Everything he touches withers and dies (2008)
October 19, 2012 3 Comments
Attacked during an interrogation by a member of a mysterious organisation who had been posing for years as M’s bodyguard, James Bond (Daniel Craig) chases the traitor through the streets of Sicily, eventually overcoming and killing him. Discovering marked banknotes in Mitchell’s apartment, Bond is lead to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), an environmentalist showing undue interest in an apparently unremarkable area of the Bolivian desert. Saving Camille (Olga Kurylenko), his ex-lover, from an assassination attempt, Bond goes off the grid leaving M (Judi Dench) with no choice but to react — first dispatching Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) to bring him in and then cancelling all of his credit cards. Reuniting with Camille, Bond follows a tip to the Atacama desert where he discovers Greene’s plans while Camille seeks revenge for her parents’ murders.
Following on from the critically acclaimed Casino Royale, the ridiculously titled Quantum of Solace was always going to have a hard time living up to Craig’s début. Director Marc Forster did himself few favours by picking up almost exactly where that previous film left off, with Bond speeding away from Lake Somo with a captive Mr. White in his car boot and the local police force in hot pursuit. Denying himself a stand alone story, and opening with a epilogue-esque car chase rather than a solid introduction, Forster’s film never really recovered.
While the franchise has often been criticised for its episodic nature, whereby no sacrifice or significant development seems to last beyond one single instalment, Quantum of Solace takes the story structure too far in the opposite direction, relying heavily on its audience’s familiarity with the previous instalment for optimal understanding of the current film’s plot. Characters, narrative and motivation are all inhereted from Casino Royale, as Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd looms heavily over the story without ever gracing it with her presence.
Indeed, most of Quantum‘s strongest elements are those it hasn’t invented for itself. Returns from Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini are all welcome, while Craig continues to develop his textured portrayal of Bond to far greater depths than Connery, Moore or Brosnan managed in twice as many films (or more). Instead of Green, however, we have the uninspiring likes of Gemma Arterton and Max Payne‘s Olga Kurylenko in the female leading roles, neither of whom should be trusted with a game of charades let alone a key part in one of the most celebrated franchises in Hollywood history.
Quantum‘s biggest issue, however, is its unintelligible screenplay. While Bond flits around the globe, apparently unperturbed by the fact that he has had all of his passports revoked, you can’t help but lose interest in the story, which is convoluted even by James Bond standards. Quantum, the mysterious organisation alluded to in the synopsis, you see, aren’t worried about world domination or swallowing up space ships with even bigger space ships, their concerns lie solely with the Bolivian water supply. With comparably little at stake, the sheer lengths that Bond goes to verge on self parody, whether he’s motorcycling from boat to boat, playing hopscotch with Siena’s street plans or crashing a plane into a network of desert catacombs.
At times it’s not even watchable. Wobbly cinematography and overzealous editing leave many of the action sequences utterly incomprehensible. I felt so uninvolved during the initial runny, jumpy, dangly bit that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor Italian woman who’d just dropped her shopping down the stair-well. If you haven’t lost track of what’s going on by the time Bond is chasing Greene through the atrium of a combustible desert condo then surely you’ll surely do so when the effects team accidentally light the green screen on fire. Although by no means as invasive as the slapdash camera-work, a series of garish, stylised subtitles are still enough to take you out of the movie and ensure you want to stay there.
Quantum of Solace is everything I feared that Casino Royale would be; derivative, humourless and tired. It is by far the worst Bond movie in the series, immediately outdoing the the likes of Moonraker and Die Another Day on account of being boring instead of bonkers. Double-taking pigeons are nothing compared to poor storytelling, a forgettable score and Gemma Arterton in a speaking role. Or maybe I’m still bitter that I had to miss Hallowe’en the year it came out in order to sell tickets to a crap movie.
So, this is it: after 22 months of BlogalongaBond all that remains is to watch episode 23, Skyfall. Things, surely, can only get better.