The Bond movies have survived 46 years and 21 movies. They have tackled so many subjects and tested so many genres that I guess it was only a matter of time before the next one tried to mix and match them all together. But really, when it comes to James Bond, don’t ever mix and match. It’s not going to work. Bond is a man who knows who he is and knows the kind of world he operates in. He doesn’t need a combination of styles to cramp his own. Quantum Of Solace, the 22nd, treats Bond as an action antihero, and gives him a world that is too technologically advanced. Even by modern standards. The result might just be one of the most disappointing and confused entries in this long-enduring franchise.
And the franchise will endure for another 46 years. Maybe even another 146. There are no signs of it slowing down or giving up. It’s hit rock bottom before but has somehow always managed to climb back up again, sometimes to grounds much higher than it’s ever been. Quantum Of Solace isn’t rock bottom, but it comes pretty close. It is so misguided in its intent and direction that it completely pushes a clever plot straight to the background, and focuses instead on bombarding 007 with countless chases and relentless machine gun fire.
It opens with a car chase (and heavy gunfire). That’s nothing new. Bond has opened with chases before. But less than five minutes after the opening titles, he is on the run again. This time on foot, and he’s the one doing the chasing. This chase reminds me of the parkour sequence from Casino Royale, but with less Evil Kenevil and more CGI. It climaxes by having Bond and his target falling off a bell tower and crashing through the glass roof of an unfinished atrium, where they swing around from ropes and cables like ballerinas, knocking scaffoldings over and creating the sort of destruction commonly seen in Bond movies. And that’s not the end of it. Solace also sees Bond involved in a boat chase, a couple more car chases, a motorcycle chase, and a plane chase. Chase chase chase. Everywhere he goes. Everyone he meets. There is always someone out to get him. You can count on it.
MI6 receives a facelift this time. And an upgrade. Most probably from Tony Stark. If technology seeks to serve justice better, then M can finally boast that she’s got the most advanced technological system on the planet (bar Stark’s Malibu pad), and all her underlings have mastered it. They can explain plots and details just by touching a massive elevated panel on the ground, and expanding them to zoom in on faces. They can pinpoint a person amidst an endless sea of namesakes and transfer that information to a wireless phone in the blink of an eye. It is, of course, all rubbish, and the actors have nothing visible to swipe or click. But heck, they look cool doing it. I have a question though: Why did the filmmakers deem it necessary to equip a movie, that’s meant to be grounded, with technology that’s so unrealistic?
The plot: A new criminal organisation, called Quantum, gambles with terrorists and dictators in order to take control of their land in exchange for peaceful and successful coups. One of its leaders, Dominic (Mathieu Amalric), runs an environmentally friendly company as a front, and plans to control the water supply of Bolivia by allowing its militia general Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) easy access to its government. Again, we have a villain with his sights set on dominating the world. This villain, however, is very much smaller than some of his predecessors, and he shrieks like a little girl when he fights. Perhaps he’s not Bond’s most imposing foe. And really, he isn’t one of the brightest either. He runs no extravagant lair that’s perched on a mountaintop or decked out with hundreds of security monitors; his base of operations is an old naval shipping warehouse, and he spends most of his time away from it, either in cars, or attending superfluous dinner parties and PR events. He has no ludicrous henchmen, just a couple of loyal bodyguards to help him with the luggage. He is so smug about his entire scheme that when he arrives at an isolated five-star hotel in the middle of the Bolivian desert, he strolls in munching on an apple. I’m glad Bond kicks his sissy ass and encourages him to drink motor oil.
I’ve forgotten to mention a few other characters, but I doubt it’s of much importance. The Bond girl is Camille (Olga Kurylenko). Yes, she’s pretty and sexy, and she can leap off buildings and land perfectly on the balcony, but no, she isn’t memorable. Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) return from Casino Royale, but they shouldn’t have. Their appearances are short and not very sweet. Wright, in particular, seems to be serenading everyone he talks to with his sexy eyes and gruff swagger. And Mathis heeds my advice by getting himself shot. There’s also a second Bond girl, played by Gemma Arterton, whose name is Strawberry Fields. Perhaps the writers thought it too sweet a name to be given to the hard-edged Camille, but at least it’s more exciting. The movie, however, isn’t exciting. It’s just a drab clash of loud sounds and flashing images. It removes itself from the style of Bond and makes him an action star, at points even a villain. If it wasn’t for Daniel Craig, Quantum Of Solace wouldn’t even be worth watching.
Best Moment | Many of the shots are wonderfully filmed. It’s actually a good-looking Bond movie, but sadly its beauty is overshadowed by its flaws.
Worst Moment | Well, there are many.