Review: QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

RATING: 2.5/5

2006's CASINO ROYALE has definitely sets the bar high enough for any filmmaker who is going to follow up afterwards. Naturally, anticipation is very high for QUANTUM OF SOLACE, a direct sequel which also the first time ever for a Bond movie. Not only that, this is also the first time a Bond movie is clocking in the shortest running time ever -- at a compact 105 minutes. This actually works to its certain advantage for those who always complain that Bond movie, especially all the recent outings, are overlong. The good news is, QUANTUM OF SOLACE continues the similar rough-on-the-edge, gritty tone of CASINO ROYALE-like vibe, which in turn, also a bad news as well -- the film delivers only half of its sheer brilliance in term of characters, plot and technical achievement. 

Picking up where CASINO ROYALE has left off, the movie opens immediately with Bond (Daniel Craig) is being pursued by machine-gun heavy bad guys in a dramatic car chase along the cliffside road. After Bond manages to kill the bad guys off, he quickly made a stop to drag the injured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) out of the trunk of his heavily-damaged Aston Martin and brings him for interrogation, along with the presence of M (Judi Dench) and few of the other secret agents. But before any answers can be cleared out, Mr. White escapes, thanks to one of the secret agents happens to be a undercover mole after all.

Soon the unstoppable Bond globe-trots from Italy to South America, where he later encounters Camille (Olga Kurylenko), another tortured soul thirst for vengeance. Apparently Camille wants to kill the ruthless General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio) who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of her parents when she was still a child. They agree to work together as they set their sights on Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a shady businessman who has heavy ties to the mysterious organization called "Quantum" and also connected to many rich and power-hungry dictators. In public's eyes, Greene seems to be a goodwill environmentalist who determines to save the Earth but deep down, he has been setting up an evil scheme involving to monopolise Bolivia's water supply. 

By far the meanest Bond movie ever made since LICENSE TO KILL (1989), the movie wastes no time getting on the dirty business and the pace is certainly breathless all the way. It's just too bad the movie is a mixed bag.

Passing the directing torch from CASINO ROYALE's jump-starter Martin Campbell is indie filmmaker Marc Forster, who is well known for small-scale human drama by the likes of 2001's Oscar-winning MONSTER'S BALL, 2004's FINDING NEVERLAND and 2007's THE KITE RUNNER. It is obvious that helming such a large canvas like Bond movie becomes an odd job for someone like Forster. There are some unexpected filmmakers who can pulled off this kind of big-budgeted commercial fare well, say someone like Sam Raimi who moves from horror to superhero genre of SPIDER-MAN franchise, but too bad Forster isn't exactly the right man for the job. For one, he has no sense of pacing when comes to directing action sequence. 

And speaking of action, he chooses to follow the current trend of "you-are-there" shaky camera work-style, which in turn, happens to be a bad choice anyway. By hiring second-unit director Dan Bradley, Forster apes so much in common action template of Paul Greengrass-like filmmaking style he has previously done in THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004) and most notably, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM (2007). In fact there are so many familiarities one can see between this film and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM in term of the overall execution. There's even a winking nod to THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM's famous action set piece involving Bourne pursues the bad guy along the maze of crowded buildings in Tangier. Still that familiar action sequence turns out to be the film's most memorable moment and definitely lives up to its edge-of-the-seat expectation. The particular, extended footchase scene which sees Bond pursues the bad guy on and off the crowded buildings in Italy, jumping off rooftops and over balconies before ending up in a spectacular, hanging-in-the-rope-upside-down fisticuffs atop the scaffolding while both of them struggled to get their guns first. If only the rest of the action scenes can live up the same momentum, the movie could have been a lifesaver. 

But unfortunately Forster is clearly no Paul Greengrass and his shaky camera gimmick ends up either too bland or too chaotically executed for its own good. Another problem is its surprisingly skimpy and sometimes confusing plot that requires one suspends their disbelief: Greene's master plan is to create a drought in Bolivia by building dams? That kind of scheme works well in the over-the-top Brosnan-era of Bond outings, but with CASINO ROYALE sets up the more convincing and frighteningly believable villain in the form of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), who was a underground banker for international terrorists -- there's no reason to lay out something as ridiculous as Greene's plan. 

Despite the return of CASINO ROYALE's screenwriters, most notably on Paul Haggis, there's little emotional and zippy core found here in this movie. Not only the movie is humorless and very glum, there is almost no weight within the entire storyline especially when comes to dialogues. 

Characters-wise, the movie is also heavily uneven, except that Daniel Craig continues to excel in his excellent role as the no-nonsense and very determined Bond who stops at nothing in order to pursue the truth. While it's certainly help for at least injecting some life in his character other than looking way too brood over the course of the movie, Craig remains a driving force with his sheer intensity, if not stripped off most of his charisma he previously had in CASINO ROYALE. In the meantime, if anyone hoping for another as beautiful and sophisticated as Eva Green's Vesper Lynd in CASINO ROYALE will be gravely disappointed by the choices of this time's two Bond girls. As Camille, Olga Kurylenko is likewise tempting in her typical sexy role we have already seen before in 2007's HITMAN and the recent MAX PAYNE. Too bad her character isn't well-written enough that in the end, she comes off rather bland and forgettable. In a smaller role, Gemma Atherton's turn as Agent Fields is actually a welcome diversion in this otherwise all-too-glum outing with a lively presence who is enjoyed flirting with Bond. It's just pity her character is written off pretty quick enough. The bad guys, in the meantime, fare lesser -- Mathieu Amalric may have that sneaky look of an oily businessman but his all-too-obvious, wide-eyed expression is very gimmickry to warrant him a competent villain whatsoever. 

Despite its many missteps, the movie remains a throughout entertaining fare. And one last thing: the pre-end credits which sees the famous gun barrel sequence has making a comeback, indicating that we might be treated for more enjoyable, true-to-form Bond outing in the future.

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