Friday, November 9, 2012

Quantum of Solace - Dir. Marc Forster (The Bond Project #22 - JK)

Quantum of Solace (2008) 
Dir. Marc Forster
Inscrutable Bond
Jack Knorps

                Quantum of Solace epitomizes the reason why I have not been keeping up on the Bond films that have come out during my lifetime (eschewing the Dalton Bonds as I was six at the time of the last one, there have been six, and I would say I have seen 3 (GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies each counting for ½ as I watched them as “background noise”)): it is too difficult to follow.
                Of course, this is a sequel to Casino Royale, and picks up where that film left off, and begins with a fantastic chase sequence, again, which may or may not be similar to the one in Licence to Kill and/or The Dark Knight Rises.  Regardless, the stunt work is not a problem for the film (nor do I think it has ever been an area where the Franchise has suffered).  
                I do want to pause for a moment to question why the Bond films must not be Rated R.  Clearly, the subject-matter is R-rated.  There is an extraordinary amount of violence in the films, as well as sexual tomfoolery.  But, Bond does not curse.  The lack of the F-word keeps them PG-13.  So kids can see it, and here’s a prediction: Skyfall will kill during its opening weekend.
                But do kids really understand what is going on in this movie, or do they just like big explosions and cool stunts?  That’s my problem.  Even if you take out the “adult” subject matter, the Bond films are meant to be seen and understood by adults that can appreciate the political commentary they offer, as their plots always revolve around foreign affairs.  Given that Bond is an English agent, it is even more difficult for Americans to understand the purposes of his missions.
                While watching this film, I reflected upon watching films with my older sister.  My older sister often asks a multitude of questions during films with only slightly complicated plots.  If she were to agree to watch Quantum of Solace, I do not think she would make it through 30 minutes.  And she would miss 77 minutes and probably be no worse in her Bond knowledge.
                It is significant that Casino Royale runs an epic 144 minutes and this film clocks in at a “suitable” 107.  Maybe I just like long movies, but for some reason Quantum of Solace feels like it is missing something.  My guess is that this is attributable to the unique quality of the Craig Bonds: Skyfall is apparently the last film of a trilogy.  Perhaps the closure that always seems to be lurking in Quantum of Solace, holding over from Casino Royale, will finally be delivered in Bond #23.
                The villain in this film, Dominic Greene, seeks to acquire a desert in Bolivia from a Bolivian Dictator.  The Dictator tells him that he is wasting his time—many people have tried to find oil there in the past to no avail.  Greene does not seem to care.  He offers his services—which, if I recall correctly, involve paying off government officials so that the Dictator may continue his reign—in exchange for ownership of this desert land.  The agreement is made, and Greene is happy-go-lucky.  He is also, apparently, a philanthropist, who is a strong advocate of environmental protection and sustainable energy.  This may or may not have to do with “Quantum.”  Later he claims that the world’s most valuable resource is held in this desert.  Perhaps that resource is Quantum.  I cannot tell.  Later, in a scene that law students may appreciate, he coerces the dictator into signing a contract with his company, which owns 60% of the clean water supply of Bolivia.
                Now, Greene is played by an extremely capable actor.  At first, I recognized him as a French actor, but I could not place him.  Looking him up on IMDB, I found that he is probably most familiar to American audiences due to his stellar performance in, incredibly, another film reviewed on Flying Houses.  The actor is Mathieu Amalric, and if The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is any indication of his talents, then I can only conclude that he was not given a very good role by the screenwriters.  True, he is an interesting villain, because generally we do not think of environmental advocates as villains.  (Perhaps this is some kind of political statement too, but that would go too far).  The problem is that he is not believable as a violent person.  He makes threats, but he does not carry them out.  I don’t even remember if he dies in the movie or not. 
                On that note, Paul Haggis wrote the screenplay along with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade.  Now I will not comment on the latter two, but I am sure they are capable.  And I will not blame Haggis totally, because Casino Royale is really quite an excellent film, but Haggis is most famous for writing and directing a certain Oscar winning film that jacked its vague title from a David Cronenberg vehicle.  Many people decried Crash for capitalizing on “hidden racist sentiment” that may or may not still be a factor in present-day Los Angeles, but Haggis won again next year with his screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, a film that was much more appreciated—particularly for its “twist.”
                Furthermore, Marc Forster directed this film.  Now, Marc Forster has a pretty good track record.  I never saw Finding Neverland but it was apparently quite good, I found Monster’s Ball to be quite compelling, and while Stay was basically a “non-starter,” now that Ryan Gosling is an A-lister, more people might have seen this film by now, and they should because it’s quite interesting.  This is to say nothing of The Kite Runner or Stranger Than Fiction (only the latter of which I’ve seen, and which is light entertainment, but not offensive).  I just have to admit that Forster does not seem to be the best director for this film.  Nor was it the best script. 
                Craig himself is good, and still icy—if not icier.  The Bond Girl, played by Olga Kurylenko, is quite beautiful, and vows revenge against the Bolivian Dictator for crimes he committed against her family in her childhood.  She is more than adequate in her role, and one of the better parts of the movie—but unfortunately if you compare her performance to Eva Green’s in Casino Royale, you will see how much better that film was than this one.  Judi Dench is also good as M, though I was quite confused when she apparently got shot and then showed up in the next scene looking very healthy without any kind of explanation—perhaps there was a pithy line thrown out that I missed. 
                I believe I have said all I can about Quantum of Solace.  It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s not a terribly exciting movie either.  It is rather confounding, but I suppose if we are to view these Craig Bonds as a Trilogy that it is necessary to view so you will not be lost when you see Skyfall.  Perhaps the best thing about Quantum of Solace is its theme song sung by Jack White, which is consistent with Bond playing to the trends of the times.  If I have to attach a “rating” to my two reviews here, I would give Casino Royale 3 ½ stars, and Quantum of Solace  2 ½ stars (I would only give it 2, but the ½ comes from the theme song as well as the potential for intrigue for Skyfall—that is, the hope that they have saved their best for the last).

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