Friday, November 14, 2008
I must admit that I am totally baffled by many of the harsher critical reactions that have greeted Marc Forster's striking and intense Quantum Of Solace. Few expected it would top the astonishing Casino Royale, and it doesn't, but it doesn't try to. Instead it looks to continue and expand on the series reviving debut for Daniel Craig as James Bond, and for the most part it does so quite strikingly.
Let's get the problems out of the way first. Forster's film is cut too tight and at 106 minutes it is the most needlessly short James Bond film of the series. The film's ultra modernistic, and at times distracting, editing style is its biggest fault. Forster, inexperienced with action scenes, is too eager here to cover up any possible mistakes or lapses of logic with rapid fire cutting, and some of his choices damage a few of the film's key sequences.
Editing problems aside though, Quantum of Solace is a rousing and exciting film. Deadly serious, action heavy and at times downright haunting, Quantum of Solace is one of the strangest and most eerie entries in the Bond franchise. Equal parts chilly art house feature and over the top modern action film, Quantum of Solace teeters on a thin line but it does so beautifully, and I will venture a guess that the film will become one of the most discussed and disagreed upon entries in the series.
The film's biggest attribute is indeed its seriousness. Fears that the series would fall back into the goofiness that plagued so many of the franchise's lesser works are quickly dashed as Quantum of Solace announces itself immediately, with a jarring and brutal car chase sequence, as being all business. It's one of the angriest and most paranoid films in the Bond Canon, with Daniel Craig's 007 teetering on the brink of becoming a lost killing machine, all the while being under seemingly constant and sometimes terrifying surveillance.
Forster's film, working as a direct sequel to Casino Royale, rushes along at a fast and frantic pace but it's the more eerie and slower moments that prove most resonate, especially in the desert location near the end that becomes one of the most simultaneously wide open and claustrophobic settings for a James Bond finale ever.
The cast is uniformly excellent all the way through. Craig continues on what seems to be a blessed and destined mission to prove himself as the ultimate James Bond. He is joined again by the always solid Judi Dench as M., talented Jeffrey Wright as CIA agent Felix Leiter and legendary Giancarlo Gianninni as the mysterious Mathis. New to the Bond world is French actor Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene, the film's central if not overwhelmingly compelling lead villain.
The much publicised new Bond girls are a mixed blessing. 22 year old Gemma Arteton has very little to do as the delightfully named Strawberry Fields, which is a shame as she is a very charismatic and an obviously capable young actress. Olga Kurylenko, on the other hand, is extraordinary as the damaged and bent on revenge Camille. The 29 year old Ukrainian actress becomes one of the great Bond heroines in Quantum of Solace and her smart, adventurous, and believable performance in the film is among its biggest assets. I hope she returns for the next chapter.
David Arnold's terrific score deserves mention as well as being one of the freshest and most effective the series has had in awhile. Jack White's theme song, "Another Way To Die", sounded glorious playing along with the exciting and well done opening credits as well.
Quantum of Solace is already dividing long time Bond fans and I suspect it will continue to do so. A few quibbles aside, I greatly admired Marc Forster's rather ferocious and sometimes strange work. I suspect that time will be much kinder to it than many of the critics are right now. I will be most curious to see how it plays in relation to the next film, a work that many of us are expecting to be one of the great films of a series seemingly totally recharged.