Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008, Marc Forster)

(originally written for a work newsletter)

What makes a James Bond movie different from a regular action movie? Bond movies have always been famous for their stunts, their chases, their gadgets, their villains, and their women. But then, you can find these in just about every action movie. No, I think what really distinguishes 007 from the everyday high-octane thriller is its style. From the beginning, Bond has been about wish fulfillment, in which audience members who yearn for globetrotting, high-rolling adventure (all in the service of one’s country, of course) can feed their fantasies, safely, for the price of a movie ticket. No matter what actor plays the role, the style has always been the most important element of a Bond movie, and it’s what’s most lacking in the series’ latest installment, Quantum of Solace.

What makes this especially disappointing is that the previous 007 adventure, Casino Royale was a high-water mark in the series, a fusion of the classic Bond style and the grittier, more hard-edged feel of the modern action movie. However, this time out the scales have tipped too far in the latter direction, with Daniel Craig’s lean, mean 007 reduced to an bullet-headed action figure. Making matters worse is the film’s over-reliance on the kind of frenzied, choppy action sequences that have been in vogue after the popularity of the Bourne movies. The fights and chases become little more than incoherent messes of motion and color, and more than one potentially exciting scene is squandered because it’s almost impossible to make out what the heck is happening onscreen.

As in any James Bond movie, there are a handful of worthy moments, including some lovely locations, and a few returning characters from previous adventures, most notably the invaluable Judi Dench as the long-suffering M. Yet for the most part, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that I’d seen most of Quantum of Solace before, and done better. In the past, Bond movies have set the pace for the action genre, so it’s a little upsetting to see the series ripping off other hits. I’ve seen all of the Bond movies at least once, and although I’ve sat through a number of subpar ones (you can’t convince me that Moonraker wasn’t meant to be a comedy), I’ve never been bored with any of them until now. To my eyes, 007 movies are about entertainment, and by failing to be much fun, Quantum of Solace fails the first- and most important- test of the series. Disappointing all around.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

No comments: