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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
After the success of Casino Royale, the James Bond producers rushed a follow-up into production. The result was 2008’s Quantum of Solace. While Casino was met with high praise from critics and fans alike, QoS was met with a definitive thud. I have to admit, when I first saw it, I left the theater with a bad taste in my mouth. I did not hate the movie, but I could not help but wonder about how could this have been allowed to happen? True, a sophomore slump was somewhat to be expected, but this was just mind-boggling.
I have watched the movie a few other times over the past four years. Since my initial viewing, it has grown on me. I do not think it is very good, but I have learned to enjoy it for what it is and what it tries to do. With that in mind, I want to focus on some of the positive of QoS before exploring the negatives.
Daniel Craig is excellent as Bond. He looks confident in the role and has conviction. Much more than he did in Casino Royale (not to say he was slouch in that [he was not]). He also looked like he was having a bit more fun in the role, which is welcomed by a moviegoer like me. Judi Dench is, again, fantastic as M. That was a brilliant casting move for GoldenEye, and one that has gotten better over time. I love her relationship with Craig’s Bond and the motherly aspect to it. She looks at him as her own kid who she trusts completely, but also needs a swift kick in the ass at times.
Additionally, director Marc Foster crafted some excellent sequences in the film. Each Bond movie usually has one big set piece that is instantly memorable. Bond spying on the Quantum agents during the opera is one of those sequences. It is classic Bond, and everything works about it.
Foster also crafts some excellent action sequences. One can easily criticize how each of the action set pieces are tied to one of the four basic elements, but it cannot be denied that they are exciting and suspenseful. In short, they work.
So, what went wrong with this movie? The story. It was advertised as Bond going for revenge. However, that is practically forgotten about during most of the movie. The filmmakers were trying to force a direct follow-up to Casino Royale instead of making a standalone movie (like most Bond flicks). I do not think it worked the way they wanted it to.
To add insult to injury, the narrative was just not that interesting and kind of a mess. Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright return, but are given nothing more than an extended thankless cameo. Seemingly important new characters are introduced, but then are completely sidelined. The movie is over-edited (there is no need to out-Bourne Jason Bourne). And the villain (Mathieu Amalric) has an incredibly pedestrian scheme hindered by an escalating mystery surrounding it. It is amazing for a production team which did so much right the last time, got so much wrong here.
All that being said, Quantum of Solace is not a bad movie. It is just an incredibly disappointing one. And, as I see it, that is much, much worse. Even the bad James Bond films, such as Die Another Day or Moonraker, are at least entertainingly bad. This one is just sort of “there” and largely forgettable. As I stated about a year ago in a Friday Five, I really hope the producers have learned from their mistakes here and make it up to audiences with the newly released SkyFall. From the early reviews, it seems like they have.