QUANTUM OF SOLACE

This is definitely the most artistic 007 movie, with “local color” emphasized wherever Bond finds himself. In fact the acknowledgement of ordinary people in Bond’s world (still extraordinary no matter how injected with grit) threatens to take you out of the film more than once.

Forster’s M.O. for keeping up with the standard established by Casino Royale was evidently “More is more” so he intercuts his action scenes with a counterpoint of some kind or another. For example, the second action sequence, a subterranean chase, is intercut with a horse race on the dirt streets above; a later skirmish outside an opera is juxtaposed with the pageant on stage; and Bond’s climactic fight with the villain is intercut with his female counterpart’s fight with her own enemy.  It is the closest we will get to imagining if Peckinpah had directed a Bond movie, but the result often doesn’t feel like a Bond movie. Whether previous Bond films are a good or bad standard depends on the viewer.

Yes, Greengrassian cutting is employed but Forster is not dedicated to his cameras being handheld.  Many times we find the camera mounted firmly to an object — the fender of an Aston, the side of a boat, the inside of a cockpit — keeping the foreground stable so it is only the background that spins out of control.  Personally I like this technique because it gives the eye at least something to hold onto in the split second required to make sense of a shot.

Perhaps most surprising is how the iconography of early 007 films is being reinvented for this new continuity.  The most notable instance is quite arresting so I won’t spoil it, but I’m still conflicted over its self-consciousness.  I think it the moment is saved only because it is taken in stride by the characters without a wink at the camera: after all, the characters aren’t aware of being in a rebooted franchise that is recapitulating classic tropes like mile-markers on a highway.  Indeed, the recapitulation of conventions is the rightful formula of every Bond film. 

This movie purports to wrap up the loose ends of Casino Royale (unfortunately the answers get short shrift) while gently incorporating the most basic elecments of classic Bond, from female silhouettes — rising like Eve from the dust — during the opening titles, to the story culminating at (in?) a more chic version of a villain’s lair.  I’m willing to bet that Q and Moneypenny will be introduced in Craig’s third outing, just as it was Connery’s third film that established what became the essential Bond conventions.

To close with the beginning, I think Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Another Way to Die is closest in spirit to McCartney’s Live and Let Die: highly syncopated with changes of tempo, but bound to grow on us over time.  Like the song, the rest of the movie is not as good as the near perfection of Casino Royale (Bond found time for actual conversations in that one) but despite the long shadow of its predecessor, Quantum of Solace is still an impressive addition to the 007 filmography.

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4 thoughts on “QUANTUM OF SOLACE

  1. linds says:

    I really enjoyed the film. Thanks for your thoughts! And… now I’ve seen, perhaps a spoiler alert and you can discuss the iconic scene you mentioned?

  2. sapience14 says:

    I have to completely agree. Not quite as good as Casino Royale, but CR had set such a high bar, I’m not surprised. The links to both CR and future films were understated, very un-self-conscious. The attention to not just local color but specifically to collateral damage–the individuals shot in the chase through the stadium, the peasants in Bolivia, etc–was very different than other Bond films, but thought provoking. Bond was still relatively unpolished, which for me is the real appeal of Craig’s Bond. The final scene with Mathis was amazing, and not what I was expecting to ever see in a Bond film.

    The people who I was with thought that the Aston Martin was underused, and that there is a certain scandal of sell-out in the fact that there were more Fords than true Bond-cars.

  3. Nobody says:

    The people who I was with thought that the Aston Martin was underused, and that there is a certain scandal of sell-out in the fact that there were more Fords than true Bond-cars.

    Scandal indeed, but let us not forget the first three Brosnan films which had Q Branch pushing BMWs which are no more English than Fords (though I do love the Z8). At least CR and QS both feature new Astons.

    I excused the Ford in CR because it was credible as the rental car Bond would have picked up at the airport (unless he was off the MI6 grid at that point and had to steal the car). But the Ford Ka in QS irritated me more because its newness contrasted so badly with its surroundings, and its size seemed to be consciously eco-friendly in an already eco-conscious movie. But even though Bond risked being caught dead in it, at least he wasn’t driving it! Admittedly he drove a Ford Edge at the end but it was the bad guys’ vehicle (and less masculinity-negating than a Ka).

    Of course Bond also drove a Ford Mustang in Diamonds Are Forever, and the first appearance of the Aston Martin DB5 in a Bond movie also coincided with the first appearance of the original Mustang in any movie, and the two cars even race against each other. Besides the Mustang, in fact, Goldfinger had several other Fords as well — a T-Bird, Ranchero, Country Squire, and a Lincoln Continental — so QS actually has fewer Fords than the movie that made the DB5 famous!

    According to this list, Fords have been in 11 of the 22 Bond films and I wouldn’t be surprised if the reduction of screen time for the DBS in QS after its strong showing in CR was due to Ford having sold 90% of Aston Martin at the end of 2006. But I doubt the next movie would have featured the new Aston One-77 anyway because each one costs a cool million (in pounds not dollars!) and they can’t crash a car of which only 77 are being built!

    The final scene with Mathis was amazing, and not what I was expecting to ever see in a Bond film.

    During that scene it struck me that Craig has done more (non-erotic) hugging in two movies than Bond did in the first twenty! The new 007 formula seems to be: tougher on the outside, softer on the inside!

  4. Nobody says:

    Perhaps most surprising is how the iconography of early 007 films is being reinvented for this new continuity. The most notable instance is quite arresting so I won’t spoil it, but I’m still conflicted over its self-consciousness.

    As requested by Lindsay:

    SPOILER

    v

    v

    v

    I thought the girl laying on the bed in the Goldfinger pose covered in oil instead of gold was clever, but maybe too clever by half. The immediate implication is that the coin of the realm is no longer gold — symbolised by Fort Knox in that movie — but now oil. Indeed isn’t Goldfinger’s plan to destabilize the international gold standard which was still in tact under the Bretton Woods system before Nixon cancelled it?

    But Quantum of Solace undermines this parallel when it is revealed that water is the new oil! The only way I can rationalize the Oilfinger girl is to assume it was intended to psych-out Bond and keep him on the wrong track of assuming Greene was after oil.

    But that strikes me as the denigration of a theme-based icon to a plot-based icon. Under other circumstances I would haved called it the integration of a thematic icon into the plot, but because of that plot’s later revelation the icon’s thematic import is completely removed. In that sense she’d be justified in quoting Bond: “You’ve stripped it from me”!

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