This is my review of the new James Bond movie ‘Quantum of Solace’ which I saw (just now) on the first night of its General Release. I haven’t read any other reviews so, hopefully, I feel differently about it to how everybody else will. That always makes me feel good.
I won’t give away any spoilers (not deliberately anyway) but I can’t promise not to colour your expectations. So if you’d like to see the movie ‘clean’, as I just did, leave now but come back another day.
‘Quantum of Solace’ can be summarised in one sentence. ‘Not as good as ‘Casino Royale’’.
Need I say more? Well, yes, I should.
More than anything, this movie confirms what a wonderful movie ‘Casino Royale’ was and still is.
The brilliantly fresh Daniel Craig, the engaging story, rippling action, taut dialogue and beautiful settings all added up to the very best latter-day entry in the Bond canon.
The new film constantly suffers by comparison to the first one. It is ‘less’ on practically every front – not always much less but ‘less’ is still enough.
Personally I think there is lots to respect and enjoy in this new release but it is clear to me that the film is scuppered in the first thirty minutes and it struggles to recover.
Those first thirty minutes give us relentless action – chases, fights, crashes – they all come at us in rapid succession. Rapid-fire, outstanding, eye-popping – these are all things that the first half-hour is not.
Simple truth? This director can not 'do' action sequences.
For all the boom, bang and carnage - the action remains unclear and often downright frustrating. Fashionably maniacal camera movements, coupled with multiple cut shots, slo-mo's and God know what else, only serve to leave the audience disenfranchised and wondering what the hell just happened.
One needs only to look back to the first Craig Bond to see how a completely thrilling chase sequence can be kept clear in narrative and characterisation without ever slowing the pace. The action here is all wham bam but with no emotional content. After each of these sequences, the audience was left silent and bewildered – a little lost.
After that, the movie gets better – it really does. But it’s a little too late then, the damage has been done. Subconsciously, we fear the moment when the director will take up on another poorly staged action sequence– his failed opening gambits have lost us.
Which is a shame because Craig does brilliantly again. The story is good. The girl is beautiful (really). It’s just we got left behind in that opening 'Post-Bourne' frenzy and now we can’t quite get back in.
Interestingly, Bond seems to have much more going on with Judi Dench’s ‘M’ than with any of the ladies he comes across (no pun there, you’re on your own with that one). There’s some kind of Oedipus action going on there that still slightly eludes me.
There’s something else too...
All through the film, I was haunted by a pervading notion of Déjà vu. Some view, glance or twitch was always reminding me of one or another of the earlier Bond films. It’s like the producers were playing these Bond trivia tricks to keep the anorak fans entertained. I thought I was imagining all of this until one character turned up covered from head to toe in a black substance – killed by it – and suddenly we were in Goldfinger all over again.
This confirmed for me that my earlier suspicions were not entirely imagined – that the opening moments had clearly evoked the opening of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ that the Opera has a Roger Moore quality to it, that the bad CIA man looked like ‘Mr. Kidd’ from ‘Diamonds are Forever’. Oh and didn’t the lady envoy feel just like a contemporary ‘Mary Goodnight’? And on and on.
A game was being played and, for me, it betrayed a lack of confidence in the basic material. Casino Royale seemed to stand defiantly on its own, saying ‘Like me or not, do I look like I give a damn?’ This all feels more like a committee-driven attempt to please.
One final in-joke - or is it just my over-active imagination again? The rather insipid bad-guy reminded me so much of Roman Polanski from the moment I first saw him – not so much the actor but rather the role he was playing. Then it is revealed that a major plot point (the McGuffin, if you will) was something which Polanski’s most iconic movie also concerned itself heavily with (you know what I mean) – was this again a co-incidence? I think not.
There is a lovely sequence in the centre of the movie, set in and around a spectacular modern staging of Tosca. I loved it. For me the movie gets much better during and after this. The locations become more ‘real’ and 'explored', the characters take some more room to breathe and the action is entirely more convincing.
The compulsory climactic sequence is jaw-droppingly well staged with high levels of surprisingly unsavoury-but-good violence and some really genuine sense of threat for the main protagonists.
Craig is simply a wonderful Bond. I hope he stays on to do more.
I also hope they find a director who can handle the action a little better.
(It's twelve past midnight… two hours since movie end and that's what I thought of it.)