Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace: A Whole Lot of Shakin!

I wrote a post about the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, over at Peter David's always entertaining blog. Click on the title of this article to go there.

1 comment:

Eric Teall said...

While you can still go to PAD's site and search for "Quantum of Solace," my link isn't working - here's the unedited comment:

Sigh. I hate to disagree with PAD because he so often comes back with a good explanation of why I should agree that I end up changing my mind. However, I have to disagree with some of his assessment of Quantum of Solace. So, here goes:

1) EDITING. The first half-hour of action is virtually unwatchable to me as well. I agree with Byron Dunn about Batman Begins vs. Dark Knight. Please, please, please let this be the last action movie with a “real fights are confusing, so movie fights should be, too” attitude. Just give us some storytelling, please!

2) THE VILLAIN. Here I disagree. One thing that I noticed about the whole movie is that much of the traditional James Bond Franchise is not so much missing as it is turned WAY down. There’s humor, but it’s not so tongue-in-cheek. There’s charm and elegance, but it’s played in contrast to the heinous dealings that it hides.

The same goes for Dominic Greene, QOS’s antagonist. This is a viciously cruel man who lies with incredible ease. He’s not over-the-top like traditional Bond villains. Instead, he’s totally believable (to me, at least). Here we have a Bond villain who literally trades in people and who routinely (and successfully, until the very end) manipulates and starves entire populations to make a buck. When he gives his former girlfriend to the General to rape and then murder, it’s just plain chilling. No camp, no scenery chewing. Just evil. Modern, easily hidden evil.

3) MISSED OPPORTUNITIES. Again, here, I partially disagree with PAD. The “I’ve told you everything about Quantum” part is a bit of a cheat. I think that even an overview summary on Greene’s part here would have done a lot to help my wife–and other moviegoers like her–understand what was happening (she got lost). However, in the long view, I’d rather have those details work for the next film rather than having the next film serve previously conceived details.

The other two moments that PAD mentions, though, are played here with this film’s characteristic understatedness, and I don’t think they’re ineffective. The (off-screen) death of Dominic Greene works for me because it’s set up very, very clearly by Bond. Bond leaves him in the desert with a can of motor oil and bets that Greene won’t get 20 miles before he drinks the oil. We later find out (with our POV character, Bond) that Greene was shot in the head, but not before he did break and drink the oil in an attempt at suicide. So the bad guy here is screwed not only by himself, but by his organization, as well. No need to see the act on screen, IMO.

Finally, to complain that we do not see Bond’s treatment of Yusef, the man who seduced, betrayed, and coerced Vesper into betraying Bond is to miss the point of Bond’s revenge quest and his character arc in the film, I think. Bond blames both Vesper and himself for Vesper’s death; Mathis sees this in Bond, which is why he says what he does before he dies. Bond’s goal in confronting Yusef is simply to prevent what happened to Vesper from happening again, to save someone else because he could not save Vesper. The emotional climax of that scene is him explaining the situation to the CSIS girl, not him beating/killing/whatevering Yusef. At this point in the film, Bond has grown into his more detached, professional self and knows that there is more to be gained from interrogating Yusef than from killing him. It’s cold, it’s subtle, but it’s in line with the persona Bond must create to survive.

I think that Bill Hunt’s explanation of the film, that it’s really the second half of Casino Royale and not a “Bond film” on its own, is what allows me to have enjoyed it as much as I did. Had I not gone into the film with that attitude, I’m not sure I would have been as interested or forgiving as I was/am.

I hope all that made sense.