Friday, November 14, 2008

REVIEW: Quantum of Solace...

A title doesn't make a film. Early on in the production of the newest James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, I, like most people, thought that it was simply going to be Bond taking a kid to a really bad science fair, at least with a title as weird as that. However, my thoughts began to change after not only seeing a ton of promotional material and scenes from the film, but hearing Daniel Craig, 007 himself, on Jay Leno one late night while waiting for a favorite band of mine, The Black Kids, to perform. He went on after the basic questions about shooting and having hot women all over you (and I mean, who doesn't want to know about that), he discussed the meaning of the title.

Quantum of Solace is the newest James Bond film, and picks up right where the 2006 hit, Casino Royale, finished. Vesper is dead, and Bond is on the hunt for the people behind it all. The film is a study on what Ian Flemming once called the Quantum of Solace. The Quantum of Solace is the point at the end of a relationship where a party feels nothing. Not remorse, not sadness, not anger, just emptiness. Along the road of revenge 007 is trying to pave, he comes along a crazed environmentalist who is attempting to control the worlds water supply. With car chases, boat chases, airplane chases, and the occasional sexy female vixen, the film is a prototypical Bond film, but taken up a notch. Actually, taken up a couple of stories. It's a Bond film on steroids, at least in the action, and I loved every second of it.

First off, let me just say this, these kind of films are the epitome of what makes film great. There's not a ton of heavy meat to them, they are just a whole lot of fun. This film opens with a really fun, if disorienting, car chase, and never truly lets you go. There's a chase featuring every kind of earthbound vehicle you can think of, and the globetrotting is just plain fun.

I don't really care what people say, but there has not been a better James Bond than Daniel Craig. I love me some Sean Connery just as much as the next guy, but not only is Daniel Craig one hell of a suave guy, but he is a brilliant actor, and he's really good here too. He's not given much in way of dialogue, but what he is given, he knocks out of the park. He's just troubled enough, and the way he gives off such emotion simply through his face, is something to applaud. He's also one hell of a funny guy.

Not to be outdone, the supporting cast is also solid, if without the most meaty of work to do. Judi Dench IS M and the interchanges between her and Bond really help get the film going during the small parts of the film between the major action set pieces. There's one scene in particular, just after Bond took a few guards out, in a hotel, that is just really solid filmmaking and performing. Jeffery Wright is fine as Felix, a good cop with a bad partner, and Olga Kurylenko is hot, and that's all that's really asked of her. However, the person that really surprised me Gemma Arterton, who plays Fields, one of the English consulate officers who try to get Bond back to London, yet, falls for him (of course), and gets oil down the throat for it. She's not asked to do much, but she does have really good chemistry with Daniel Craig, and when you are a female, not named Judi Dench, that's all you need.

Another big part of Bond films, are their classic villains, and while this one isn't something that will go down in the history books as one of the best ever, it is quite a good one, with a solid threat to the world. He doesn't have a giant ray gun, he doesn't want to simply kill a lot of people, he just wants to control the worlds water supply. Also, the performance from the great Matheiu Almaric is pretty solid.

This film marks the first foray for director Marc Forester into the realm of big budget action, and I must say, hey knows what he is doing. The way that the major action set pieces are shot and framed, is pretty solid for a first time director. The only real problem I had with the direction was the lack of re-establishment shots. For most of the vehicle action scenes, especially the opening car chase, were shot in a very Michael Bay-esque way. The camera would simply follow the action as the cars bumped, crashed, and banged their way to utter destruction. The film doesn't allow the filmgoer to re-establish themselves in the way that say The Bourne film series does.

Finally, this film does have much more depth than your go to action film. Bond is a broken man. He's not quite the suave super spy who likes his martini's "shaken, not stirred" (a line never uttered, but eluded to in a hilarious scene), and it's extremely interesting to see how he got their, or at least this recent character arch. They have taken the sacred cow that was the Bond franchise, and thanks to the success of Batman Begins and Christopher Nolan's Batman reboot, rebooted the Bond franchise into one of the best film franchises going today.

There are a few flaws with this film however. First off, the film ends far to quickly. There's a ton of action, and that is really fun to watch, but the more toned down scenes and the idea of watching this super spy with issues deal with his loss, is something that I wanted to see more of. Take out an action scene or two, and give me more character study, and this film would that much better. That's what made Casino Royale so good. It has more bone breaking scenes, but not enough heart breaking scenes, if you get what I mean.

Also, this film is a perfect example of a sequel not living up to it's predecessor. It's got a lot more action, much more like the aforementioned Jason Bourne film, but it doesn't really delve into the mind of it's character in the way that that series so brilliantly does. The supporting cast, while solid, isn't given nearly enough to do, and the script also isn't allowed to shine. It's a really funny and interesting film, I just simply wished, and was inevitably disappointed, that they went further with it. The only lacking supporting performance was Olga Kurylenko, and while she isn't bad on the eyes, she didn't really hold her own, especially when the only other "Bond Girl" does really well, and the last female, Vesper, was so brilliantly written and performed.

All of that said, there isn't a more action packed film out there, and it will be hard to find one that is more fun. It's also hard to find one that was more disappointing. For all of the action, and there was a ton, there wasn't enough of the character study that made the previous Bond film so brilliant. Still, if you get a chance, check it out with some friends. You will have one hell of a good time.


Here's the new Bond "Title Credits" Sond, Another Way To Die, featuring Alicia Keys and Jack's pretty awesome, so enjoy!

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