16 November 2008

Film: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Directed by Marc Forster
Written by Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench as "M"
Theatrical Release Date: 14 November 2008
Date of Screening: 15 November 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Intense Sequences of Violence and Action, and Some Sexual Content)

Favorite Line: "When someone says that they have people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole.  Lots of people say that.  Florists use that expression.  It doesn't mean that they have people in the bloody room!" - M

Daniel Craig returns as Ian Fleming's James Bond in Quantum of Solace, a direct sequel to 2006's Casino Royale.  And when they said it was a sequel, they meant it--the film starts roughly ten minutes after the end of its predecessor.  Bond works his way up the food chain of Quantum, the SPECTRE-like organization behind the events of Casino Royale.  Along the way, he uncovers a plot by faux environmentalist Dominic Greene to engineer a coup for a military general in Bolivia in exchange for a seemingly worthless chunk of land.  Everyone speculates that Greene is after oil, and no one bothers to consider that he is instead working to dam up water.

Historically, Bond films have always flirted with reality but have sidestepped real issues; according to many environmentalists, water resource management may well eclipse energy as our leading concern in the 21st century.  Ian Fleming's stories always sought to show us the hidden danger of a seemingly useful operation, and the idea of a world leading environmentalist conspiring to engineer a drought for profit is certainly up there with men like Hugo Drax in "Moonraker" (who created a rocket in the name of defending England, with the intent of instead levelling London).

What we had all heard going into the film was that it eschewed the Bond formula, that it had the shortest running time of any Bond film and that it ran at a quick clip.  Most importantly, though, the buzz on QoS (its Bond-fan shorthand) was that Bond would work through the aftermath of the events of Royale.  Previous "This one's personal" Bond movies are a mixed bag--often the death of an ally has simply been an escalation of violence along the way rather than effective character-developing storytelling.

Daniel Craig has spoken the classic line, "Bond...James Bond" once in his two films--it was the final line of dialogue in Casino Royale.  Nor has his Bond continuity included a Miss Moneypenny or Q.  For that matter, if they ever reintroduce the latter, they ought to consider calling him (or her) "S" instead, because the only technology present have been items commercially produced by Sony.  What matters, though, is that Quantum of Solace manages something that too many moviegoers may not appreciate: the 22nd film in the series proves that James Bond is not defined by the Bond formula.

Quantum of Solace's run time of 106 minutes makes it the briefest 007 outing to date (previously, the shortest was Tomorrow Never Dies at 119 minutes), and saying that it moves quickly is like saying Michael Phelps can swim.  When the end credits began to roll, my freinds and I were able to count three scenes in the entire film that we thought may have lingered for perhaps as many as five or ten seconds.  Was this an example of catering to an increasingly short attention span, or was it simply the style of storytelling favored by director Marc Forster?  Ian Fleming's original novels rarely reached 200 paperback pages in length and were meant to be read on a train.  That being the case, then, Quantum of Solace does perhaps the best job of the entire cinematic series of conveying that sense of working quickly while disbelief is suspended.