Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Quantum of Solace

 

Review by David Tredler

Starting a franchise such as James Bond over was not an easy task. Yet Casino Royale was such a success that following it with a direct sequel, the first in the history of 007, seemed like an even bigger, and more delicate, bet.

Quantum of Solace starts almost exactly where Casino Royale left off. Following Vesper Lynd’s death, 007 captured the mysterious Mr. White, and hands him over to M to ask him a few questions. That is how the MI6 discovers the existence of a large, unknown organization that looks to “have people everywhere”. Following a lead in Haiti, Bond encounters a man who seems to be highly-ranked in that shadowy organization: one Dominic Greene, a classy Frenchman interested in South American natural resources.

Offering the job of helming the new Bond movie to Marc Forster, who up until then had only directed heavy dramas or quirky dramedies, was audacious. Especially since Quantum of Solace’s screenplay hosts more action sequences than in Casino Royale. I fact the first 15-20 minutes of the film are all about action, so much so that at one point, I wondered if the film’s adrenaline was ever going to subside. It may sound exciting on paper, but there comes a point when you want the film to take a breath, the characters to develop, the plot to grow. Fortunately, after those first 20 minutes, Quantum of Solace finds its pace. A pace that does not exclude action (on the contrary), but a pace that also, and foremost, continues defining the character of Bond.

After so many films when 007 was just a super spy who made his charm act shagging and killing without any real deep interest in the human being behind the number, the dyptich that is Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace manages to draw the spy and make him more alive and fascinating than ever. Quantum may have a more simplistic screenplay, with secondary characters less developed than in Casino, but the dynamic of the film is a natural echo to the previous installment, making it as gripping as it can be.

Many people compare the direction the Bond series is taking to the Jason Bourne movies, because the action is stronger, dryer, and more realistic. Many make a quick parallel between the two characters and conclude by saying that now Bond is just a copy of Bourne. The inspiration in the new direction is evident, and yet Bond is not just a copy of Bourne. There is something in Bond’s character that makes him, and the films he appears in, original and exciting. His is a rich, long history, dating all the way back to the sixties, making us look at him as someone we know by heart. And yet for the first time, he seems like an unpredictable character. Never has the super-spy been so human, so understandable, and at the same time so lethal.

Daniel Craig is no stranger to that new Bond fascination. In Casino Royale, his charisma was impressive, and offered a new face for 007, one we did not expect. This time, the phase of acceptance of that new face has passed. And it takes only a few minutes to realize that Craig’s appropriation of the character is definitive. The British actor brings more to the character than any actor before him (yes, even Connery). He has strength and charisma for sure, but it does not stop here. Craig elevates Bond to melancholy, to bitterness. Bond, that white hero of the Crown of England, has never been so grey, so tainted with a sense of tragedy.  The last sequence of the film translates this feeling perfectly. Just like this beautiful opera sequence, in the middle of the movie, orchestrated with maestri by Forster.

I hesitate to say that from this point on, James Bond is complete, and ready for steady adventures. Because Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace may have forged a new Bond, but what they (and Daniel Craig) have forged as well is the sense that from now on, you can never know what to expect from James Bond.

4 / 5 stars
 
 
 

By Mark Lengieza

I am a Bond fan.  I have seen most of them at some point or another.  I am not a fanatic, and I don’t own them on DVD, but I do get excited when the next installment comes out in theaters.

I have to say that before I saw Casino Royale, I had my doubts about Daniel Craig as the next Bond.  I happened to really like Pierce Brosnan (he is the Bond I grew up with) in the role and was sad to see him go.  I am not as high as some others on the final result of Casino Royale; I don’t think it was the best Bond ever or anything like that.  Craig, however, definitely held his own, and the story was good.  I just felt the ridiculous poker scenes detracted from the overall enjoyment for me.  Still, it was a very good film.

With Quantum of Solace, the first real sequel in the Bond franchise, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  I didn’t know if it would be a straight revenge story or would there be new twists and turns and plot points as well.  What I got was a combination of the two, which for me definitely got a bit confusing.

I think the film relied a little too much on action (and don’t get me wrong, I love action), and the sequences were terrific.  If I was reviewing it as a pure action flick, it would have been better.  But this is Bond.  There is supposed to be a great story.  There are supposed to be interesting villains.  I didn’t come away feeling this way from Quantum.  I feel like they tried to include too many angles too fast without really explaining them well, causing my confusion.  The villain wasn’t developed well, and the final confrontation seemed rushed and didn’t really leave me with a sense of closure.  Overall, the story was a disappointment.

However, what really saved the movie entirely for me was Craig.  He made Bond his, and I can’t wait to see more of his portrayal in the future.  He was completely right for the role.  He just oozed cool.  He is not the suave, upscale Bond like Brosnan was.  He is the gritty, play-by-his-own-rules, attitude-driven Bond that it seems he is absolutely perfect for.  Every time he was on screen I was mesmerized by his performance.  He shined; there is no other way to put it.

So even though the story wasn’t the best, Bond was back and maybe better than ever.  The action was great and I definitely enjoyed myself.  I have to give Quantum of Solace respectable marks.

3 ½ / 5 stars

 

 
 

Review by Paul Edwards

Casino Royale was one of the best James Bond movies ever to grace the silver screen. We not only saw a new Bond, that had ditched the cheesy lines in favor of more rugged affair, but also a Bond that could take you down and not feel much afterwards. This is also a Bond that had feelings, he was still a womanizer, but somewhere, in that cold black heart of his, he found Vesper Lynd(Eva Green) that touched him. I was frankly surprised by that and happy with the depth it brought to the story. This brings us to Quantum of Solace, the first direct sequel to a Bond movie, or so I’ve heard.  However, in terms of thematic and cinematic quality, Quantum of Solace is a far step down from its predecessor and a great disappointment.

We can begin dissecting this disjointed mess by looking at the director. Mark Forster has never directed a movie like Bond. Before Quantum of Solace, he previously directed the intense and underrated drama, The Kite Runner, and the Will Ferrell dramedy Stranger Then Fiction. While in some aspects his aesthetics work really well in certain dramatic scenes, in the action scenes it becomes a jumbled mess. It becomes more like a poor Michael Bay rip-off then any of the promise that was seen in The Kite Runner. This is seen early on in the brutal 20-minute flat-out chase scenes that were so poorly edited it was hard to even see who or what Bond was chasing and what it had to do with the plot. It just turned into a streaming flash of colors and lights and Daniel Craig. Or even worse, Camille (Olga Kurylenko) could be saying something and literally, in the middle of her sentence, there is a flash of scenery or a random cinematic shot, and then in another flash and Camille is talking about something else. It just doesn’t make any sense!

Furthermore, even though Forster has shown a flair for dramatic intrigue, this is actually the worst part of Quantum of Solace. Like Eagle Eye before, the movie goes from frantic, non-stop, incoherent action, to times of absolute nothingness. The extremes vary too wildly and too often for the story to make any sense. Any when the story begins to bring an end to the loose ends, it blows something up and starts all over again.

Finally, out of the many gripes I had with the film, the casting of Olga Kurylenko as the bad girl was just awful. I did not find her believable at all. It was her voice. She did not sound like someone who had lost something, in stead she just sounded like she lost a line. It was bad. Her presence was in the “oh look at the pretty girl” variety, then the take me seriously because I might kick your butt variety. That greatly took away from her character and made her seem more like a caricature then an actual character.

Overall, I cannot give this a recommendation.  While Casino Royale was great in all aspects, Quantum of Solace seemed to have lost its way and turned the Bond we know, or at least thought we knew, into something else entirely. This Bond ain’t no Bourne.

1 ½ / 5 stars

Comments (2):

  • Keyser Soze @ 11/11/2008 ( 2:47:30 PM )
    While I have enjoyed Craig's work (Casino, Layer Cake), I would have loved to have seen what Clive Owen could have done with the role. His character portrayal in Croupier very much lent itself to giving 007 a shot.
  • baker @ 11/20/2008 ( 10:57:14 AM )
    i hav watched the whole quantum of solace and still didnt understand what the hell was all going on in the first half,why the hell was the villain to be feared so much or the rest of the story ,any one to help me out ?
    [in fact there was one help offered,jus forget all, sleep well ;-) ]
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