QUANTUM OF SOLACE (11/14/2008)
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric
My Rating: 5/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 65%
PLOT: Super-spy James Bond investigates a mysterious organization that seems intent on cornering Bolivia’s water supply. And yes, you read that right.
The trivia on IMDb for “Quantum of Solace” (Bond #22, for those keeping track) contains this revealing nugget: “Editing this movie was so stressful that co-editor Richard Pearson was brought in to assist Matt Chesse, to speed up editing. Director Marc Forster only had five weeks to edit the entire movie. In his previous movies, Forster would take an average of fourteen weeks to edit.”
Right there. That’s the biggest problem with “Quantum of Solace”, the reason it’s ranked among my least favorite Bond films. The stunts are there, the wordplay is there, the Bond girls are there…I was going to add “good villain” to the list, but more on him later.
Anyway, most of the important elements are there, but the movie never really makes us CARE about what’s going on. We do get the barest bones of a connection to “Casino Royale” from two years earlier, but that’s still not enough to bring this up to the level I’ve grown accustomed to with Bond films. This film feels more like one of Vin Diesel’s old “XXX” movies.
One of the biggest problems is the aforementioned editing issue. In “Casino Royale”, the fight scenes were clearly defined and visually exciting. (Remember that fight in the stairwell? BRILLIANT.) In “Q.o.S.”, the fight scenes are cut so rapidly I’d swear they were from a Michael Bay movie. Rather than make the scenes more exciting, this had the effect of making the scenes feel like the TRAILER for the movie, rather than the movie itself. It was distracting, and lessened the tension for me.
Another problem that kept me from caring what happened is the plot. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is the villain this time around, and I’m sorry, but he does not exactly come across as a dangerous fellow. He’s a little on the shorter side, he doesn’t dress impeccably (except when attending the opera), and his hair looks…greasy. This is not a villain; this is a sidekick LOOKING for a villain.
And his evil plot? Using an environmental advocate organization as a front to…corner the Bolivian water supply.
The water. In Bolivia. After decades of James Bond stopping villains who were looking to do everything from steal nuclear submarines to kill literally every human on Earth, it seems to me this particular mission could have been left to the varsity squad.
There are other elements that were distracting. David Harbour makes an appearance as a CIA agent whose character serves no real purpose other than to be the stereotypically obnoxious American. One scene takes place during a beautifully staged outdoor production of “Tosca” that looked so amazing, I almost wished I could have left the movie just to finish watching the opera. Gemma Arterton plays Agent Fields (first name Strawberry…get it?), another in a very long line of female characters in Bond films whose sole purpose is to sleep with Bond and/or get killed…or both. Usually both. (In an interesting first for the franchise, Bond actually does NOT sleep with the main Bond girl…go figure.)
The movie’s showdown takes place in a location that looked very real, but was ALSO distracting. What is a four-star hotel doing in the very middle of the Bolivian desert? We get a clumsy exposition line about the hotel running on “fuel cells” that are apparently poorly protected indeed, given the incendiary nature of the building during the climax.
Now I’m making the movie sound like a BAD movie. It’s not truly BAD, but it just feels so slipshod in comparison to its predecessor, “Casino Royale”.
So what happened here? Well, another tidbit on IMDb quotes Daniel Craig as saying this is the last time he’d work on a Bond movie without a finished script. So THAT’S what happened here. Shooting a movie without a finished script can SOMETIMES end well, but not usually. It’s like building a 30-story skyscraper using plans that only go up to the 15th floor, with couriers bringing new blueprints for the floors already under construction as well as the unbuilt floors.
But…BUT. There is one overwhelmingly bright spot in the film: the THEME SONG. Performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys, it marked the first (and, so far, only) Bond song to be performed by a duet. It’s called “Another Way to Die”, and it is a SCORCHER. Words fail me. It’s down, dirty, mean, and growling, complete with the occasional staccato brass flourishes so evocative of John Barry’s score from earlier Bond films.
Too bad the rest of the movie is unable to live up to the promise of its title song. Alas.