Monday, November 17, 2008

Maggi Noodle Review: Quantum of Solace

Ab tak 22

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in Quantum of Solace.

That's about all I can say about the latest Bond flick without wondering why the character had to regress.

Casino Royale ended with the most perfect ending to the revamping of the James Bond franchise. When the movie came out, I was moved enough to write:
What the filmakers have attempted is to reinvent the Bond franchise by starting at the beginning, before Bond even became a full-time OO agent in MI-6. Consequently, Brosnan could not have played this role. It needed a newcomer and it is a clever launch vehicle for Craig. In the third act the movie meanders a little bit as Bond recovers from the trauma of his last encounter with the bad guys. Then there is a twist, and from the wreckage emerges a more definitive Bond. At the very end he walks past a fallen bad guy, the iconic Bond music playing for the first time in the movie, and then he looks into the screen and identifies himself. I do not get goosebumps often enough in a movie theatre these days, but after this scene I was tingling.

James Bond is back, and how!

Quantum of Solace picks up, ostensibly, from where the previous movie ended, but that is just a cosmetic way of saying that Bond is still hurt by the betrayal of Vesper Lynd. Dialogue is at a premium, and explanations have to be gleaned from half-sentences and meaningful glances at out-of-focus photographs. The movie goes from one exotic place to another, mostly long-shots of vistas before settling for interior shots filmed in a studio. The set pieces have always been an attraction of Bond movies and the action almost incidental. But in this movie, the set pieces exist to move the story along. And they would have, if the action scenes had been more comprehensible.

Every fight/action scene is comprised of quick cuts that last less than half a second, if that. A blur of hands, legs, guns, faces, walls, grunts, groans, and gasps ensues and then, about 5 minutes after it starts, Bond stands alone over the dead body(ies) of the fellows he wrestled with. This Bond is a weird fellow - no pithy comebacks, no time for niceties, and least of all, no regard for the gentle art of persuading the villain to spill the beans. Everyone he meets he kills, except for M (curiously referred to as Mum multiple times in the movie) and the heroine.

All the heroine gets for keeping the movie (and story) afloat - yes, she is that good - is a chaste kiss and a quick goodbye at the end. This Bond is not only more caveman than couth, he is a lousy judge of women, too.

As the kills mounted and the sheer joy of an escapist fare eluded me, I looked for small moments to keep me going. There is a great action sequence where the background music of Puccini's Tosca keeps pace with the fighting, but it is too short-lived to sink in. Naturally, the scene ends with Bond throwing a bad guy off the roof without waiting to get the information from the guy that he purportedly seeks.

If the bad guys did not telegraph all their moves to M, Bond would not know whom to kill next. If this is how the rest of the Daniel Craig movies turn out, it may be time to have his license to kill revoked. Permanently.

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