought him as the malicious and slightly unhinged of a philanthropist and resource speculator. He doesn’t need to be a major villain as he is a small cog in Quantum’s wheel. At this point Quantum is in the shadows – its ruling the world by stealth. Whether we will be exposed to a supervillain in later films I don’t know. But Greenes world is pretty murky – QoS shows the double standards of the worlds governments and even M is compromised by her own foreign secretary. Incidently, I think Judi Denchs’ M has had her day – the outraged headmistress routine is wearing pretty thin. The character needs to be rethought. There have also been complaints of Where is Q? Where is Moneypenny? Craig is right, Bond had to earn the right to be there with CR, they have to do the same for their place in the films.
South America is a character here. I love Forsters evocation of seedy La Paz, a desert inhabited by indigenous peoples and a party in a sweaty villa on the edge of town. You can almost smell the Latin world with this film. There is an establishing shot of a large reptile moving slowly around a rock under a burning sun – a scene Fleming could have described quite vividly on page one of his stories. The last set piece at the terra cotta coloured hotel amid the dunes of the desolate wastes of the 'Bolivian' desert adds atmosphere and lighting not easily captured on the Pinewood back lot.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I am happy with the direction the Bonds are going. Many people aren’t and want a more humorous Bond with Q and Miss Moneypenny (and the opening barrel at the beginning – rolls eyes). There is humour there eg the scene at Mathis’ villa with his girlfriend. But Criag has given them an excuse to move in a different direction. A direction that suits his Bond. In fact this one is very dark – rapes and violent death is the norm. My mouth dropped open when he dumped Mathis in the garbage can. But it fitted the story and the character.
Quantum of Solace proves that by removing and reshuffling traditional elements, the franchise is not ruined, nor is it any less of a Bond film. By doing so, the series has received a shot to the arm and it feels like anything could happen. The producers can go in any direction. If people want the same old same old, they have the pre 2006 films. Usually the series is criticized for being formulaic and predictable; here fresh ideas and a new way of going about things thrive. I hope this stance continues with the remainder of Craig’s era.
I truly believe that is the most underrated of the Bond films, and is quite frankly, a little masterpiece.
To start out with the good, I feel I should say that Craig did pretty good here and imo it's his best performance as Bond. We also have imo a pretty underrated villain in Dominic Greene who I feel is sinister enough and also has that level of class and cockiness about him that make him feel like a decent villain to me. I also liked the characters of Mathis, Mr. White, The General working with Greene and Camille (More on her in a bit), especially the whole partners in Crime type relationship Camille and Bond shared. We also get the return of Jeffrey Wright as Felix and he's good here just like he was in Casino Royale.
There is also some good action sequences here as well as some good dioluage I'd say, and some badass moments for Bond such as when he quickly dodged Camille's bullet in the car. The plot I do feel is sorta easy to follow but it's not exactly great (I'll get into that in a bit as well). we have a pretty good score by David Arnold which would criminally be his last Bond score (as of this review) but he sure went out pretty strongly. And last but not least I feel as if the fast paced nature of this film is actually a good thing as it doesn't take forever to get things going which is something the other Craig films struggle with.
So now we know the good, but what about the bad? Well as I alluded to earlier the plot is pretty easy to follow however it's a pretty lame plot in the grand scheme of things, like Bolivian water, That's the best you could do? Another negative is I feel Camille was underutilized heavily here, Olga Kurylenko is a talented and Quite gorgeous actress and I would have liked her character to have more depth. Another negative is that M seems to flip flop between trusting Bond and not trusting him (an issue with Craig's era as a whole really) and it's kinda dumb tbh.
I also think Elvis was a pretty worthless henchmen who really could've been removed as he didn't add anything to the film at all. This film while having a general spy film feel, still lacks that essential bond feel which is unfortunate. Now probably the biggest issue Quantum of solace has is the absolute terrible editing, there is way to many action cuts in scenes to the point where it not only hurts your eyes but makes it hard to follow what's going on even, and the shaky cam just makes it even worse, it's not just camera work but those transitional title cards are also quite awful.
But as a whole I did quite enjoy this film, it is flawed but I think it's overhated in the grand scheme of things. While it may not be Bond like much at all, it's still a good and pretty fun to watch Action movie that is nothing but short and sweet. It's easily Craig's best Bond film imo and I do think it's worth a re-look by people to truly examine it on it's own and not as a CR follow up
My final Rating is a 7/10
In an attempt to rediscover the series in a new light post NTTD, I’ve decided on going through each Bond film individually, and out of order. I figured the perfect place to start would be with the Bond film that sits right towards the very bottom of my rankings. Quantum of Solace is an interesting Bond film to say the least. Critically speaking, it’s regarded as the worst entry in the Daniel Craig era, and one of the worst entries in the series overall. It’s not hard to see why. The film is messy, disjointed, and feels somewhat incomplete. Any momentum that was built from Casino Royale’s massive critical and box office reception, was temporarily halted upon the release of Quantum of Solace in 2008. To summarize the plot of the film as being nothing more than an epilogue to CR isn’t entirely inaccurate, but the film tries, and unfortunately does not succeed at building an entire new world of Bond based on the foundations of Casino Royale. The result is a movie that fails that have anything meaningful and interesting to say.
I’ll start off with the Imperialism critique. The idea of Governments doing business with “the bad guys” is interesting in concept, but it’s end result is such a shallow critique that doesn’t go anywhere and just leaves the film feeling empty, which is such a shame, because a premise like that is entirely unique and could’ve resulted in a great Bond film. I put a lot of this on the Writers Strike of 2007-2008, but even more than that, I got the overall impression that even the filmmakers weren’t entirely sure where to take this premise. Coming off of the tragic ending of Casino Royale meant that Bond’s emotional state had to be at the forefront of the film, which unfortunately relegates Quantum/their role in the film to the background. The idea of corrupt politicians and corrupt businesspeople being the foundation behind a shadowy, evil organization seeking to create Political Unrest is 10x more interesting than the direction the filmmakers would eventually take with Quantum (aka SPECTRE), but because of the reaction to the film, it’s easy to see why they went the direction with the organization that they did.
Next off would be the cast. I’ll start by saying that I think everyone in the film does the best that they can with the material, and you can’t really say that there is a bad performance in the film. Even Mathieu Amalric as Greene isn’t a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just that the characters aren’t interesting. They have little to no personality, the exceptions to this rule being any of the returning cast from Casino Royale, and Camille. I’ll also add that Greene’s plot doesn’t stand out much when compared to other Bond villain plots, and yeah, perhaps that has to do with Greene’s plot being virtually identical to Noah Cross’ plot in Chinatown, but even compared to the low stakes schemes of other villains like Kanaga, Kristatos, and others, Greene’s plot to withhold Bolivia’s water supply just fails to do much of anything for me. Where Greene starts to get better is towards the end of the film, when he’s allowed to be unhinged and go after Bond with his might. Him swinging that Axe towards Bond is a scene I’ve always enjoyed, even after he stabs himself in the toe with it, and his final scene in the desert is amongst my favorite scenes of the Craig era.
Camille Montes on the other hand has steadily been climbing up my rankings to become one of my favorite Bond girls. Before, I always found her to be boring. Nothing interesting to her character, nothing stand out about her, but I’ll admit, a lot of that had to do with story elements that flew way over my head when I was a kid seeing this. As an adult, I’m able to appreciate her character much more, and that has to do with how her journey correlates with Bonds; both are highly trained Government agents, on personal missions to avenge the deaths of the people who they cared deeply for, only the difference is Camille had been waiting for her revenge for most of her life. One of the best scenes in the film, and perhaps of the entire series is just outside the hotel, when Bond tells Camille how to prepare to make the kill, what to do, and how to react. It sold me on the dynamic between the two characters, resulting in one of my favorite Bond/Bond Girl pairings from any film in the series. I know this is slightly off topic, but if there was one element in NTTD I wish I could’ve see, it’d be the return of Camille. One of the best Bond girls ever.
The supporting characters are a mixed bag for me. On one hand, Judi Dench is always a welcomed edition in any of these movies, and the dynamic between her and Bond is more or less that same as how it was in CR. Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner doesn’t do much here, but the foundation is set for Kinnear to do more with the character for the following films. Jeffery Wright as Felix Leiter is pushed into more of a background role here, but to see him at odds with David Harbour as Gregg Beam was an element I like. Beam as a character himself? I’m mixed. On one hand, there’s nothing subtle about his character at all, any disingenuous intentions Beam has are kind of spoiled from moment he’s on the plane with Greene, but for the rest of the film, Beam seems to be nothing more than a mustache twiddling goof, which doesn’t really work for the tone of the film they’re going for. Greene’s henchmen are forgettable; the General and Chief of Police have little to do in the film itself; and even Mathis, one of the best elements of CR, and reduced to perhaps 20-30 minutes of screen time, before being unceremoniously killed off, and thrown in the trash (literally.)
Now for the best, and final element of the film; Daniel Craig. It’s hard for me to judge Craig objectively given how I was raised on, and have huge nostalgia for Connery, Brosnan, and Moore, and had seen the vast majority of all their films before seeing CR in theaters, but that nostalgia is also there for Craig to an extent. In retrospect, we really did get lucky as Bond fans that Craig chose not to leave in the uncertainty that clouded the franchise following this film, because his performance in this film is superb. Is it his best performance? No, I for one consider SP to be Craig’s best performance as Bond, despite the film being not so great, but here you really can see him taking the Bond of CR and expanding that portrayal in different directions, and it’s a wonderful thing to see. I especially love the moment where, after killing Slate, he tells M she needs to forget the past as she scolds him for killing Slate. It’s the kind of dark humor that reminded me of the Connery era, and how Connery’s Bond could kill someone so casually then make a quip afterwards. For whatever disappointment I’ve felt towards Craig’s era as a whole, QOS reminded me that even if some of his films may be less than good, Craig is still always awesome in them. (A case very similar to Brosnan and his tenure.)
I’ve chosen not to indulge in the many common critiques leveled at the movie (the writing, the editing, the action scenes, etc), and have instead opted to focus on the elements that make for a great Bond film. QOS undergone a reevaluation amongst the fan base, many people have come out in defense of the film, and what it tried to do, which is something that pleases me. The great thing about Bond is how even critically less regarded films even get love and attention from some fans. Even if QOS doesn’t work for me, I’m glad it has its fans out there. If I do have to give what is perhaps the biggest compliment I could give, it’d be this; QOS does so much to set up a brand new world of Bond, one that continues from the foundations of CR, and even though the elements of QOS don’t hold up and support the world building that there trying to do, for a brief glimpse, the intrigue, the tone, the style, and the world building of QOS greatly reminded me of FRWL, and the world of Intrigue/Suspense that Terence Young created in that film, and in a way, QOS is one of the very few Bond films that comes close to recapturing what made FRWL such a unique entry in the series, and that’s no small feat.
QOS has unfortunately been towards the bottom of my rankings for me, but the film is slowly growing. I’m noticing myself enjoy it more and more each time I watch it, and although I don’t watch it much, I’m slowly beginning to see why people enjoy this one as much as they do, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll have this one in my top 10! Until that day, QOS, though unique, unfortunately sits in my rankings with a 4/10.
So there we have it, I’ve tried to be a bit easier on this film and not make points that other people have made constantly, which can be difficult when talking about a movie that has received this criticism for over 10 years now, but I hope everyone enjoyed reading this (often confusing I admit) review of the film.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)