Movie Review: James Bond – Quantum of Solace
The latest James Bond movie opened this weekend in the US, beginning on Friday. It is already #1 in Europe, having opened there a week earlier, and a huge hit in the UK, where it opened two weeks ago. The first weekend in the UK was a record at a box office take of $25M, larger than the last Harry Potter opening. All told, as of last Tuesday, worldwide, it had done $180M. The James Bond movies, based on 12 novels and 2 sets of short stories by Ian Flemming, is the most successful movie franchise in history, with revenues of around $12B, adjusted for inflation. In the US, it did about $27M on the first day and over $70M for the 3-day weekend, more than any other Bond opening.
Location, location, location
Of all the Bond films, the crew admitted that they had spent more time on location than ever before. Not as much of the movie was shot on the legendary 007 sound stage at Pinewood Studios. Rather, most of the film was shot in either Europe or Latin America.
The movie opens with a riveting car chase along Lake Garda which then moves to the ancient and renowned marble quarries of Carrera (where the single block of stone from which Michelangelo’s “David” came.) Are the two locations close? No, but this is Bond! The location then moves to the medieval Tuscan town of Siena. The action parallels the traditional horse race, the Palio, which takes place only twice a year during the summer. Bond then races across the beautiful terra cotta tile roofs of the city.
We’re told that we’re next taken to “Port Au Prince, Haiti” though it was filmed on both coasts of Panama. But upgrades his shabby hotel to the Old Union House.
We jet to Europe to take in the Puccini opera Tosca at the modernistic lake-side Bregenz Festival House on the western border of Austria. Opera is not something we often see 007 doing — at least not since Vienna in “The Living Daylights”, and he doesn’t stay until the end.
Though there is some shooting at the Pinewood Studios, one external in London is at the Barbican Center.
The “reboot” of the James Bond franchise, which began with “Casino Royale,” continues with Daniel Craig in “Quantum of Solace.” But this movie has much more action and far less character interaction and development than the previous one. Was it exciting? Yes, there was more action, chase scenes, and explosions than we’ve seen in a long time. You are shaken and stirred. The whiplash action and breakneck speed of editing make it difficult to follow the action, let alone the plot. Here we see incredibly fast “cut shots” where we’re struck by the movement but don’t get to see all the action. This is reminiscent of the disappointing editing in the second Bourne outing, The Bourne Supremacy, where even the fight scenes were hard to follow as the camera was in too close and moved too quickly.
Only once before has there been a direct chronological sequel with a Bond film. Following “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” when Bond’s wife Tracy — played deliciously by Diana Rigg — is killed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the next movie, Diamonds Are Forever has Bond looking to find Blofeld for revenge. Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale left off, with Bond seeking the killer of his lover Vesper from the previous movie.
Other great performances were by returning (from Casino Royale) alums Judi Dench as M and the great Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis. Tim Pigott-Smith, as the Foreign Secretary, was confident and threatening. While he was in “V for Vendetta” and “Alexander,” he’s perhaps best known for the mini-series “The Jewel in the Crown”.
Did I like the movie? It’s Bond!
Despite its certain popularity, it is neither the best… nor the worst Bond movie.
This is the first Bond theme song sung by a duet. This is the first to have the signature “gun barrel” scene at the end of the movie, not before the title sequence.
You’ll like it if: you’re a Bond fan, appreciate a high level of mindless, senseless violence, globetrotting, and things that go “boom”.
You won’t like it if: you don’t appreciate explosions, contusions, or sexual situations — and prefer more romance, story, gadgets, fine food, Moneypenny, and Q.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
[…] in Los Angeles. My review of the movie can be found on my blog Culture Vulture by visiting this link. An extra treat, this film is featuring a preview of the upcoming Star Trek movie, that opens on […]
Without a doubt, Connery & Brosnan were the gold standard of Bond & my darkest days where during Moore’s farcical portrayal of our favorite 00. So I am pre-disposed not to accept Craig as a bone fide replacement. But even in both movies, Craig is not the problem, the producers & directors are. OK. Perhaps my last comments were really a review of Casino not having seen QoS. Now I have seen it and there are so many problems with it I do not know where to begin. All the chases are herky, jerky, shaky staccato film clips. You can never really see what is going on. This is contrary to the traditional Bond flick replete with detail. And if Craig is gritty, moody, mean & vindictive one can still see a path by which he becomes a cooler if not a cold, uber-professional agent with a dry, sardonic sense of humor. This Bond clearly appeals to a feminine perspective that escapes me. I understood him not becoming ‘involved’ with the other women in the 2 flicks as having high standards and was at least relieved to see his response to Fields as, what we would term a normal orientation! (The women seem to love that Bond does NOT ‘hook up’ with the main girl in either film and broods ceaselessly like a forlorn Hamlet for his unrequited lover from Casino). Even the opening chase, usually one of the best, is almost visually incomprehensible. Car chase, rooftop chase, sewer chase, apartment knife fight chase, boat chase, plane chase, Chase-Morgan, certainly they all were purloined from the Bourne genre but somehow Bourne’s were more believable.
The opening graphics were not as bad as I feared, but were definitely not 007 quality. Far too much of Craig shooting his Walther PPK .380; (don’t make me go into why that is a problem). We have grown accustomed to the sultry, sexual/sensual and awesome graphical intro to the Bond films. This one was not of the same caliber. Ditto on the theme song. It was not a good as past songs but I was fearing worse and it was actually passable relating somewhat to the general theme of the film. The barrel scene was placed at the end of the film. I prefer the beginning but in either case it should be presented with high quality graphics and punctuated with 007 theme song riffs. It was not.
Lots of chases. Most are barely watchable. I actually liked the reference to the traditional 13th century Italian Palio horse race in which the riders can use their longer wooden canes to encourage their steeds or discourage their opponents; and the actual event was supposed to be occurring outside of the chase area.
The knife fight was lame. How did the baddie die anyhow? Please tell me not with the little pair of cuticle scissors Bond had. And if the death blow was to the only wounded area shown, the left jugular, where did all the blood go as Bond let him ‘bleed out’. Not to worry the details because we are soon introduced to THE BOND GIRL. Well, a little anti-climatic because she is not quite as attractive as we are used to although she has very pretty lips. The rest of her seems strangely disproportionate for some reason. It’s also strange that she would return to the baddie who just tried to have her whacked. That has little probability for success for someone who we later learn is “Bolivian Secret Service”. Oh well, not to worry, we are off on another chase, this time with boats. It is perhaps the best done but for the last scene in which the grappling hook is somehow thrown onto the rubber speed boat and flips it from the front of Bond’s boat over the top to the rear…… can’t quite figure the physics out on that one. Not to worry, we’ve docked and Bond mysteriously hands the unconscious maiden who he has just rescued over to a dock attendant…what?
Well were off to track this baddie and somehow reconnected with the GIRL in Bolivia where we eventually learn that the baddie, Mr. Greene of the evil Greene corporation in conjunction with the even eviler Quantum Criminal Consortium LLC has concocted a plot wreaking with the venom of true corporate greed, evil capitalism and nefarious financier-ship; to wit, steal all the fresh water in where? Why Bolivia of course and sell it back to them Bolivians at double the price! MUAHHAHAHAHAHA (evil laugh). We learn at a big party that times are tough in Bolivia because it is costing a weeks wages for an average Bolivian to buy a gallon of clean water! As I remember, the average Bolivian earns about $0.25 per day making the water cost about $1.75 a gallon; pretty much on par with market values in Cleveland. Perhaps this is not the best country for our get richer quicker scheme.
No matter, we are off to the evil opera where the evil baddies are meeting to plan, well, evil. This is where we juxtapose a modernistic version of the Tosca operatic bloodshed whilst Bond dabbles in the real thing dispatching the body guards of the evil biggies who, now discovered & uncovered, are making a hasty retreat for the exits faster than attendees at an Al Gore speech.
No matter, while in Bolivia we are matroned by the closest thing to a real Bond girl, agent Fields. Unfortunately we never really figure out what is beneath that trenchcoat although it appears that Bond does. Also unfortunately for Fields and us, she is quickly eliminated by the baddies in what can only be termed as a ‘crude’ theft of the Goldfinger modus operandi. I would have expected more of a mess but why waste camera time on the slickened Fields when you can spend it on bathroom scenes with….who else….M of course. Perhaps the most difficult what seemed to be15 minutes of the film (as if minutes were hours Mr. Spock) was watching M in her bathrobe apply & remove cold creme. The threat itself would have sent Mr. Greene permanently into pro bono philanthropy. Not finished with us yet, M draws her bath and the tension in the theater built noticeably as we all began to fear that we would be greeted with an au natural scene of her slipping out of the robe into the tub. Fortunately we were spared that experience (wait for the unedited version coming to DVD soon!). However, it just calls into question what fob with a mommy complex of some sort is calling the shots in these films.
M continues to demonstrate why she should not be “M” vacillating from suspecting Bond to needing him back in 00 some 4-5 times during the movie. We did get a glimpse into the possible personality of M’s hubby when he meekly announced, “the calls for you dear on your private line”. Whatever.
M may welcome Bond back with open arms or have him captured or killed, no matter, the BOND GIRL is rescuing Bond in her getaway car, a 1964 VW Beetle. I guess the Bolivian Secret Service does not get to roll like the 00’s in MI6. At least it was a 40HP!
No matter. We are now off to a hotel in the middle of a high plains Bolivian desert. Time to charter a plane…no, not the little Beachcraft Bonanza that would actually be faster and more maneuverable. Choose the DC-3 with a load of cargo on board. Watch out though, you’ll get shot down by the Bolvian Air Force in a single engine Marchetti SIA1 (which I have been corrected on and is a fast little number) I guess the BAF doesn’t get to roll like the 00’s at MI6 either.
No matter because they are both jumping out of that crate with the only parachute. Somehow everything turns out ok after wrestling for 10,000 feet with the BOND GIRL & parachute falling at 120 MPH because the chute opens 20 feet off of our LZ, a nice big soft slab of granite. BTW, the BOND GIRL walks for miles on granite stones in her bare feat…she’s a hearty lass.
It’s off the hotel to find the baddies. The hotel, located in the high plains desert of Bolivia, is called the Plaza del Sol. It is completely self-sufficient and powered by…solar….no you idiot, hydrogen fuel cells. In fact, each room appears to have its own hydrogen fuel cell and its accompanying hydrogen supply tank. The maids must make your bed and refill your hydrogen tank when they replace the shampoo in the bath, I guess. Naturally the hotel, located in the high plains Bolivian desert is made substantially of steel & stone. Unfortunately, the steel & stone in Bolivia is not quite as durable as the steel & stone you and I have grown to love as we discover when Bond causes a baddie car to crash through a wall igniting a hydrogen tank. The rest of the hydrogen tanks ignite sequentially. Darn it, I hate when that happens, you just can’t get good hydrogen tanks anymore. Again, unfortunately, the Bolivian steel & stone burns more like paper mache. Bond battles the Greene baddie but aborts to rescue the BOND GIRL who is caught up in her own subplot vendetta too trite to be explained here. Mr. Greene escapes into the desert only to meet a cryptic fate induced by other unknown baddies and Bond’s 10W-40 payback for the treatment of luscious Agent Fields.
You would be better off waiting for this to hit DVD. At least then you can slo-mo or replay the chase scenes making sense of them, spend more time with the slick Agent Fields and most importantly, FFW or skip over M’s bathroom escapades. You have been warned.