Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review: Quantum of Solace (**)

Directed by Marc Forster

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith, Joaquin Cosio, Fernando Guillen Cuervo, Jesus Ochoa.

2008--106 min.

Rated PG-13 (violence, sexual content)

Reviewed by The Teen Critic on November 15, 2008.

In 2006, "Casino Royale" stood tall in my mind as one of the best action movies of the past few years. It was fresh, exciting, riveting, innovative, and (at 144 minutes) nearly epic in its execution. Daniel Craig, it seemed, couldn't go wrong as James Bond, delivering a brilliant performance and making a darn-good action hero at the same time. I gave it four stars as an action movie second only to "Mission: Impossible III," that year's best summer flick. With "Quantum of Solace," the tables have been turned. This is a brooding, indecipherable action film, every bit on the level of "Hancock" or "Jumper." Mind you, the film is a bit better than those, but it is every bit as disappointing.

Kicking off mere minutes after "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" largely takes place in Bolivia, as Bond tracks down Dominic Greene, whose evil plan consists of thirsting sections of the country, then upping the prices and getting lots of money for it. Meanwhile, Bond continue's to find the killers of his one great love, Vesper Lynd (who was played so brilliantly by Eva Green). The "Bond Girl" this time around is the nearly emotionless Camille, played by Olga Kurylenko as a drone going through the motions. Even the kiss between them feels almost reluctant.

"Quantum of Solace" is not a good movie. It is a very skillful one, though, and the action scenes are almost at a "Bourne" level of excitement and tension. But couldn't director Marc Forster (who stepped so right with low-key dramedies such as "Finding Neverland" and "Stranger than Fiction," yet somehow steps so wrong with this film) made the plot even a bit more accessible? The bits above are stuck together from the tiny sections I was able to decode. I did not understand one bit of the plot, thus the action scenes were purely empty of humanity. You never got that with "Casino Royale."

Daniel Craig, again so good in the original, is utterly emotionless as Bond. This takes some sort of meditation to consider. Craig is good in everything (even last year's disastrous "The Invasion), so where does he go wrong? Easy: He loses all credibility when things are not blowing up and people are not getting shot. He nails the action hero. But at least the chemistry with Vesper Lynd goes beyond the physical realm; I never less than believed in the relationship between Bond and Lynd. His chemistry with Camille is nearly nonexistent. They spend half the movie arguing and the other half moping.

There is a problem with "Quantum of Solace," and that problem lies in the storytelling. Earlier this year, "The Dark Knight" surprised us with a labyrinthine plot that we could invest our interest in and not become confused. All of its trick were laid out on the table sooner or later, if not at the beginning, and the movie was a masterpiece for it.

I'm not sure "Quantum of Solace" has any tricks. As far as I could tell (which wasn't very far), the proceedings were utterly predictable. There were no "revelatory moments." At the same time, though, I had no idea what was going to happen, because I didn't know what had happened or how we got there. Or why. Or why I should have cared. What Bond is this? Agent 006.25?


Joshua said...

I really think that Daniel Craig's attitude throughout the entire film was meant to be that way. He lost someone who he cared deeply about, but someone who didn't care deeply about him. Not only that, but in Casino Royale, you can tell he is a rebel. He will kill someone or keep hunting someone until the job is done. Which I thought, in this movie, was brilliantly done. This movie really did not have the seriousness of the first. It went back to the old Pierce Brosnan Bond Films. Where it was alot more "fun" action. Which I thought it did perfectly. Not better than the first, but nonetheless a great action movie.

Actionman said...

I enjoyed Quantum way more than Royale overall. Royale was too bloated and spent too much time watching the characters play cards.

I also prefer the intense action stlyings that Forster brought to the table. Martin Campbell is more classical in his directorial choices but I love the Bourne imprint that was clearly felt on Quantum.

Quantum closed up the loose threads left dangling at the end of Royale and then created some new plot threads for the next film to continue discovering.

It was just an intense, hard-core action film and I loved it for what it was.