Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quantum of Solace Review

Overall Grade: B

At 106 minutes (including the credits) Quantum of Solace is the shortest Bond film of all-time. I initially was afraid that this short running time really meant that this Bond was just rushed into production and thrown together. It’s clear now that the short running time is due to its modest reach and its economical approach to telling its own story. Almost as a counterpoint to how The Dark Knight deepened and expanded Batman Begins, Quantum of Solace seems satisfied wrapping up Casino’s loose ends. The result is a satisfying and solid companion film to Casino Royale.

Quantum of Solace immediately jumps you into the action and it rarely does let up throughout the entire film. I won’t really give you a synopsis of the plot (as there really isn’t much to speak of) except that it requires Bond to briskly move from location to location, giving the film an energetic pace that is maintained until the final credits. It was said of Casino Royale and it cannot be mistaken here, the Bond that is portrayed in Quantum of Solace owes much of its pacing, editing, and action sequences to The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Not only do the action sequences continue in the close-up, quick-cut tradition of the films, but a couple of the sequences actually reminded me of similar sequences in the Bourne films themselves, especially the Tangiers sequence from Ultimatum that is broken into three different sequences in Quantum. Now the fact that the film is influenced by Bourne, doesn’t mean that its bad or boring, the opposite is actually true.

The action sequences are well-shot and give the film a visceral and brutal aesthetic. There is a lot of close up shots and what others call shaky cam, but I have to say that the sequences were still clear and coherent to me. Like their Bourne counterparts, Quantum’s action sequences offer just the right ration of wide and establishing shots to give the scene some gravity and clarity, but just enough close-ups to provide the immediacy that it wants. I can’t tell you how much I prefer these sequences to any number of sequences in the later Brosnan Bond films.

Although I stated that the film’s reach was modest, I wouldn’t say that it was a bad thing. I honestly feel like each film in this re-booted Bond series is singularly focused on introducing and giving James a particular character trait we’ve always assigned to his character. Casino Royale introduced us to the Bond that has learned to “Love Em’ and Leave Em’”. After Vesper’s betrayal in Casino we understand how Bond has learned to treat women so callously. In Quantum we wonder if Bond will be a man led by duty to his country or by personal vengeance. By the end of the film we actually witness Bond earn his “its only business” demeanor. I am quite thoroughly enjoying this stripped down approach to slowly building the Bond character that we all know and come to love. There are certainly faults to Quantum of Solace. The film seems to meander at times and for a film with such a short running time, actually feature quite a bit of filler and repetitiveness. Our main villain, while much less cliché, is also a bit flat. There is a danger to providing a subtle, he’s just like everyone else villain. The danger is that the audience will sigh and be convinced that he’s just like everyone else! Unfortunately that’s exactly what does happen. Our new Bond girl suffers a little of the same fate, and actually suffers under the shadow cast by Vesper from Casino as well.

Quantum of Solace is not the action epic that Casino Royale was, but it’s a worthy sequel. It’s a fun ride thats over pretty quickly. The extremely high production values, craftsmanship (Forster does a great job of directing), coupled with its modest reach make for a good times out at the movies, just not a very memorable night at the movies.