Quantum Of Solace

Quantum Of Solace

***

Reviewed by: Robyn Jankel

The newest addition to the James Bond stable brings with it a storm of controversy, hype, secrecy, media attention, accusations, conspiracy theories and a list of personal gripes as long as the bill for the climactic explosions. In fact, for a movie about a spy, it is somewhat ironic that his name is on everybody’s lips. On the other hand, there rarely seems to be an enemy who doesn’t know James Bond’s entire social history, so perhaps it’s a case of life imitating art. Either way, the popularity of these films tends to make a review rather redundant; I mean, let’s face it, you’re going to see it anyway. But if the decade-spanning franchise is to continue, a post-mortem is controversial, but necessary. Much like the great man himself.

Quantum Of Solace takes places an hour after the end of Casino Royale. It follows James on his quest to seek revenge for the death of his former lover, Vespa, and his subsequent discovery of a secret global army of power-hungry men who are out to...well, that would spoil the story. And in all honesty, do you care? I sincerely hope not, because the chances are you won’t understand it even if you want to. I certainly didn’t. But then that’s not what we’re here for, is it? Plot schmot! Who needs a storyline when you’ve got explosions, gadgets, witty asides, Q and Moneypenny?

Copy picture

Well, yes. It would be a good argument if it weren’t for the fact that none of those are in it, either.

To be fair, there is a manic, explosive car chase at the beginning of the film. And I do mean the very beginning – the BBFC certificate has barely left the screen before Daniel Craig’s craggy visage fills the screen, hurtling full-throttle towards a tunnel in a lovely car which, one suspects, won’t be looking lovely for too long. There’s a long-winded scene in weapons-laden boats – a chase in a Ford Ka (sadly, I’m not joking) – a scramble across a selection of unidentifiable European rooftops – and the obligatory explosive climax. But other than that, there’s not a whole lot else.

Unlike its predecessors, there are no iconic scenes, for a start. James Bond films usually manage to pack in the visual feasts for men and women alike (such as spectacular cars and Craig in skintight swimwear), but Quantum does neither. Gadgets are limited to just one: a rather snazzy touchscreen table computer-type-thingamajig at MI5. James himself has nothing – not even the obligatory watch! It’s true that the distinctly lacklustre Die Another Day went overboard in the sci-fi department (invisible cars and Asian-to-Caucasian transformations – let’s reel it in, boys) and one suspects that Quantum is a knee-jerk reaction to the incredulity they inspired. But unfortunately, it has swung too far in the other direction, and lost what makes it “Bond”.

Yes indeed, Quantum Of Solace is lacking the unique 007 vibe. It’s easier to link it to the Bourne trilogy than the James Bond franchise. It’s a likeable enough film, and that’s the problem. It’s likeable. It’s all right. It’s not bad. It’s the latest instalment. It should be fantastic, adrenaline-fuelled, imaginative, boundary-pushing, thrilling! It should work, as the others do, as a standalone film; but it doesn't. It’s just not exciting or original enough to do that. And it’s a shame, because there are some neat tricks and quirks, but they never quite make up for its shortcomings.

The beautifully artistic place names don’t help us to keep track of Bond’s over-complicated, goof-ridden globetrotting. The provocative nod to Goldfinger and his 21st century equivalent is clever, but over too soon. The tough-guy-has-emotions angle is charming, but ran its course in Casino Royale. The humorous asides are funny, but so sparse that they’re almost inappropriate. And the undeniable charisma Craig keeps pumping out is just about enough to keep the whole thing moving, but unfairly places the burden of success on his shoulders alone.

The producers appear to have deliberately avoided the James Bond clichés, and doggedly pursued a new track, leaving behind well-known elements and instead embracing other successful action franchises. It’s almost understandable; in many ways, other James Bond films are out-of-date, clunky, misogynistic and predictable. But that, arguably, is what makes them special. And the problem with Quantum Of Solace is that it just isn’t.

Reviewed on: 26 Nov 2008
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Bond is back... and this time it's personal.
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Read more Quantum Of Solace reviews:

Stephen Carty ***1/2

Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis, based on characters by Ian Fleming

Starring: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton, Olga Kurylenko, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Stana Katic

Year: 2008

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, USA

Festivals:

London 2008

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