I did not look up director Marc Forster’s filmography until I had already written the below review, and now I am even more disappointed then I was previously. Before, this was a fun but forgettable romp over well-trod territory. Now it is a drastic divergence of quality from the man who brought you Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, and Stranger Than Fiction.
In this new era of a blonde and brooding Bond (while in keeping with the franchise’s tradition of terrible titles), 007 must compete with a cadre of solo badasses for whom he blazed a trail, and he’s got to stand out doing it. While Jason Bourne, Sydney Barstow, and Jack Bauer all owe their dangerous, isolating shadow careers to Her Majesty’s Secret Gigolo, they have taken the formula and run in exciting and contemporary directions with it. Bond had no choice but to drop the martini, throw off the cravat, and try and catch up. (Is this really the 22nd Bond movie?) Casino Royale (the first Daniel Craig-as-Bond movie) was to previous Bond films what Batman Begins was to that franchise: a dark, semi-realistic upgrade. Dark Knight was an improvement even on that, but sadly, Quantum of Solace does not follow suit to improve upon Casino Royale. It’s a pretty fun time, but it (like so many franchise movies seem to be these days) feels more like a generic movie with famous characters playing the leads instead of a new batch of names. (see: Narnia 2 and Star Trek 10, for starters.)
Quantum starts out with enjoyable old-school Bond nudie credits over the grating collusion of Jack White and Alicia Keys. Then the cameraman climbs into Daniel Craig’s pocket and shoots the rest of the movie from purse-dog perspective (only slight exaggeration here). This is sometimes excitingly alarming (jumping with the jumper through a stunt like that window dive in Bourne Ultimatum), but it’s also alarmingly jolting. Do you like being in the middle of some serious fisticuffs? Do you like the experience of being in more than one car crash? (OK, Paul Haggis we get it, you like car crashes!) Do you think elevators could do with some more grappling? If you’re a fan of excessive force (and what red-blooded American moviegoer is not?) you can ride the camera lens right into the baddie’s face.
Robot Chicken has a gag about one-sided fistfights, and their stop-motion hyperbole is not far from the mark here. We don’t really get a handle on (or care much about) how people are related to each other, or why much of anything is happening. We get a nice one-sided dogfight and some big explosions and a pretty, scarred girl and Judi Dench waffling pointlessly between indulgence and indignance. Craig is gruff, macho, inscrutable, and of course haunted, I guess. Olga Kurylenko (The Girl) is mysterious, inscrutable, and takes it in turns to be highly competent and rescue bait. Mathieu Almaric makes for an interesting and different villain, but his skills are not enough to focus the movie.
Quantum of Solace, despite its reported clock time of 106 minutes, is also quite long. The ladies’ costumes are weird, the premise is weirder, and it just kind of feels like a mess when all is said and done. It was a diverting mess, but what does it say when the further a Bond movie deviates from the classic Bond formula, the better it is? Overall I’d have liked the camera to feel just 3-5 feet further away and have some reason to care about anyone on screen. I know I’m greedy, but this isn’t July! It’s the fall when all the “good” movies come out.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 11/14/08
Time in minutes 105
Director Marc Forster