Wednesday, October 29, 2008

London Film Fest Day 15 - QUANTUM OF SOLACE - the Bond that dare not speak its name

Health warnings up-front. I despise the Ian Fleming Bond novels. They are vulgar, misogynistic, sado-masochistic fantasy novels that miss the mark on international espionage as far as Michael Bay missed the mark with PEARL HARBOUR. Give me the grime of John Le Carre any day. As far as the movies go, I appreciated the pre-Daniel Craig franchise insofar as it was camp, ludicrous, gratuitously luxurious and balls-out ridiculous. To me, Bond was only good insofar as he was driving pretty cars and the villains were stroking a white cat. I can, however, see why many people didn't like the old Bond flicks. The boundary between being camp and just being bad is easily transgressed viz. DIE ANOTHER DAY.

I think a lot of people who hate typical Bond movies liked CASINO ROYALE because it was trying to be a BOURNE film. It had characters with real emotions, a decent plot, proper actors and some okay action scenes. I, on the other hand, hated CASINO ROYALE on the grounds that if I want to watch a decent spy thriller, I'll watch THE BOURNE IDENTITY. If I watch a Bond film I want a Bond film. I don't want Bond driving a fracking Ford Mondeo and playing Poker in the Hotel Splendide.

My view is that the Bond franchise has now boxed itself into a corner. It's too ashamed to do anything too Bond - random rumpy-pumpy, gratuitous violence - but feels that it has to nod to the genre-tropes. So, in QUANTUM OF SOLACE, Bond does have a random shag with Gemma Arterton but it's all very perfunctory and joyless. On the other hand, the movie wants to be both an emotional character drama AND an action film. So you find yourself in a very odd mish-mash of a film. In the case of QUANTUM OF SOLACE, it's directed by Marc Forster (THE KITE RUNNER, STRANGER THAN FICTION) who knows how to do drama. Problem is, he can't direct action movies for toffee. It's all hand-held close-ups and frenetic editing so you can't tell what's going on. I was just praying for him to pull back, keep the camera still and just let the action unwind.

All this is to delay the inevitable point where I attempt to tell you the plot of QUANTUM OF SOLACE. This is tricky because QoS is a really badly written, poorly assembled film, with a narrative (and indeed a title) that never quite make sense. It's a terrible waste of Daniel Craig and Mathieu Amalric as the baddie. Gemma Arterton barely gets a look-in and Olga Kurylenko is once again just a body. The basic idea is that Bond is on the warpath after the shadowy evil organisation that forced the suicide of his lover, Vesper Lynd. So Bond goes ga-ga, indulging in a plethora of chase scenes in the company of similarly vengeful Camille (Olga Kurylenko). They are chasing down Dominic Greene (Amalric), head of a Smersh like org called Quantum (a-ha!) We know he's a purveyor of evil because he's essentially a utilities trader! And that's it. Welcome to Bond does Enron.

Obviously, all the deeply annoying crap from CASINO holds over here. The shameless merchandising; the endless chases; the embarassment at being Bond at all. But even if you liked CASINO ROYALE I think you might be disappointed with QUANTUM OF SOLACE because it doesn't even have the compensation of tight plotting and emotional engagement.

QUANTUM OF SOLACE played London 2008. It goes on release in the UK, France and Sweden this weekend. It opens next weekend in Bahrain, Belgium, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Oman, the Philippines, Switzerland, Argentina, Bolivia,Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine, UAE, Italy and Norway. It opens on November 14th in Hungary, Austria, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, India, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey and the USA. It opens in Australia on 19th November; in Spain on the 21st; in South Africa on the 28th; in New Zealand and Venezuela on the 4th December; in Uruguay on the 26th December and in Japan on January 10th 2009.


  1. I think you've pretty much nailed it with this review. Although I liked CR muchly, the director lets this one down with his poor control of the action.

  2. Shaky, not stirring.

    Paul Greengrass - of the Bourne-again shakycam school of cinematography - has SO much to answer for.

    Like PG's Bourne stuff, this movie would work best on the small screen, the smaller the better. Maybe your iPhone, or better yet, your neighbor's.

    For how to do big-screen action, take another look at Lawrence of Arabia.

    I think Craig's Bond could so easily be the best ever. But he needs a different director, and a steadicam.