|12-23-2008, 02:23 AM||#1|
In love with my remote control.
Join Date: Jan 2006
QoS - Exactly !!!!
I really have to tip my hat to somebody when they clearly take time to write a well crafted, thought out review. This one was posted at Commanderbond.net by a forum user called "Zorin Industries". Of course, I am biased as it reflects my thoughts exactly. It also reminds me of the valiant defence of TND I have myself posted on these very forums a few times. Anyway, on with the review which I think deserves wider airing and discussion.
To paraphrase MR WHITE, “we have people everywhere” ready to criticise QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Some of the critics have already ended their ROYALE inspired affair with Commander James Bond and abandoned him overnight like a bored double agent. But when the dust has settled on QUANTUM OF SOLACE, some deserters may ultimately reassess their allegiances as the 22nd Bond film is a masterful entry in the series and the one that really puts the Persian cat amongst the pigeons.
It is no longer CASINO ROYALE that rebooted James Bond 007 in the cinema. QUANTUM OF SOLACE is the real groundbreaking episode in Bond’s illustrious filmic career. Granted, ROYALE paved a path, but SOLACE allows BOND to strut down it and finally stretch his wings once clipped by VESPER LYND.
Accelerating through a genuinely menacing overture, this Bond launches proceedings with a u-turn spin on the traditional car chase. Multiple cameras and aerial master shots are literally shunted aside for a new and breathtakingly visceral depiction on the car pursuit – one that creates its danger with astute quickfire editing and dirty choices of shots. Knowing that Bond has reinvented the car chase on screen many times over, Marc Forster does exactly that again by getting us and his camera right in the heart of the chase via the fundamentals of cinema - namely editing.
A genuine jeopardy is created as the cars pile up and the Aston almost cries out in pain as it screeches this pre-title sequence to a cool freeze frame and Jack White and Alicia Keys dirty, superfunk grenade of a title song kicks in like a slap in the face. MK12’s parched title graphics are old school Turkish Delight ad with Daniel Craig’s silhouette blasting feisty crumpet off spinning zoetropes and sand dunes aplenty. And whilst this is brilliantly familiar and recognisable, QUANTUM OF SOLACE soon takes no prisoners in the audience as BOND loses and gains his own prisoners and allies as quickly as it does to fire a bullet.
There is genuinely no time to breathe when watching QUANTUM OF SOLACE (the freefall moment is full-on terrifying). The audience has to think as quickly as BOND does. Some may criticise the speed of the first half of the narrative. But in the real world, secret agents probably don’t have enough time to pull a gun on someone let alone stay at their pad for the weekend and overhear villainous schemes in every detail.
The early investigative nature of Bond’s journey is as quick and stylish as it is intriguing and – yet still – oddly familiar. SOLACE is not reinventing the wheel. It just remembers that characters stories – like wheels – need to go full circle to be most effective. All the main characters – M, LEITER, CAMILLE, DOMINIC GREENE, MR WHITE and of course BOND himself – have their own emotional arcs running concurrently or at odds to each other. Rarely have the characters in a Bond film been so rounded and narratively intertwined. And because of that, QUANTUM OF SOLACE emerges as a very mature 007 picture. BOND is perhaps less vulnerable in this film but you can see the bruises of CASINO ROYALE still sting – they are just beautifully underplayed. More importantly, they are not relied on to fuel the story. QUANTUM OF SOLACE is not a wake for VESPER. It is about moving on. The question BOND has to ask himself is when does that happen?
Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli often claim to set out to make the new FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE but end up crafting a new THUNDERBALL. QUANTUM OF SOLACE is very much in the FROM RUSSIA camp. Like the other actors sophomore Bond films (THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, LICENCE TO KILL and even TOMORROW NEVER DIES), SOLACE is a lean novella of a 007 film. It unfurls itself without the usual bombastic fanfare and bravado that was still evident and perhaps necessary in CASINO ROYALE. Like its second-round cousin FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, SOLACE is not an overblown story, it doesn’t globe trot for the sake of it and its characters imbue the film with a sort of mournful sadism.
The floating Tosca scenes are indeed the film’s triumph. But they do so without stalling the narrative. Forster and his editors editing choices are stunning as BOND lures his prey out into the open whilst Puccini’s characters do the same on stage. Like Sienna’s Palio paralleled with a glorious and balletic fight on ropes in a disused art gallery, Forster intercuts the tension and finality of Tosca with BOND unearthing Quantum’s big plan via gift-bag earpieces. Characters soon flee but meet in a corridor. Unable to pull their guns on each other, we cut to Tosca’s bullies doing that instead as Puccini’s librettos punctuate BOND on the run and a chillingly effective use of the greatest sound effect of all – silence.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE finally sees a 007 film get away from Bond-As-Icon. The 1990’s did not always allow the character to breathe amidst all the paraphernalia of James Bond plc. Even CASINO ROYALE had to (rightly so) blatantly present the tuxedo, the Aston, the Martinis, guns and girls. SOLACE has these elements in place. It just chooses to not showboat them or at least not use them to tick boxes that don’t further the story or our insight into BOND. The traditional Vodka Martini moment now becomes something that lays BOND’s character wide open. Defeatedly necking multiple Vodka Martinis in a series first for 007 (Craig does bitter drunk very well), the character now claims to not be able to name a drink he once – in happier times - christened a ‘Vesper’.
The cast is a savvy one. Olga Kurylenko’s CAMILLE continues the elegance and sadness of VESPER but is more of an alley cat than a trapped bird. Resourceful and feisty without “being a match for Bond”, there is almost a brother and sister vibe between the two. CAMILLE’s early scenes are perhaps clumsily handled (the first shared scene between her and GREENE is very unclear and the film’s only narrative glitch) but the character soon grows from being a defeatist avenger to someone much more emotionally practical for BOND. If 007 is in need of emotional closure, CAMILLE is his gadget of this film.
Gemma Arterton’s FIELDS is sadly underused, but then a temp secretary who is nearly played as a non-Eton Essex girl might well be. Her demise serves a stark lesson for BOND and M’s anger at him sees FIELDS brief cameo become more influential to his journey than first imagined. The death by oil moment is thankfully not as homage-y as first reported – especially when seen in the context of what happens next.
Judi Dench’s M is less sneering and overly ballsy in this film. She is a constant and reassuring presence for the audience and BOND, but does so without the hammy Purvis and Wade “Cold War” isms. I’m not sure I want to see her act as scolded child infront of Tim Piggot Smith's brief Foreign Secretary (Geoffrey Keen would never have done that - but then he was always a friendlier face in the office always stalling time before he has to see the "PM") but SOLACE is all about working within parameters you sometimes wish were not there.
Mathieu Almaric does well in the deliberately vague role of DOMINIC GREENE. LE CHIFFRE and Quantum’s villains do not need to make themselves clear to the audience. They are batons that BOND just has to stop being successfully handed on. Almaric plays GREENE like a reptilian Roman Polanski. There is obviously a greater plan here with Quantum. But we don’t have to know about it all now. GREENE is an impatient adversary but – again – a very familiar antagonist to the Bond series. Like BOND, FELIX LEITER and even M herself, there is a sense that DOMINIC GREENE too has to prove himself to his bosses – superiors we never see though their tentacles are stretching wide and deep. Only Giancarlo Giannini’s MATHIS is at one with his lot. It is not ideal for his character, but there is a peace to his role in this film rather than blatant exposition. His departure scene sees BOND struggle with his demons all over again – just as he thinks he has got them tamed. Daniel Craig balances loss with anger and fortitude stunningly well. Never has such an astute actor inhabited the role. He is still BOND as hero. We do not have BOND as flawed human like the rest of us. He is still a cinematic hero. A marked and repeated vibe when the film ended was the shared belief throughout a lot of people in the audience that Craig is already the most effective James Bond 007 we have seen. Phrases like “best” are always regressive, but they are definitely discussions people will have in the pub afterwards.
SOLACE does not emerge as a short Bond film at all. It is not devoid of exposition. It just makes the audience work a bit harder - not something we're necessarily used to with James Bond films. CASINO ROYALE naturally ended with BOND recuperating in Italy and that was around the 105 minute mark. The set pieces do not outstay their welcome. A tiny flaw of the African Rundown and Miami Airport scenes of ROYALE was that they were slightly overdrawn. In SOLACE, a car chase, a foot chase, a boat chase and a dog fight are played out as long as they might do in reality. The locations are indeed characters in themselves with Bolivia and its people (because of GREENE’s schemes) adding poignancy to a Bond film we don’t always see. SOLACE also feels like it escaped the necessary but sometimes obvious backdrop of Pinewood Studios. There is no sense of the second unit running away from the first in this. Bolivia and Haiti / Panama are beautifully barren, making way for the obvious parallels between the landscape and the characters mindsets.
Some savvy filmic feng-shui sees the gunbarrel cleverly moved, replacing the over-designed tics of the Brosnan motif with a 1970's simplicity and giving the usually ignored end credits a Bansky-style bloody wall motif on which to scroll the titles. David Arnold’s score is a tad over-egged earlier on (and Mickey Mouses the action shamelessly) but eventually becomes a very dignified project of his. Ignoring the obvious shopping mall pan-pipes he gives Chile and Bolivia a genuine ethnic soul and the likes of CAMILLE’s theme mirrors the dignity afforded ROYALE with VESPER’s theme. Arnold’s work on the Bregenz scenes soar with a driving theme that echoes Richard Robbins’ quintessentially English work on THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. The rest of the score is at its best when it occasionally tips a hat to the early 80’s synth drama of THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY and even THE SWEENEY.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE probably ends with its best scene. BOND tracks someone down and confronts them. But they are not alone and it is the dialogue Daniel Craig has with that person that underlines the stunning economy and narrative care that went into QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Like this film and the Craig tenure itself, the samey “Oh James” moment is replaced with a harsh attack on the job and the betrayals at play. BOND has his own metaphorical Funeral In Moscow, gives a complete stranger their own quantum of solace and - in doing so - finds his.
JAMES BOND is still in a state of repair - underlined by SOLACE continuing ROYALE's maybe / maybe not device of citing set pieces within unfinished and renovated Venetian houses, quarries, art galleries and scaffolding. There will be criticism at how BOND “sort of” leaves GREENE to his own devices at the end, but not when you remember M's mantra throughout the film of "we need them alive" has finally seeped into BOND's consciousness. ‘Repair’ and ‘renovation’ are key themes both in CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Watching them together is much advised. They are sister films cut from the same cloth. But SOLACE actually represents a bolder leap forward for James Bond than ROYALE (which for good or bad now seems very familiar when alongside SOLACE). The 2008 film takes the baton afforded to BOND in 2006 and not so much lets him run with it in the way he wants to, but allows Eon Productions to do likewise. Marc Forster is one of the best directors Bond has had. There is an economy and verve to QUANTUM OF SOLACE. It does not short change the audience at any point. And oddly, the film tips a hat to THE SPY WHO LOVED ME more than GOLDFINGER. Who would have thought that eh? But a rooftop push, a dressed up couple stranded in the desert, enough hotel receptionists to give Valerie Leon a run for her money, a nod to Moore's pseudonymn "Robert Sterling" and a gunbarrel that is very Roger Moore echoes 1977 just as much as it does GOLDFINGER 1964.
James Bond would be a fool to not take Marc Forster along for the ride next time round as – apparently – “James Bond Will Return”. Fancy that?