November 21, 2008

"Quantum of Solace" -- Movie Review

Last Thursday, I saw the newest installment in the 007 anthology. There were cars, guns and girls, oh my! There were foot-chases on roof tops, hotels in the middle of the desert that exploded and time enough left over to take in an opera. But I'm getting ahead of my self -- first thing's first...

“Quantum of Solace” is not so much a sequel as it is an epilogue, a coda of sorts, while at the same time setting up plot points for future installments and hinting at the grander scheme of things.

The film starts off, as Bond films must, with an action scene. Right here is where the film's been taking a beating from other critics. Let me pause for just a moment to say my piece.

The director, Marc Forster ("Stranger Than Fiction," "Monster's Ball") is a brilliant director. Ask any of we Three Geeks about “Stranger Than Fiction” and you'll hear us say, in no uncertain terms, that it is one of the top, under-rated masterpieces of the past decade. That being said, the man cannot direct an action scene.

Sure, the action was riveting, but only because action scenes, by their very existence, are inherently riveting. I found myself asking “How did that happen?” or “Wait...did he just... what?” These queries arose because of the bane of my existence (not counting Ashton Kutcher): the shaky-cam. The shaky-cam diminishes the raw badassitude of action by replacing suspense and awe with confusion and annoyance.

So, where were we? Ah, yes: the beginning of the film. 007 (Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) and a few nameless others (*cough* red shirts) are interrogating Mr. White, the gentlemen Bond shot in the leg at the closing of “Casino Royale.” They are attempting to find out who was behind Le Chiffre and, in doing so, stumble upon a secret and obscenely powerful organization bent on, well... the usual stuff: exploitation of natural resources, the simple-minded masses, the poor and pretty much anything else you can abuse for wicked profit. I believe this organization, known as Quantum, is poised to become the modern analog of SPECTRE, the evil organization previous 007s combated.

While interrogating Mr. White, one of the red shirt nobodies suddenly attacks Bond and M, White escapes and a hefty body count is left behind. And the double agent, as it turns out, was M's personal bodyguard. After a foot chase, Bond kills the traitor. The fact that Bond can not keep from killing his targets, instead of interrogating them like a proper agent, is sort of a running gag throughout the movie.

"Quantum of Solace" is mainly about Bond coming to terms with the death of Vesper Lynd, from the previous film, and avenging the attempt on M's life... though she'd never hear that from Bond. What's most fun about the new Bond is that he's complex. We're never quite sure where the rage is coming from.

Not to mention the new Bond seems to be of the old world thinking. There are good guys and there are bad guys. He can not fathom this new trend amongst his peers to do business with the bad guys simply because it is more profitable. He is at a loss at the “It's the cost of doing business.” philosophy.

On top of that there is a new Bond Girl, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a feisty Russian who is on a vengeance quest of her own. She seeks the Dictator General who killed her family and burned her home, scarring her as a child. Here's where the movie is smart. Bond and Camille do not become lovers. We do start to see Bond the womanizer, but with Camille he finds more of a kindred spirit -- a fellow wounded soul -- and instead of bedding her, helps her. Probably because her target is doing business with his target, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a sort of business man/eco-terrorist?

In reality, it doesn't matter. The far more interesting thing, other than the interplay with Camille, or even M, is the return of Mathis (Giancarlo Gianni), one of Bond's ex compatriots from “Casino Royale.” If you recall, Bond believed him to be in league with Le Chiffre and allowed him to be tortured for information by MI6. If Camille is a kindred spirit, I believe Bond sees Mathis as what he will become. They form a quite touching friendship, with glimpses of fascinating dimensions. There is a moment in the movie where Bond says goodbye to Mathis, and it is one of most touching moments in Bond history. It bears a slight resemblance to the shower scene in “Casino Royale,” where he holds Vesper in comforting embrace. It has that kind of resonance.

I haven't touched on the plot all that much simply because the plot, while good, is not the reason to see the movie. Well, not the real reason, anyway. Marc Forster may have failed at the action scenes, but more than makes up for it in the character interaction and development of Bond. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has one of the best Bonds in the franchise to work with. Daniel Craig once again shows that, at the very least, he's the best-acted Bond on record.

Is it as good as “Casino Royale?” No. “Casino Royale” was, on the whole, a better film. Yet “Quantum of Solace” has the most compelling character relationships and developments of the series. See “Quantum of Solace” for the action, remember it for it's characters.

Yours Until Hell Freezes Over,

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November 18, 2008

Letter From The Editor

Return of content? Professionally-designed website? Robots that fight crime?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves... will, over the next couple months, be reborn into something that not only actually exists, but also includes new, improved and vastly expanded content.

But until the dawning of this glorious new day, we'll be reviewing things once again, starting off with Sherman's forthcoming review of "Quantum of Solace" and a few overly whiny essays from myself about Superman and/or Batman.

Kloiber might do something to? I dunno... we're learning these things together.

-Thad out

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