Written by Films

Quantum of Solace

I must admit that I managed to turn down two sets of free tickets for screenings I couldn’t make before finally paying to see the new Bond today.
First the good things: Craig is still excellent as Bond, the premise of the story might not have been especially dwelt upon, but it was relevant, and the product placement was far more subtle than last time.
Sadly these are outweighed by a plot that was really pretty lacking. We just had A to B to C. When M tells Bond to stop killing the next person, time after time, we realise that this is indeed all that he’s doing. The film really drags in places, and the reasons for travelling to film’s various locations are thoroughly random. The set piece at the Viennese opera was fascinating, but ultimately a waste of time.
A few people questioned the title, but we hear the name of the criminal organisation – Quantum – at least a couple of times before the denouement. If anything, it’s the rather pointless criminal organisation lapel pin that all members get given as part of their gift packs that seems more questionable. Quantum, it seems, is supposed to be the new SMERSH or SPECTRE.
The action sequences were a little pedestrian really. They were perfectly well done, but there wasn’t the horror of the Aston Martin flip in Casino Royale, or some of the more inventive chase sequences of previous Bond films. On the other hand, the Bourne films have done the more realistic car v car chase better – especially the Moscow sequence in the Bourne Supremacy. The opening chase was fine although ultimately baffling since we basically joined the action mid-flow. I was most disappointed with a sequence in which Bond leaps out of plane without a parachute. He has an accomplice in Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who has a parachute to share with him, but it felt much less real than a similar stunt performed at the start of Moonraker. That time around, it was done “for real” by a stuntman (you can see that the stuntman must have had a parachute under his shirt). This time we clearly see Craig’s face, but CGI has obviously been employed.
The film really could have done with a few wider shots giving the audience a broader perspective on the action. The Bourne films, and to an extent Saving Private Ryan or Ronin have increased the verisimilitude we expect from action films. But sometimes the wide shot giving us a clear picture of what’s happening makes the stunts look better.
While overall, there weren’t the crashing product placement bits that we saw in Casino Royale, driving around Haiti in a Ford Ka seemed a little odd compared with the island’s other vehicles.
I’m sure that people who suggest that the script ran out of time before the writers’ strike are pretty much on the money. The plot really wasn’t there, and you begin to wonder how many expository sequences ended up on the cutting room floor. Gemma Arterton’s agent Field was woefully under-written. While she jumped into bed with Bond instantaneously, and that should always happen with a Bond film, it does rather reduce the amount of empathy we have with Bond over the death of Vespa, who he’s supposed to be avenging even though she’d double crossed him. Aside from that, she had nothing to do aside from reprising a death last seen in Goldfinger.
As much as anything this film is very much setting up the next film. Quantum is surely going to be the cloudy terror organisation of at least one more film. I suppose that Al Qaeda or the like could never work, because there’d be no opportunity for Bond to swan around in a dinner jacket at a casino or similar.
It’s not the worst Bond film of recent times – that prize has to remain Die Another Day with its invisible car. But let’s hope that next time, the producers spend some time getting a script together first. The habit today of knowing the exact date a film is due to open before the script is finished and the first day’s shooting has taken place is reckless. And I think that’s why Quantum of Solace is so poor after we’d had such a good re-start with Casino Royale.
Finally, a small addendum. The print we saw was prefaced by a slightly different FACT anti-piracy ad to the usual. We had a Daniel Craig voiceover informing us that thousands of people are employed by the film industry as we saw a few seconds of behind the scenes footage from Quantum of Solace. He implored us not to record the film.
On the way into the cinema, a security guard was searching bags to stop precisely this, although an HD camcorder would easily have fitted in my jacket pocket without the need for a bag.
But it’s probably a nicer thing to do than just tell the audience that you’ll go to prison (v. unlikely). It should still be pointed out that everyone in the cinema had paid to watch the film on the big screen and not download it. But it was the least bad anti-piracy warning I’ve seen yet. FACT still need to note that their number is actually (020) 8xxx xxxx not 0208 xxx xxxx. That really annoys me for some reason.