Friday, November 14, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

The latest release in the James Bond franchise is a first; the first sequel in the entire run. It is a sequel to Casino Royale (2006). One thing about sequels...if you are going to do one, either use the same director or else use another director who has the same vision as you do.

Martin Campbell was a quite serviceable director. His action sequences were crisp and allowed you to have a sense of what was going on and why. Marc Forster clearly did not go to the same editing school.

Quantum of Solace starts out brilliantly. The opening sequence is innovative and fun, a definite visual treat for fans of special effects. The opening action sequence, however, was what really set the tone. 

In a high-octane car chase you are simply thrown into, Bond makes his harrowing way across a mountain into a town, wiping out numerous opponents on the way. Of course, you mostly have to realize it is his enemies who die in the various crashes because A) Bond ain't gonna die and B) you later see him walking around. 

The editing is atrocious. Remember the classic tracking shot in On the Waterfront that really set the standard for maintaining continuity in a shot, eclipsed only by Hitchcock's rope? This movie is the antithesis. Director Forster seems to think good action storytelling means hyper-active jump cuts, a pulsing, overriding sound track, and more rapid, jarring cuts.

At no point in this or, to be honest, any action scene do we really get an opportunity to sit back and enjoy what we are seeing. Again and again random arms are extended with guns, knives, or fists, bodies fall, and another 6 cuts are thrown across the screen.

Combine the rapid cutting with a bizarre, meandering story that is neither very complex nor easy to follow. Broken down, it goes something like this:

Camille (Olga Kurylenko) wants revenge on Bolivian dictator to be General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) for raping her sister and mother and killing them along with her father. She intends to get to him through Quantum member Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric).

Greene is putting Medrano in power in order to make money selling water rights. He is keeping the CIA away by promising them the oil they think he has found.

Bond (Danile Craig) is using Greene to get to Vesper Lynd's (Eva Green) boyfriend. His name? I am not sure. I mean, he has less than 2 minutes of screen time at the end of the film, that come seemingly out of nowhere, one can only assume the information given to Bond by Greene? That is my best guess.

M (Judi Dench) is trying to figure out whether Quantum exists and if so who they are and whether she can trust Bond.

Enter explosions, car chases, foot chases, gunfire, a boat chase, more gunfire, more foot chases, death via oil (!), and approximately 12 billion cuts lasting 2 seconds or less to make you think you saw something.

Open memo to directors: shaky camera work, rapid cuts, and showing small snippets of action does not good storytelling make. In fact, it can take otherwise acceptable storytelling and turn it into a train wreck.

This movie had the potential to be really good. Instead, it turned into a barely comprehensible story full of meaningless deaths, pointless action, and little entertainment. Boo hiss, even with the abominable Moonraker as part of the conversation, this one is a serious contender for worst entry in the Bond franchise. Very disappointing. 

I know I keep coming back to it, but I cannot say it strongly enough; directors, if you are going to lure us in with promise of an action movie...let us SEE THE ACTION! 

1 comment:

media boy said...

just got back from seeing Quantum of Solace; it was entertaining, though the it could stand to lose six or seven fewer chase scenes