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Zettel Film Reviews » Quantum of Solace – a cut-to-the-chase Bond

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Quantum of Solace – a cut-to-the-chase Bond

Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace

Quantum Of Solace – Marc Foster

Daniel Craig’s is a ‘cut-to-the-chase’ Bond in every sense. Solace begins where Casino Royale left off and opens with a car chase. A bit of plot; then cut to the sea chase; a bit more plot and cut to the air chase. In between, a couple of Jason Bourne-like semi parkour roof chases. I would never have expected to call a Bond movie ‘overchased’ as we might say.

Bond’s other legendary pastime – bedding women has dropped off a bit if you’ll forgive the expresssion. Craig’s Bond certainly has a cut-to-the-chase sex appeal. Daniel has mastered only one half of the essential cinematic acting skill – being ‘still’ on camera. The other half escapes him and therefore us – there is nothing, but nothing going on behind the eyes. While of course I can imagine, if I must, women of all shapes, sizes, ages and inclinations lusting after the press of those pretty pecs it is very hard…wait for it please, don’t read ahead… it is very hard to imagine say a long leisurely dinner and stylish civilised seduction á la Connery’s Bond. Either before or after cutting to the chase in bed it is almost impossible to imagine what on earth this Bond would or could talk about: except cleaning his gun perhaps.

Imagine a time-warp: Craig is the same age as Connery and up for casting in From Russia With Love: He would not get near Bond but would be a shoe-in for Robert Shaw’s Russian Agent Red Grant: Craig looks, acts far more like a KGB or even STASI agent than the suave, supposedly sophisticated, worldly-rounded James Bond of the Fleming novels. With Connery or even Roger Moore, one could imagine the kind of things Bond might do when not saving the world, killing people or bedding women. And having some fun would be part of it. Craig’s Bond would not be a fun night out. He’s at best a cipher – at worst an incredibly boring good-looking guy. Maybe both.

Craig has pared down the portrayal of Bond to a ruthless efficiency. There is no resonance to this Bond, not even the phoney resonance Fleming gave him with his so called flash drinks – essentially weak Martini’s – a supposedly refined but actually naff taste in everything from ‘birds’ to books, or from music to mayhem. Fleming’s Bond was always a bit flash: a bit like a high class CHAV with a Saville Row suit instead of a Pringle sweater.

This one-dimensional quality of his lead screws Marc Foster’s plot such as it is; and totally demolishes the supposed dramatic drive of Bond’s vengeance at the murder of his love, the duplicitous but reformed-by-love Vesper, at the end of Casino Royale. Craig simply cannot convey the remotest sense of the slow-burn fury of vengeance. In fact his Bond has about as much passion as a polyp. This Bond walks, talks and acts like a machine. Well lubricated – with oil, not blood. Those famous pecs are pretty but prosaic; and those eyes may be blue enough to compete with a Newman or a Lowe but so far Craig hasn’t learned to do anything with them except express detachment.

For these reasons, characterisation, never a strong point of the Bond Franchise is non-existent in QOS. E.g. Gemma Arturton’s ‘Strawberry’ Fields can’t be on screen for more than about 120 seconds yet we are supposed to feel regret when she departs the plot after getting crudely well-oiled. Disposable eye-candy with a daffy incongruous accent.

Not only has the Bond Franchise left the Fleming books behind, they have left Fleming behind. There is nothing of Fleming left. The literary thread the Fleming books offered has disappeared with his never too impressive characterisation. The narrative structure of QOS is totally cinematic; plot development scenes, not events are stitched together with breathless chases of one kind or another by land, sea or air. Any sense of cadence, variation in mood or style is sacrificed to the God of Pace – pace on earth and ill-will to all men. In Bond everything – plot, characterisation, events, are broken down into the tiniest of pieces: editing is king. One longs, even in the chase scenes, for a shot-length that will range more widely than a milli-second to about 3 seconds. Chases and mechanical mayhem are now miracles of editing not stunting. Look back at the one that pretty much started it all – the car chase scene from Bullitt: this sequence not only has a credibility most modern computer-game, pop-video styled chases do not; there even the chase has a kind of ‘narrative’ and its editing a cadence that serves that narrative. The credibility of the QOS’s chase scenes derives solely from the editing persuading you that what you appear to see is happening. Setting a chase at 80-100mph the wrong way down a motorway thus having vehicles with a closing speed of between 160 and 200mph weaving in and out may through editing skill con us into thinking it’s happening but it’s a cheat and we know it.

All this said, QOS moves from start to finish at an inevitably breakneck pace. Having dispensed with Q and his gadgets, the dominating technology of QOS is simply cinematic – largely CGI and editing. Characterisation has no chance to even breathe in this narrative environment so for example Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is reduced to cardboard – yet his and Bond’s ongoing relationship was a key element in Fleming’s books. Foster touches all the Bond bases – but to extend the baseball metaphor, it’s more like watching an endless series of set-up home runs, than the ebb and flow of the absorbing, uncertain and vacillating fortunes of an actual game.

Plot? Well it seems a secret organisation of which Mr White from Casino Royale was a part is, in the person of Dominic Greene (a satisfyingly oily Mathieu Amalric) buying up chunks of land in Bolivia, diverting all the water supplies through it and in return for installing their puppet President General Medrano requires him to pay them extortionate utility fees. Both the British and American governments are of course ethics-free zones, de rigeur for modern movies, and therefore acquiescent in this enterprise as it might yield them some non-Middle-East oil supplies. M gets shot by an MI5 mole for the secret organisation and Bond’s voyage of mayhem is supposed to avenge that it was done and find out why.

The curiously South American-looking Ukrainian actress Olga Kurlenico as a Bolivian ex-secret agent with a score to settle with Medrano, helps. Feisty, beautiful and with a bit of fire that might have warmed up proceedings a little, poor Olga just gets iced out by the detached, arctic cool of Craig’s Bond.

Not bad, but QOS tries to strike a Bourne Franchise tone and does it less well. It is tense and exciting in a clichéd kind of way. The Producers could do worse, given Craig’s uncertainty about fulfilling his four picture deal to offer the next movie to Christopher Nolan and let him cast it himself. Nolan has taken the hackneyed Batman franchise and thanks to a mesmeric performance – which still had to be written by the way – by the late Heath Ledger, and a skilful, thoughtful screenplay, managed to put some intelligence and resonance into a franchise even more hackneyed than Bond. If Nolan can do the same with Bond, it will be very welcome, and long overdue.

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