Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Quantum of Solace (2008) | Story
Bond tracks down the people behind Vesper's death, but is he doing it for duty or revenge?
The history of the Quantum of Solace script is long and troubled. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade started it and Paul Haggis did a re-write that he reportedly finished just hours before a major writers strike put the kibosh on any updates. Rules stated though that the director and actors were allowed to work on scenes together, so Marc Forster and Daniel Craig finished it up. I don't even want to try to unravel who was responsible for which parts, but the result is a movie that has fans divided about its quality. Some see it as a complete mess, while some see it as a fine continuation of the plot and emotional journey started in Casino Royale. I'm in the second group. I have issues with it, but they're minor.
It's the first Bond movie that's more than just a nominal sequel. It doesn't stand on its own and that seems to be a big reason a lot of people don't like it. But I love the way it builds on Casino Royale and even leads into Skyfall. This isn't what we're used to from the Bond series, but it's fantastic.
How Is the Book Different?
Quantum of Solace gets its name from a Fleming short story, but doesn't borrow any plot elements from there. The two versions do however have a major theme in common: finding a tiny amount of comfort in the midst of great suffering. It's a great title and I'm glad that the film series not only found a use for it, but was able to apply it directly to Bond this time. In Fleming, it's a whole other character who needs some relief.
Moment That's Most Like Fleming
In Fleming, Casino Royale is followed by Live and Let Die, which is very much a revenge mission for Bond since Mr. Big is funding the organization that tortured Bond and was responsible for Vesper's death. So, the whole idea of Quantum's continuing the emotional story from Casino Royale is perfect.
Other than that though, I also notice some similarity in director Marc Forster's focus on details. Skyfall rightfully gets a lot of praise for how beautifully shot it is, but Quantum is the same way. Roberto Schaefer was also Forster's cinematographer on Finding Neverland and he gets some great shots that highlight what's going on around the action. Fleming did that as well in his writing.
The problem is that these extra shots often feel extraneous and indulgent. For instance, Forster intercuts Bond's chasing M's traitorous bodyguard with shots from a horse race going on at the same time. And later, there's a ton of focus on the preparation for and presentation of the opera where Quantum is holding its meeting. I imagine that both of those are purposely juxtaposed with what Bond's doing in order to comment on his actions, but the connections aren't clear and I never want to quit paying attention to the action to try to figure out the meanings of the other stuff. I appreciate the effort, but it doesn't end up being worth it.
Moment That's Least Like Fleming
The set pieces are all very strong in Quantum, but the connections between them are weak. Fleming's story structure was always tight. Even when his pacing was leisurely, his plots flowed well and I always understand what's going on. Quantum is very loose and glosses past key story beats, especially in terms of MI6's investigation.
The information is always there, but the movie is so interested in Bond's emotional journey that it doesn't care if we believe in his detective work. Bond discovers Quantum's Haitian connection because some Quantum money was deposited into the account of a man staying at a hotel there, so he must be a lead. Bond finds Dominic Greene through a magical search engine that looks for everyone on earth with that name and picks the right one to send Bond a picture of. At the opera where Quantum's meeting, Bond is watching Greene, but happens to notice an audience member receive a special bag from under the gift table, so of course that must connect him to Quantum as well. None of it is exactly nonsensical, but it's obvious that not a lot of thought went into any of it either.
One of the weakest things about Quantum is the teaser. It's just a car chase. And though it's exciting, it's not innovative or different from most other car chases. The big reveal at the end is that Bond has Mr White in his trunk, letting us know that Quantum picks up right after Casino Royale, but that's small potatoes considering what Bond fans are used to.
There's not even the traditional gun barrel sequence, because that's been moved to the end of the movie before the closing credits for no reason.
Top 10 Cold Opens
2. Casino Royale
3. The Spy Who Loved Me
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
7. A View to a Kill
9. The Man with the Golden Gun
10. The Living Daylights
Movie Series Continuity
There's not much continuity with the broader Bond series, but of course there's tons with Casino Royale. M refers to Bond's arrangement to let the CIA have custody of Le Chiffre in exchange for Felix's poker chips. She says that the CIA "won't be happy," apparently referring to MI6's custody of Mr White.
Bond has the right response though. He reminds M that he promised Felix that he could have Le Chiffre. That Le Chiffre is dead isn't any fault of MI6's. In fact, now that I think about it, why didn't Felix arrange to capture Le Chiffre directly after the poker game? Would have save Bond's testicles a lot of trouble. It's the CIA's own fault that White got to Le Chiffre first and assassinated him. MI6 doesn't owe them White in compensation. Bond got White through his own, separate investigation and suffered a lot for it. I love Felix, but screw the CIA on this one. I don't know why M is even concerned.
In the same scene, Bond acts like he wants to move on from Vesper and he denies that she was important to him, but we know right away that's a lie when he steals a picture of her missing boyfriend from the file. Much more on this tomorrow.
The last bit of continuity worth mentioning is that Tanner's back, but played by Rory Kinnear now. Michael Kitchen played him in the Brosnan era, even after the character was replaced as Chief of Staff by Charles Robinson. I wonder if Judi Dench's M in the Craig films is even supposed to be the same character who gave Bond his orders in the Brosnan films.