Friday, November 14, 2008
Quantum of Solace (2008)
I agree with about 90% of what comes off of Roger Ebert's keyboard, but not this time. The man doesn't get Bond. At least, not the literary one. Or, if he does, he doesn't think the movie version should be anything like him.
Obviously, I disagree. Timothy Dalton's Bond is one of my favorites and I'm a much bigger fan of Dr. No and From Russia With Love than You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. For Your Eyes Only is the only Roger Moore film worth seriously considering. There are two kinds of Bond fans: those who like the silly quips and gadgets and world-conquering villains, and those who prefer the deadly, driven, but weary agent who relentlessly pursues his targets for no other reason than that M has told him they need pursuing. I'm the latter kind of fan; Ebert is the former (he quotes elements from You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker as making up his idea of the quintessential Bond). We'll probably never agree on what makes a good Bond film.
I've read some reviews talking about how Quantum of Solace is so different from Casino Royale, and then sort of apologetically acknowledging that Quantum of Solace is still very good. I get why the writers are doing that. Casino Royale was so well-done; so well-received that no one wants potential movie-goers to be disappointed that Quantum of Solace doesn't repeat it exactly. But really? Screw that. This movie shouldn't be a repeat of the last one. Who wants that?
Quantum of Solace is amazing. Taking nothing away from Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is five times more brutal and unrelenting in its action, it's more artistically directed (easy to see that it was made by the man who brought us Finding Neverland), and its emotional impact (though owing everything to the set up from Casino Royale) is greater. Some specific things I liked need to go beneath a SPOILER WARNING. If you haven't seen the movie and don't want to know stuff, skip everything after the picture of Bond and Agent Fields. Once you see Bond with Camille, you can start reading again.
Bond doesn't sleep with The Girl. There's an emotional connection between him and Camille, much like the connection he made with Vesper in Casino Royale, but that's precisely why he doesn't have sex with her. He's still in too much pain.
That doesn't keep him out of bed with Agent Fields though. They both know that's just sex and besides, he's using her to get something he needs.
Though she refuses to reveal it in the movie, the credits let us know that Agent Fields' first name is Strawberry. Awesome. That's almost as good as Bond's joke in Casino Royale that Vesper's cover name was going to be Stephanie Broadchest.
Fields is played by Gemma Arterton, who also played Ludacris and Jeremy Piven's assistant in RockNRolla (which was really frickin good, by the way). She's gorgeous in both movies, but you'd never know that the same actress played both roles, she's that cool.
Camille is played by Olga Kurylenko whom I kind of fell in love with in Hitman. She was also in Max Payne, but I'm trying to forget that I saw that one.
My one, nagging complaint about Casino Royale was that it left Mathis' true loyalties unresolved. He was one of my favorite characters in the novel, so I hated the suggestion that he'd been turned into a bad guy for the movie. Casino Royale left it open to interpretation, so I chose to believe that Le Chiffre was lying when he referred to "my friend Mathis," but I could never convince non-Fleming readers that my interpretation was correct. Quantum of Solace clears that all up, for which I am deeply grateful. (It also includes a snippet of dialogue from one of my favorite parts of the Casino Royale novel. I wish they'd followed that discussion further like Fleming did, but oh well.)
Even though this is the spoiler section, I'll be vague about the identity of a dead woman who turns up in Bond's hotel room. But I want to mention her because - blasphemous as this may sound - the scene succeeds at hitting the emotional impact of an iconic scene from the novel Goldfinger more than the movie Goldfinger was able to do.
I should also mention in a non-spoilery way that Quantum of Solace picks up about fifteen minutes after Casino Royale leaves off. You don't need to have seen Casino Royale to enjoy it on some level, but doing so will dramatically enhance your experience. Also, if you haven't seen Casino Royale in the last year, it would be good to watch it again before you go. There's some stuff you'll miss if you haven't done that. Not vital stuff, but stuff nonetheless.
I may have more to say about the movie after I've seen it again and read some other reviews. I know there were some points in the exposition and Bond's investigation that I didn't thoroughly follow, so I want to go back and pick up on those.
What I do get though, is that Ebert is wrong. I'm not going to quibble over whether on not Bond is an "action hero," because I'm not sure how Ebert's defining the word. But I'll argue until I'm dead that Bond is a tough guy and a deadly force. He's the cold-hearted bullet in M's gun, not - as Ebert put it - someone for whom "violence ... is an annoyance. He exists for the foreplay and the cigarette. He rarely encounters a truly evil villain. More often a comic opera buffoon with hired goons in matching jump suits." I don't care if I never see another movie featuring Ebert's ideal Bond again.