| The Red Right Hand
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Quantum Of Solace; definition, the smallest realisable unit of moral or emotional strength. The reason I have started my review with this is simply because nobody has a clue what it means. Granted, it may sound a little silly but the poignancy of the meaning behind it is incredibly fascinating - an implication that a tiny shred of humanity and compassion has been restored to a man who has been stripped of both.
The plot itself is incredibly simplistic. Taking place hours after the final scene in Casino Royale, Bond delivers Mr. White and MI6 learn of a new organisation. What then transpires is an hour and a half round-the-world chase. Motivated by duty, rage and vengeance, Bond [Craig] is determined to expose this new body of super-terrorists with or without his Government's aid or permission. The best way to view this movie is as a bridge between Casino Royale and any upcoming sequels; mixing points of closure for elements within Solace's predecessor and opening up new options for the next instalment. Granted, this isn't going to be taken well by a lot of fans, simply because it doesn't work very well as a stand-alone piece but if you really do call yourself a Bond fan, you will know that in Dr. No the secret organisation SMERSH is only hinted at and later revealed four releases later in You Only Live Twice. Personally, I applaud this effort and am incredibly grateful that the plots will hopefully thread together now, as opposed to the curiously random Brosnan missions of the 90's.
The problem is, Marc Forster is not an action director and as such the dramatic elements are well played out, but the action is less so. This is one of the film's main drawbacks; with all these action-happy sequences both the plot and emotional elements heavily suffer, thus making Solace inferior to Casino Royale. To be honest, I wasn't exactly surprised by this and almost expecting it. Dr. No / From Russia With Love, Live And Let Die / The Man With The Golden Gun, Goldeneye / Tomorrow Never Dies; all fantastic films but the original sets the benchmark so high, that it is difficult to top. Having said that, following a few of these are The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldfinger, two of the best-loved Bond films ever made - so I'm hoping this reboot will follow that pattern and produce an astonishing sequel.
As with Casino Royale, the cast are superb. Daniel Craig's Bond is becoming more-and-more a fan favourite as he edges ever closer to the gentleman spy of the novels and feels a lot like the Licence To Kill, Goldeneye days when Bond was a person rather than a fast quipping, arse-hatted man-slut. I didn't think Mathieu Amalric's Dominic Greene was as menacing as Mads Mikkelsen in Casino Royale but he certainly portrayed a captivating and disturbing entrepreneurial individual rivalling any of the flamboyant villains of the earlier films. Bond regulars Felix Leiter [Jeffrey Wright] and M [Dench] were exceptionally played out but I must confess, I do have a slight issue with where they're taking Dench's M. In both the original films and novels, M and Bond are continually at odds with one another and yet in these modern updates, they've become a little chummy, as if M is slightly charmed by Bond's charisma and personality. I could make a few gender-related observations but I don't want to be branded sexist... fuck it; I will. I think the fact that 60's M being a man created such a different air of tension. Whereas back then, there was a clear sense of hierarchy and authority, M had to reluctantly admit that Bond got the job done, even if he didn't approve of his methods. With a female M, the sexual tension and charm element comes into debate and as such, we have to wonder if M is in any way affected by Bond's manner. That's if you care about such things, of course.
So, the negative points. On first hearing the title song, Another Way To Die, I was appalled. I'm a White Stripes fan but the song just felt too bland and unimpressive. Having seen it with the opening sequences of the film, it's starting to grow on me and I must confess I like itů a bit. But it doesn't matter because the legendary Bond title sequence was bloody awful! I got the sand motif, I liked that but it was far too bland and repetitive. The final sequences were also pretty disappointing, no doubt matters that could be remedied in the next release but who knows? Actually, I'm not sure why the barrel sequence was at the end, either.
Finally, to address those who find it necessary to use the word Bourne. No, this is not Jason Bourne, it's James Bond. If you think just because certain elements have been removed or tweaked and modernised that they instantly render the entire character and series a duplicate of a recent spy-thriller series then you are incredibly fucking stupid. This is a reimagining, a reboot, a rebirth of the Bond series and as such modern techniques have been implemented in the creation process. People who whine, the gadgets are gone - who cares? The gadgets of the 60's have become the mobile phones and computers of today. Those who moan the humour and martinis are gone - who cares? At Bond's worst, the scripts would rely to heavily on disgracefully stupid puns and cheap catchphrases, phasing out all originality. To those who say Craig isn't Bond - get over yourselves. Daniel Craig is more Fleming's Bond than any actor to date; his 1960's toffery of drinking Dom Perignon and eating Marmalade are irrelevant now as you can buy his fancy plonk and poxy jam from bloody Tesco! The truth is, this is a new breed of James Bond and some of the most impressive material ushered into the series yet - get used to it.
UK - 31st October 2008
US - 14 November 2008
The Scene To Look Out For:
Despite the onslaught of constant action sequences, there was one in particular that really stood out. During a performance of Puccini's Tosca (it's an opera you uncultured gimbles) a shoot-out which is perfectly edited with the music. A powerful method used in The Untouchables, when Connery gets plugged.
I gave Olga Kurylenko a really hard time about her role in Hitman, I even made mention of her breasts as my highlighted character because they seemed to featured so bloody often; a fact I made clear by telling her to her face. But I must confess I was wrong. Ms. Kurylenko is in fact a very talented actress with a great deal of potential, at times even giving Craig a run for his money. Her character had spark and depth and she played it all out beautifully. If you're wondering, Olga - yes, this is an official apology.
"I don't give a shit about the CIA or their trumped-up evidence. He's my agent and I trust him"
In A Few Words:
"Superb follow-up, successfully exploring the emotional depths of Bond and making the character more entertaining to watch than ever"