007: Worst Of Daniel Craig – Quantum Of Solace2.12.12 # Review # 17 Comments
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of 007, myself and fellow Movie Moron contributors Adam Mason and DalmatianJaws have been delving into the massive catalogue of movies to bring you joint reviews covering the franchise’s highs and lows, discussing the most critically acclaimed and most critically derided movie of each Bond actor. In this, our final review, we’ll be dissecting the much maligned Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond in what was touted as the franchise’s “first true sequel”. Here’s the original trailer:
DNWilliams: Mason, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal!
Adam Mason: Mr Williams, sir! How the devil are you?
DNW: Doing fine. DJaws will not be joining us.
AM: Shame that, I was looking forward to hearing his thoughts.
DNW: Likewise. He did say he might send notes, I’ll have to add them in after the fact at the appropriate points. Could be interesting that way.
AM: Post-talk editing. We could make him say ANYTHING.
DNW: Haha, yes we could!
DalmatianJaws: Well, frankly, Lazenby outclassed all the other Bonds from an acting standpoint…
DalmatianJaws: You’re all wrong, Quantum of Solace is the BEST BOND FILM EVER. I love the direction, the editing in particular makes it feel like you’re really there.
DNW: As always, DJaws is right on the money. Shall we begin?
AM: We shall: Quantum of Bollocks.
DNW: We should probably start with the title. People really do like to make fun of the title of this movie. I can’t blame them, but the joke has worn a bit thin, no?
AM: It’s based on probably the best of all the Bond short stories. While it bears no resemblance to the source I don’t mind, because Fleming’s ‘Quantum of Solace’ doesn’t really feature Bond. I do, however, dislike the shoe-horning of the Quantum group in order to fit the title.
DNW: Right. There’s a link to an original Bond story, but it’s a tenuous link, so you’re left with more people just thinking it’s a crap title than respecting it because it was one that Fleming came up with. It’s likely the last Bond film we’ll have with a Fleming title too. There’s something to be said for that. I don’t know what it is, but something can be said.
AM: The only titles remaining are ‘Risico’, ‘The Hildebrand Rarity’, ‘The Property of a Lady’ and ’007 in New York’. ‘Risico’ formed part of For Your Eyes Only and ‘The Property of Lady’ was featured in Octopussy. It seems a shame that we’ve finally gone beyond Fleming’s work.
DNW: I think they’ll end up taking titles from words and phrases in some of his novels. I’m sure there’s a filmmaker or two who would like to have that connection, however trivial it may ultimately be.
AM: True. There still hasn’t been a Bond girl named Gala Brand, so I’m looking out for that. So, on with the film – from the off, let me say how much I dislike Quantum of Solace. The first time I saw it, I left the cinema and kicked a lamppost in rage.
DNW: I’m less inclined to hate this movie than most, due to the fact that it’s far from the worst film in the series, and is treated as such nonetheless. It’s predominantly criticized because it’s not Casino Royale (which is a hard act to follow as far as most people not called Adam Mason are concerned) and yet is tied so closely to it, which is unfortunate. It’s alright. There’s a lot to like, I think. Maybe I just like an underdog, but I do feel that the hatred towards it is disproportionate.
AM: I like that it follows directly on from Casino Royale. I like that it’s short. And that’s all.
DNW: Dude, I like both of those things! Common ground!
AM: Yay! I made a friend today!
DNW: I legitimately think there’s a lot to be said for the runtime. I do find Bond movies can sag in the middle and, let’s be honest, there’s rarely enough character development to warrant the extra half hour most of them get. Quantum of Solace really doesn’t lose momentum, and if it ever seems like it will, it’s just cuts to the chase. Which brings us to the beginning of the film, where there is a chase, and they cut to it.
AM: They also cut through it, around it, and all over it. What is happening in this scene? I have no idea! Answers on a postcard please.
DNW: The opening is, I agree, very aggressively edited. It’s frequently cited as an example of bad editing and I can completely understand why people are averse to it, so this is not in any way intended to be a defence, but: there are things about the way this is cut that I actually really enjoy.
AM: If the editing was limited to the first few seconds, it would be better. Edgar Wright, for instance, uses a lot of cuts, but only ever to lead in to a scene. Paul Greengrass is a good director and this style of editing complements his visuals. Marc Forster, on the other hand, seems to be compensating. It gives me a headache.
DNW: I find it perfectly comprehensible, but then I rarely complain about this style of editing. Transformers 2 executed the handheld/quick cut thing really poorly, and there are other examples, but for the most part I find it fairly effective. Or at least, I’m in no way opposed to it. The main thing I like about the opening chase is that it introduces crosscutting. We’re shown establishing shots of the road from over the water, cut to close ups of the car, and then back to the establishing shots, which is a nice slow zoom. It’s something that Forster brings back at least twice later in the film, with different effects each time. I’m fond of it. Wide-wides and close-close ups right next to each other are something I get a kick out of because of Sergio Leone.
AM: I have no problem with that, I just wish the editing was less hyperactive. It might be nice to see what’s going on.
DNW: I often wonder how much of this kind of edit is the director wanting the audience to be disorientated because it’s action and how much is them covering up bad direction. It can be hard to make the distinction, but I like to give filmmakers the benefit of the doubt. Anyhow, one guy who is definitely disoriented is Mr White, who has been occupying the boot of the car for the duration of the chase.
DalmatianJaws: The opening car chase is generic in its choreography and shot so terribly that you don’t know what’s happening, much less who is “winning” or even who the hell is driving which car. It’s really mind-boggling to me that something this bad made it to the final edit. Then comes the reveal of who is in the trunk: and it’s horrible. Two years have gone by since audiences saw the last film, there is NO dramatic punch in the fact it’s some old dude Bond was pissed off at in the final moments of the last film.
AM: I think it’s good to see him again. Shouldn’t he have a fairly major concussion after all that?
DNW: He probably does, but he’s just such a boss it doesn’t faze him. I like the reveal that this is how Bond has chosen to transport his prisoner. Don’t you Adam? Don’t you? SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT THIS FILM.
AM: On to the opening titles and the theme tune. Like The World Is Not Enough, I feel that the titles give away the story. The less said about the song, the better.
DNW: I don’t like that they decided to cut to titles on the reveal that Mr White is in the car. Too early. And as much as I like that moment and what is says about Bond, it really hasn’t earned the dramatic cut to titles. It’s not THAT cool. And Craig is very nonchalant about it. The title design is kind of blah, but the song, I don’t mind. I’m a fan of both artists, and while the collaboration didn’t do them any favours, I do think they’re good picks and would be happy for either of them to return and do a Bond theme. Considering the fact that everything was stacked against them – they were replacements for Amy Winehouse and their movie is called Quantum of Solace – I think they did alright. The guitar riff is good.
AM: I will hold my acid tongue. I agree that the moment isn’t cool enough to cut to titles, Bond should have adjusted his tie or done something that looked good.
DNW: Or just had a freakin’ hero shot. ANYTHING to punctuate the moment with a bit more verve.
AM: It’s underwhelming, like much of this film. That said, I like the threat of torture by MI6 as soon as the credits end.
DNW: As do I. Here I feel my love of Mr White is justified, there are brilliant line readings from Jesper Christensen. I also love the way Bond pockets a photo of Vesper right after saying he wouldn’t have thought she’d be sentimental.
AM: One question: at the end of Casino Royale, M was in London. Now she’s in Italy. Teleportation?
DNW: Yes. It’s how Q landed his job.
AM: Clever boffin.
DNW: Jokes aside, we don’t really have a good gauge on how much time there was between M being on the phone with Bond in Venice and him taking down Mr White. A lot could have happened in that cut.
AM: Hmm… I shall let that one slide. I like how Bond is all hurting and emotional here, it’s a shame it’s not at all consistent in the film.
DNW: You think it’s not? Any time he appears to be enjoying himself (which I think is pretty rare) I’m happy to write it of as some kind method of coping with loss.
AM: He grieves for his loved one and sleeps around – not consistent.
DNW: I completely get where you’re coming from, I just choose to read it as an unsuccessful attempt to revert to his former ways. Anyway, Mr White’s badass reveal that Quantum has people everywhere leads to Mitchell, who we were introduced to only moments ago, opening fire on some agents in order to assist Mr White, and consequently being pursued by Bond on foot. Thoughts on this scene?
DalmatianJaws: The first “cool” thing happens and it’s revealed that this bad guy organization has agents everywhere in a flippant way. No dramatic close-up, no build in music, absolutely no foreshadowing. If they wanted to go for shock value have something blow up! As it stands, folks suddenly turning evil in Bond movies is nothing new, so it’s not shocking at all and the major plot point is left solely to expositional dialogue. How much better would it have been if the double agent in that scene was M’s male secretary from Casino Royale?
AM: I like the interrogation. As for the chase, it feels very much like a redo of the epic free running sequence from Casino Royale. And, of course, I have no idea what’s going on at any point, except that they fall off something and Bond shoots a guy.
DNW: It pales in comparison to the Casino Royale chase as far as choreography is concerned, and whilst I wasn’t a fan of the way the chase in Casino Royale was shot, I’ll concede that this isn’t shot especially well either, though their faults are worlds apart. What I do like is the setting. It’s way, way more Bondlike than the construction site we had in Casino Royale. These are some beautiful and exotic rooftops if ever there were any. The locale reminds me of Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, and it leads right into the rope fight, which is fairly unique. It’s also fairly obviously where they should have cut to the opening titles.
AM: I agree with that. It feels like more of a Bond opening than the actual opening but, while it is unique, the rope sequence is probably one of the worst-shot parts of the film.
DNW: There’s a brief sequence back in London afterwards, where Bond and M reflect on how crazy it is that someone like Mitchell – embedded deeply in MI6 – could be an agent of Quantum. The best thing about this scene is Dench’s exclamation of ‘florists use that expression’!
AM: It’s good to see more of M in this film, although it often feels forced. The idea of not trusting anyone is a good setup for a spy thriller, unfortunately it doesn’t recur at any point.
DNW: It doesn’t, does it? Man, it makes me wish they would bring back Quantum (however unlikely that is at this stage) if only to have a big reveal of someone having worked for Quantum that we’d known for more than thirty seconds.
AM: The next Bond film should be more Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and have Bond questioning the loyalties of everyone around him.
DNW: Mission: Impossible has had a traitor in their midst for practically every movie though. That’s the only thing that would make me not want it to happen in Bond. When the M:I series lets that go, Bond can have at it. Speaking of Bond encroaching on another franchise’s territory – the Haiti fight is straight out of The Bourne Ultimatum.
AM: This film is The Bond Ultimatum, it even shares a few crewmembers. At least this fight is easier on the eyes than the rest of the film.
DNW: It’s a pretty good fight, it’s just one of two scenes where I think the Bourne comparisons are really valid. Prior to this and for the rest of the film, I think Quantum of Solace is very much a Bond movie, this fight is just jarringly out of place, and very much seems like it’s there because the people behind the camera felt that spies have to be like this in the 21st century. I don’t have a huge problem with it, there are some Bond movies that take being influenced by current trends too far *cough* LicenceToKillandLiveandLetDie *cough*, but I can see why it would be very disliked. Craig holding the guy until he bleeds out is hardcore though, it has to be said.
AM: That’s a very Bond moment, though I disagree about Quantum of Solace feeling like a Bond film, the whole thing feels like an attempt to cash in on the success of Bourne to me. So after that we meet this film’s Bond girl, Camille. Nice to look at, but not much going on inside. A little like an abandoned mansion.
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