“This man and I have some unfinished business.”
This is a little unconventional, I appreciate that, but I think it will be a case of fillng in the blanks over the years. I have recently watched all the James Bond films and, with Quantum of Solace, I have now finished. I have written a post on Dr No – which you should really check out.
After Casino Royale, I was so excited about the film until the bad reviews arrived and then I heard the scathing attack from Mark Kermode. Before I sat down, the initial reaction was exceptionally negative and I do recall reviews even giving the film 1*. To say this upset me is putting it mildly because, for better or worse, the film does have problems and there is no point in pretending this isn’t true.
The Continuation of Casino Royale
I always found it difficult to stomach the ‘love’ James Bond had for Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale – at least the film had amazing action sequences and incredibly tense poker matches. In Quantum of Solace this weak aspect to the story (M constantly reminding Bond about the tragedy – “It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved”) whereby Vesper’s betrayal and ‘importance’ ultimately rings untrue. If it wasn’t Bond’s motivation, then it would be a better film – and, for better or worse, did it even have to be a motivation at all? For Gods sake – it’s his job! Another problem with Quantum of Solace is the repetition of Bond ‘going rogue’ (another facet which provides much comedy on The Hollywood Saloon podcast) – he does this in Casino Royale, Licence to Kill and Die Another Day – 4 out of 7 films, Bond rebels against M and MI-6 and, suprisingly, is accepted back. I swear, if Bond goes rogue again, M should have him killed.
I remember when Casino Royale was released, James Bond fans were concerned that with a reboot of the franchise, it would lead to remakes of the original James Bond films. Luckily, this does not happen – though in a similar way to From Russia with Love, whereby SPECTRE is introduced, Quantum of Solace provides a new ‘group’ that is undetected on MI6’s radar: QUANTUM.
One of the stronger aspects to Quantum of Solace is the casting of Olga Kurylenko as the girl-who-wants-revenge. Borrowing a theme we have seen before – The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only – she is much stronger than many characters. So strong, in fact, she does not even sleep with 007. Now that is strong – who can resist his charm. Funnily enough, having read a few books on the franchise, we have already seen this before. Timothy Dalton’s James Bond was much more serious and, in The Living Daylights, he only manages to have sex with one girl – at the end. At the time, Bond fans found this a little strange – but now we can see that, as I have mentioned before, Dalton was ahead of his time. In fact, the one girl he has sex with in Quantum of Solace died in a similar manner to Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) in Goldfinger – rather than covered in gold, Gemma Arterton’s ‘Strawberry Fields’ is covered in oil and found later by MI-6. This begs the question that, upon reading the script, it was clear that Bond did not seem to get the ladies and so this sexual activity was squeezed in to ensure Bond did not remain celibate for one film.
One thing I laughed alot at was a use of the script mentioned on ‘The Hollywood Saloon’ podcast, whereby Olga’s ‘Camille’ seems to appear multiple times, in a car, and state “Get in.”. I recall listening to the podcast and hearing her say this time and time again – but upon watching the film, it is clear that this is a little ‘feature’ of Camille – she turns up int he car the first time “Get in.”, Bond says some witty remark and she simply repeats her instruction “Get in”. This happens twice – the second time to remind us of that special first meeting. So, though incredibly funny when hearing it used on The Hollywood Saloon, it is not as alien and out of place Andy and Jon imply. But Camille remains strong – with a motive that is never undermined by 007.
With these flaws, we beg the question why. Is it the script? No. I don’t think Purvis, Wade and Haggis did a bad job – I’m sure it could be improved, but the story itself works. Though it wasn’t neccessary, I see the purpose in continuing the story from Casino Royale. This leads to the actors who, again, were brilliant. As I mentioned Kurylenko was great whilst Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene was suitably sinister, with a realistic edge. Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright, reprising their roles from Casino Royale, were suitably strong and, especially Leiter, I love his cynical edge. Wright gives the impression that he knows he is on the strong ‘super-power’ side – and that he will probably ‘win’ if he wanted to – but he is held back by superiors who can’t do their job. This cynicism complements Judi Dench’s M, who we trust and believe in as 007’s superior.
Behind the scenes though, we are missing some people. Marc Forster chooses a different production designer – Peter Lamont who has been involved with the franchise since Goldfinger, leading the production department since For Your Eyes Only is replaced by Dennis Gassner. Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson are on editing duties (Pearson having worked on The Bourne Supremacy with editing duties shared with Christopher Rouse), new to the franchise, whilst the second-unit director had been changed again (Alexander Witt on Casino Royale, Vic Armstrong the three films prior) to Dan Bradley, the second unit director on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. It was clear now, if there was any doubt with Casino Royale, that the Bourne Franchise was the style 007 was aiming for… but it simply doesn’t deliver.
I think the buck stops with Forster. His choice to have multiple sequences edited together in a way that confuses and cuts too fast is constantly a source of frustration. The opening sequence as cars chase Bond, rather than dwell on the vast space and skill of the stunt drivers, seems to cut every 2-seconds to another image from a different angle. Further to this, we have Mr White’s escape juxtaposed with a horse-race for no clear reason. One sequence, that starts off effectively, suddenly drops in quality when Forster tries to make it more grandoise. Bond realises who QUANTUM are, as they all try and leave the opera they are in attendance for and, following a nervous face-off against Greene, Bond is chased out and we see an incredible gun fight. I say ‘see an gun fight’ because you don’t hear a thing. Now we have the Opera music over the action sequence, rather than the rat-a-tat-tat of guns firing whilst we cut back and forth between the action and the opera. Thanks Forster – you mistake me for someone who cares about Opera and Horse-Racing – I watch 007 for the action and the stunts.
Finale and Fitting in the Canon
I used to despise this film, but after a second watch, I simply think it is an exceptionally weak James Bond film. Forster tried something that completely didn’t work and, now it is done, Broccoli and Wilson can learn from their mistakes and hire someone who can direct action … like Sam Mendes (wait-a-sec … Sam Mendes? As in the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road … not exactly action…). The end of Casino Royale gave the impression that Bond was back – and we could watch the next film without the ‘love’ and just enjoy the action. What we got was constant references to his ‘love’ in the previous film and action sequences that are not memorable. The biggest concern is that nothing is memorable at all – Casino Royale had the free-running, the poker-match, the macchete-fight in the stairwell to remind us of great action. This balanced out the love side to things. Quantum of Solace has all that love-stuff – “I was sorry to hear about Vesper. I think she loved you.” – but action sequences I canot vividly recall because how badly they were edited – nothing flowed. Can I remember a single stunt? Not really because it was so unclear. I remember the bit when Bond fell down and swung round – with foot attached to rope – killing ‘Mitchell’, but I just wish it was much clearer.
At the very least, by mentioning ‘Quantum’ at the end of the film shows that, in fact, there is much more to reveal. For example, we saw many, many members of QUANTUM at the Opera and, I would like to think, this is an opportunity for many missions in the future… lets just hope that with all the many extra months of prepatory time for Bond 23, they can right-the-wrongs of Quantum of Solace…