Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace

This is the most excited I've been about a new James Bond movie, probably ever. Casino Royale was my favorite movie of the last five years, maybe ten (note I didn't say it was the best, just my favorite). Since I bought that movie on DVD last year, I've probably watched it every few weeks and thoroughly enjoyed it every time. So, having narrowly survived the Great Geek Disappointment of 1999, I prepared myself to be sorely let down by QoS. Fortunately, that was not the case, while certainly not the revelation that Casino Royale was, it's a solid, entertaining movie that finishes what CR began by showing the beginning of 007's career.

The first thing you notice about the movie is that it is a true sequel to the previous film, beginning minutes after that one ended and following up on the organization behind that movie's villain. From there, it becomes a much more conventional Bond flick. Bond globe-trots to several stunning locales and uses what has to be one of the worst investigative techniques ever, the old "kill a random dude, take his place and see where that gets you" trick, but it always seems to work for him (see also: Diamonds Are Forever). They also bring back the 21st Century version of SPECTRE, QUANTUM. Unlike SPECTRE, this group seems to be more about making money than chaos, but it does make me wonder, how much more money could a secret organization make rather than a regular, corrupt multi-national corporation. Honestly, they can't be any richer than Exxon, can they?

Anyway, Bond moves through the organization's layers, trying to figure out both what their ultimate plans are (this time at least) and also find out whether his lost love, Vesper, betrayed merely her country, or him too. By the end of the movie, these questions are answered and dealt with in satisfactory fashion. In that lies this movie's strength, as it shows us the evolution of how Bond became the guy we've known all of these years.

However, there are weaknesses here, the biggest for me were the action sequences. They were all very quick-cut and closely shot. This seems to be something that happens when a director is making their first action film, as another good example of this were the fights in Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan framed those fights very close up and you couldn't really tell what was going on and it always kind of irked me. You can't tell whose fists were whose, and it was very confusing. Now, this could have been the directors' intent, wanting to establish that fisticuffs are confusing and jarring, but it's just not pleasant viewing. The other thing was the very tight framing of the characters in the action scenes, when you're filming a chase across Siena, Italy's rooftops, it helps if you back off a little to establish where the individuals are in reference to each other. I know, this sounds like little shit, but it bugged me.

Oh yeah, there were also plot holes and implausibilities so big, you could drive a truck through, but hey, a Bond flick without those just wouldn't be a Bond flick. Anyway, here are some quick bullet-points with some of my more random thoughts about the movie:
  • It was nice to see Bond go back to the old Walther PPK instead of the P99 he's been carrying since Tomorrow Never Dies. Thus is the curse of my existence, I notice this shit.
  • Yeah, I have a feeling I'm not the only guy who was thinking about mixing up a "Vesper" after I got home. One of these days I'll remember the ingredients when I'm at the liquor store....
  • I really don't get all of the hate for the title, I mean really, is it any worse than Moonraker? Also, at the end, it did make sense, didn't it?
  • And oh yeah, while the title sequence (by MK12) was pretty sweet, that song by Jack White and Alicia Keys, killed me. It wasn't awful, but it was the kind of song that's going to sound dated by the time this movie hits video that we'll all be wondering what they were thinking.
Also, some non-Bond related bullet-points:
  • No Star Trek trailer!?!?!?!? Seriously, I thought about complaining after the movie. I'm really pissed that I didn't get to see it on the big screen.
  • So that Sprite commercial comes on, the one where the dudes "dive" into the basketball court? Older dude behind me says, "Oh yeah, like that could happen." You think?
  • Listen lady, Liz Claiborne went out of style in 1995, and if you're wearing enough of it to burn the nostrils of a guy sitting a full ten feet away from you, you may have over-applied.

So I liked this movie quite a bit, though I'm not in love with it yet. I have a feeling that I'll be catching this one in the theatres at least one more time (especially since there's a rather weak slate of films this season), so we'll see if it will overtake Casino Royale in a year's time, when it's ten o'clock and I'm looking to turn off my brain for a few hours.


frandy said...
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Bill said...

We did see the Star Trek trailer which, oddly enough, didn't get discussed afterwards.

In complete agreement regarding the action sequences; shot waaayyy too close to the point of it being seizure-inducing. I basically felt like I was watching a director who was a bit in over his head regarding the magnitude of the story.

But did you also notice the many times throughout the movie where a character's costume or look didn't match from shot to shot (e.g., how the hair is parted, whether or not the collar is tucked in or out, etc.)? That's the stuff that bothers me the most, especially when its someone's job to notice this stuff. Total amateur hour.

That being said, I still enjoyed it very much and some of the locations were absolutely stunning.

lp said...

i liked it better than... whatsit... casino royale... but the transformersesque action sequences and the lack of explanation about, oh, anything, kind of bugged.