Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Film Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
  • Publisher: MGM / Columbia 
  • Production Company: Danjaq / EON Productions 
  • Genre: Action 
  • Release: 31 October 2008 (UK), 14 November 2008 (USA) 
  • Director: Marc Forster 
  • Producers: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson 
  • Writers: Neil Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis

The Girls: Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Bolivian intelligence agent. Quite notably, the only leading lady in a Bond film to date whom Bond does not share a romantic interest in. Her mission is revenge, and thus she is less a traditional "Bond Girl", but a fully-fleshed out character, complete with motivations, who just happens to be a girl. And it couldn't be more refreshing. 5 out of 5. Miss Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), envoy from the British embassy in Bolivia. Killed offscreen and coated in oil. (You can stop reminding us of other, better Bond films now.) Yet another shallow love interest, not that she tries to fall for him, of course. But by my estimation, she probably has the least screen time before she is first implied to have had sex with Bond. 2 out of 5.

Other Allies: Jeffrey Wright returns as Felix Leiter, and is at odds with his boss Gregg Beam (David Harbour), the CIA's section head in South America, who has been bribed with potential (and non-existent) oil for ignoring the planned coup in Bolivia. Fired, presumably with Leiter taking up his post.

The Villains: Dominic Greene (Mathieu Almaric), an executive of the criminal organisation Quantum. Killed offscreen by Quantum agents. He also maintains the cover organisation Greene Planet, which allegedly performs environmental services, and gives him a cover story for the desert land he buys. Still, there's no excuse for his hammier moments. 3 out of 5. General Medrano (Joaquín Cosío), an exiled Bolivian army general seeking to take over his country's government with the help of Quantum. Shot by Camille, and good thing, too - he had killed Camille's father and raped/killed her mother and sister when she was young, and he doesn't stop there. This dude is an unforgivable monster, but not unwatchably so - I guess it's a good thing we never get to see his heinous acts on screen. I'll tell you one thing, he should've been the main villain. 4 out of 5. Jesper Christensen returns as Mr. White, the leader of Quantum. Until Spectre, still at large. Bet you didn't see that one coming.
Other Henchmen: Elvis (Anatole Taubman), Greene's bowl-cut bodyguard. A tad goofy-looking, but he doesn't have much of a role; he's just kinda there. 1 out of 5.

The Gadgets: 007 doesn't use any unique tools in the field. However, MI6 links Mitchell's counterfeit money to Edmund Slate with the help of their new computer system, including a table-sized touchscreen.

The Locations: Italy, England, Haiti (filmed in Panama), Austria, Bolivia (filmed in Panama and Chile), Russia.

The Theme Song: "Another Way To Die", performed by Jack White (The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army", "Icky Thump") & Alicia Keys ("Fallin'", "No One"). This marks the first duet to be used as a James Bond theme, and I have to say... why couldn't this have gone to just one or the other? It's true the two are good performers who combine their strengths. For example, if I were the producer, I would've had Keys go solo on the vocals and relegate White to the crunchy guitar riffs (which unfortunately sound too similar to Chris Cornell's Casino Royale theme) he's famous for. As it stands, I guess some tastes weren't ment to go together... Fun Fact: At one point, the song would've gone to Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, but the latter's drug problems precluded that possibility.  3 out of 5.

The Opening Credits: This time around, the opening credits were designed by the company MK12, who had worked with director Marc Forster before on Stranger than Fiction. Features scenes of shadow-Bond walking the desert, with the usual images of guns and girls once again in play, and the use of dusky blues and oranges. Fun Fact: MK12 were also responsible for the snazzy OS used by MI6's computers, as well as the overly fancy location titles.  4 out of 5.

The Novel: The title comes from "Quantum of Solace", one of the short stories in For Your Eyes Only, but the two are unrelated. The story is nothing but an anecdote about a civil servant and a flight attendant and, like The Spy Who Loved Me, wasn't worth adapting directly. As for the title, "Quantum of Solace" refers to an amount of hope, no matter how tiny. And when that's gone, when the quantum of solace drops to zero, then the relationship is over, as explained in the book. In the film, Bond appears to get his quantum of solace from avenging the death of Vesper Lynd, which becomes a character flaw he must overcome.

The Plot: When we last left Bond, he had captured Mr. White, leader of the crime cartel Quantum, and delivers him to a safehouse in Siena, Italy. Cue opening credits. We return to Bond, M, and company interrogating him about Quantum, when one of the bodyguards shows his true colours: he shoots M and lets Mr. White escape. Bond chases the phony guard, eventually killing him. M is not pleased: not only because an assassin got so close to her, but because 007 killed the man when he could've interrogated him as well. But they manage to investigate his London apartment, and a series of counterfeit dollar bills leads Bond to Edmund Slate, a geologist working for Quantum in Haiti.

When Bond encounters Slate, he kills him, too, only to discover that he was assigned to assassinate Camille Montes, a Bolivian agent. He follows her to Dominic Greene and ex-General Medrano, where the two are making a deal: the latter is trading off a plot of desert land over to the former, in exchange for Quantum assisting in a coup-de-etat of the Bolivian government. Medrano then takes off with Camille, presumably to rape and kill her, but Bond rescues her. Too bad she was trying to kill Medrano herself...

MI6 helps Bond track Greene to an opera in Austria, where he eavesdrops in a conversation on the Bolivian land sale, AKA the "Tierra Project". He gets found out, and a chase ensues, ending when Bond drops a man off a roof. Unfortunately, this guy is a bodyguard for a mister Guy Haines, a member of UK's Special Branch and an advisor to the Prime Minister (and secretly, a member of Quantum). Once Greene has his body shot, MI6 finds out and cuts off Bond's passport and credit cards, trying to bring him in. However, Bond gets some fake cards made out by Mathis, and the two head for Bolivia.

Touching down in La Paz, Bond is accosted by Miss Fields from the British Embassy. Before she can take him back to London, the three of them are invited to a fundraiser party held by Greene. Bond reunites with Camille and they leave together; however, the police stop them and discover Mathis planted in the trunk. The shoot him and try to pin it on Bond, but he and Camille get away, renting a plane for a flight over the Atacama desert. A fighter jet summoned by Medrano shoots them down, but they survive the crash and Camille shares her story: When she was young, General Medrano killed and/or raped her family, which is why she tried to kill him in Haiti.

On their way out of the cave, Bond and Camille discover not only a lack of oil, but that Greene has been damming up the water supply. They return to his hotel room to discover Fields dead, and the CIA trying to capture him. Thanks to a tip from Felix Leiter, Bond and Camille raid an eco-hotel in the desert, where Greene and Medrano finalise their deal. Oh, and since the land Greene bought holds a majority of Bolivia's water supply, Quantum gets a monopoly as the country's utility provider. But Camille kills Medrano, and she and Bond abduct Green, interrogate him in Quantum, and leave him in the desert with naught but a can of motor oil to drink. We end our adventure in Kazan, Russia, where Bond encounters Yusuf Kabira, Vesper's ex-boyfriend and a Quantum agent, and surprise, surprise: he doesn't kill him, but takes him to M for questioning. You are now free to turn off your TV.

Full disclosure: When I saw Quantum of Solace in the theatre, I was confused by the plot, since from what I had read I was assuming Greene's plan was to poison the Bolivian water supply. The plot we got, involving a governmental coup-de-etat which never even got started during the film's running time, was not the typical fare audiences were used to. After all, it's not like there's a time bomb or something that spells out the climax for the audience. (Fun Fact: Production coincided with the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-08, so some fans blame the lacklustre screenplay on that unpleasantness. But if the film's writers were British, how would that have affected them?) I'd prefer to look at this film from Bond's point of view. Having been shell-shocked from the death of Vesper last time around, he goes into the film not caring whom he kills, even if keeping them alive would be a preferable choice for MI6. And the villains seem to take advantage of this: even when Bond doesn't kill a person of interest, they find some way to blame it on him. But when he reaches the end of the pipeline, namely Kabira, one of the last men involved with Vesper, he does the right thing and lets him live. Much like Casino Royale, this film is a quest for Bond to conquer his ego, and no amount of implausible recoveries or shaky hand-held cameras will make me ignore that. For this, I would even go so far as to list Quantum of Solace among the franchise's underrated gems, among the likes of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Licence to Kill.  4 out of 5.

The Call: 80% (B-)

IchigoRyu will return in

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