Tuesday, December 09, 2008

QUANTUM OF SOLACE

is a strange name for the latest Bond film: they should probably have just called it CASINO ROYALE II. The story picks up pretty much where CASINO left off (a certain amount of time does seem to have elapsed, but it falls into the Things You're Not Supposed To Notice category). There seems to be a good deal of disappointment in QUANTUM as a movie, and I can see why. Ultimately I don't think it is as good as CASINO ROYALE; it seems to have completely jettisoned the polish of CASINO in favor of a supposedly grittier feel, I guess in a bid for something like relevance. And it makes a degree of sense, if you take the reboot of the franchise as a kind of Bond's Progress from journeyman spy to cold-hearted killer: the progression from stylish blacktie casinos to desert wasteland can be seen to reflect Bond's own devolution from man to heartless killing machine.

I wish the plot had been a bit easier to follow, there were times when I felt like the parade of heavily-accented actors weren't exactly making things clear. And the film-making itself didn't help much. The film is made in that Hand-Held Camera/Weed Whacker Editing style that can work when done properly as in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM but doesn't really come together here. The opening car chase confuses rather than excites because it takes too long to figure out what the hell is going on. I wasn't even sure who was chasing whom until way too late in the sequence. It gets really bad during a speedboat chase that simply makes no sense at all, a flurry of swish pans fast cuts and bad framing. A marvellously conceived sequence at an opera performance falls apart due to some frankly idiotic Artsy Fartsy Editing. It does settle down enough for the Big Finish to come off handsomely, but by then it is almost too late.

I'm being rather hard on the movie, I guess out of a sense of disappointment that so many bad decisions were made in its production. On the whole though it was an amusing entertainment, and it features a memorable Bond villain: Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene. The man leaves a trail, let's just leave it at that. And the sublime Jeffrey Wright gets a little more to do, but it still isn't enough. In one scene he regards Amalric's character the way he'd regard a shit smear on a new carpet. Little things like that make the movie bearable when the bad filmmaking threaten to undermine it all. More Jeffrey Wright, less editing, please.

If nothing else, QUANTUM OF SOLACE gave me the opportunity to look at Daniel Craig for a couple of hours my oh my oh bloody my. I do love to watch Daniel Craig, and not just because he's the sexiest man in current movies. There's something oddly amusing about him in action scenes, I find. Watch him casually but seriously unseat someone from their motorcycle or run straight through drywall and you'll see what I mean. That odd casual gravity he brings to the increasingly outlandish situations reminds me of Buster Keaton, there's an absolute conviction to what he does that is somehow comic. I remember thinking, in CASINO ROYALE, that when Daniel Craig runs, Daniel Craig bloody RUNS, there's just no doubt that he's going to catch whatever he's chasing.

I'll keep going to the films as long as he's associated with them. And I'm looking forward to the next one.

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