SPECTRE

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quantum Of Solace (SPOILERS)

#22A few weeks ago in my discussion of The World Is Not Enough, I compared the film to some of Shakespeare's "problem plays." Like those plays, TWINE was somewhat controversial with fans and critics: it didn't seem to fit conveniently into the categories that had been used to classify previous films, and tried to do a lot of interesting things but didn't actually following through on the promise of any of them.

Which brings us to Quantum Of Solace, a.k.a. Too Bourne, Or Not Too Bourne--That Is The Question.

Let me be clear--QoS is distinctly superior to TWINE in almost every way, and is a pretty good film. But it could have been--should have been--a much better film.

Like TWINE, QoS had a director who seems to lack confidence (and competence) for the action genre. Like TWINE, QoS tries to do a lot of new things, but is less than 100% successful. Like TWINE, the script in QoS lets the movie down somewhat, failing to build up the proper connective tissue between action scenes to make the audience properly care about them. Now, as I said above, in each of these criticisms, QoS is more successful the TWINE was. And QoS is still, I think, a pretty good movie. But upon reflection, I find myself more haunted by the flaws than impressed by the good things. That, my friends, is a problem play.

A few caveats before we go any further. First, despite having seen QoS several times (please don't ask how many), I still don't know it all as well as any of the other Bond films. And without a DVD to reference, I'll doubtless be uncertain more often, or even mistaken more often, than I was in my other reviews. Please forgive me, and allow me to revise (and post many more pictures) when the DVD breaks.

Secondly, as I suspect will is the case with all of us, my opinions are still in flux. How I regard certain scenes, or even the movie as a whole, seems to swing wildly at times, sometimes from hour to hour. Six months from now, two years from now, exposure and familiarity and debate may very well have morphed my opinion into something else. Again, please indulge me in this new (for me) experience of reviewing a brand-spanking new Bond film.

On to the film. But before we even get to the teaser, we must deal with the fact that QoS is a direct sequel to Casino Royale (2006), with producer Michael Wilson famously telling us that it took place "5 minutes after" its predecessor. With the possible exception of the teaser for Diamonds Are Forever, this is really the first Bond sequel we've had, the first case of one movie's plot spinning out of events in the earlier one. Some have even gone so far as to declare that QoS is really just the "final act" of CR06.

Quantum bastard, you killed my girl!To which I declare...poopy. Those facts should have zero influence on how we review QoS. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock was a direct, immediate sequel to Wrath of Khan...yet certainly no one should should suggest that I give STIII bonus points or grade it on some special curve just because it continues the story of STII. QoS is its own entity: it has its own director, its own 2nd unit director, its own cinematographer, its own production designer, its own editors...it has a very different look and style than CR06. Even director Marc Forster insists that QoS shouldn't be viewed as a sequel.

To suggest the QoS is just some appendage of Cr06 is frankly insulting to both films. To suggest that CR06 somehow needed a "last act" is, in my opinion, nuts. And since QoS traveled to 3 continents and 5 countries and featured different villains and allies and a new plot, it's pretty demeaning to the latter movie to suggest that it's merely a continuation, an afterthought. No, Quantum of Solace must stand on its own--the filmmakers deserve at least that much respect.

So, on to the teaser...and they throw it right in our faces early on: Too Bourne, or Not Too Bourne? This is the fundamental question that has Bond fans debating with considerable vigor.

But I think there's an even deeper question here, more fundamental. In another essay I'll discuss Bond vs. Bourne, and explain why, although I really like Bourne, that I find Bond preferable on most levels. But I don't think we can properly judge whether QoS is "too Bourne," or whether Bourne style is appropriate for James Bond, for one very important reason: what we're given here is very, very poorly done Bourne.

It was apparently required for all mainstream media reviewers to refer to Marc Forster as an "art-house director" in their reviews and articles. Lazy writing, but a fair label: the director of Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner, and Stranger Than Fiction had never helmed anything with even 1/50th the action of a Bond film. Hell, he admitted that he wasn't even a Bond fan. So Dan Bradley, who'd done 2nd unit for the last two Bourne movies, was brought on board. Was this "copying Bourne," or just trying to get the best person available to help an inexperienced action director, or both? I report, you decide...

One commenter to any earlier post noted that Bond directors rarely direct the action sequences, as those are left to the 2nd unit. Well, sure...but the director's name is on the film, he gets the Oscar nominations and all the credits. so he damned well had better be ready to take some of the blame. Furthermore, hopefully he's communicated his vision of what he wanted to the 2nd unit, and again hopefully he's been a participant in the editing process, and decides what gets used.

Hmm, now who is this James Bond character again??And Marc Forster lacked the vision, I think. If you're going to do the "Bourne-style," you HAVE to have a certain command of the grammar of an action film, the basic vocabulary to discipline the seemingly undisciplined rapid shots and edits into telling a coherent story. Whether or not you like the Bourne style, I don't think you can argue that director Paul Greengrass--using the same 2nd unit director--did a far superior job of storytelling in that mode. As disorienting as the camera may be in Bourne 2 and 3, you are rarely lose track of how many participants there are, over who is where and what's going on. Greengrass may give you micro-cutting and a shaky camera, but he also gives you establishing shots and beginnings and middles and endings of actions, gives you shots besides extreme close-ups, and manages to tell the stories of his action sequences.

But in QoS, Forster gives us a Bourne vocabulary, without the Bourne grammar. Forgive the patronizing analogy, but he's like a child who knows some words but doesn't know how to structure a sentence with them yet. We shouldn't have to keep guessing about how many cars are involved in the teaser chase. We shouldn't constantly be confused about where Bond is in relation to Mitchell during the rooftop chase, and you shouldn't have to guess what the hell Bond fired his gun at during that chase (it was Mitchell's head, in frame for about 1/100th of a second and never established with a pre or post firing shot). We shouldn't be puzzled about how many agents Bond is fighting in the elevator. We shouldn't be completely baffled when Mitchell turns rogue during the interrogation scene...it shouldn't take multiple viewings to be able to follow the action and realize that it was White who took a bullet and that was M running off to the staircase.

Prime example: the boat chase scene in Haiti. One boat is left pursuing Bond. He pulls back on the throttle so the evil boat jumps up on top of his (since that knocks Bond on his ass and knocks out Camille, maybe that's not such a bright move, but never mind that...). Bond grabs a grappling hook on a rope (?), attaches it to something (?) on the enemy boat. Suddenly, the enemy is hurled up in the air and capsized. After many viewings, I still have no clue as to what happened here, because Forster has failed the most basic visual storytelling. We never see what the other end of the rope is attached to, we are never shown what Bond attaches the grappling hook to, we never see the physical reaction of something acting on the enemy boat. Oh, sure we can guess that maybe an anchor might have been on the other end of the rope...but a) we are never shown the anchor b) we never see Bond put the anchor into the water c) an anchor that attaches to a boat by grappling hook? Forster NEVER shows us what happens here, never sets it up, never follows through, never bothers communicating with the audience exactly what's going on. Think about that: 007 makes one of his trademark clever escapes, and the audience is left to guess for themselves what actually occurred.

All of that, and more, happens because Forster doesn't seem to know how to put the parts together in a way that effectively conveys the action. Like Michael Apted in TWINE, he doesn't seem to be able construct an action sequence that the audience doesn't have to put together for themselves. So my gut feeling is, even if they hadn't decided to Bournify things up, his action scenes wouldn't have been up to snuff. Heck, maybe that's even why they Bourned things up--to cover up the inadequacies, on the theory that a confused audiences might not notice the cracks and poor storytelling in the action scenes.

As to the Bourne style itself? Well, I'll leave that to another essay. But I will say that when you have a series whose reputation is for brilliant stunt work, why would you want to obscure that? Does anyone believe the parkour scenes in CR06 would have been better shot in the Bourne style...or the stairwell fight? Even if the Bourne style had been properly shot, wouldn't the cathedral fight in this movie have been even more thrilling if shot in the "Martin Campbell style?"

Forster also has the annoying quirk of inserting seemingly random shots into even the simplest of scenes, for no apparent reason. When Beam and Greene are talking on the plane, in the middle of their conversation we're given a close up of a glass being filled with liquor by the stewardess. This is puzzling, as everyone has just been served their drinks, and we never see the flight attendant or the drink again. Was this symbolic something, and I'm just too stupid to see it? Or is Forster's attention span so short that he can't even get through a simple expository conversation scene without having to wander off into "art house" territory? During the rooftop chase, do we need a lingering shot of the elderly woman who is upset that her cherries have fallen? That shot lasts longer than any of the cuts of actual action during the chase! The horse race--what, exactly, is that apropos of? When Mitchell's apartment is being examined, when M is worried that Quantum might actually have people "everywhere," we get a fairly lengthy shot of Bond staring at one of the CSI's searching the place. In a normal movie, that would mean Bond suspects him of being a turncoat, or the guy's about to unveil a valuable clue. Nope...in QoS it just means that Forster gets bored filming conversations and has to insert random shots.

And so in the lead-up to the finale, instead seeing exactly how Bond and Camille manage to avoid the military guards and walk right up to the hotel unnoticed, we're treated to a 55-second montage of Medrano's men and Greene's crew walking up and down stairs and along corridors to the conference room. And walking. And walking. And walking...

I was soo hoping the Marx Brothers would show upAnd then there's the opera...or more specifically, Bond's fight during the opera. We dragged a friend along to one of my viewings. She's not particularly a Bond fan, not an action movie fan, but she is a fan of the more "cerebral" type movies. Her reaction to the opera montage interspersed with blips on Bond's fight? She didn't like it. Her reaction (paraphrasing): "I wanted to see the fight scene. I wanted to see Bond taking on these guys and being clever in a fight in a restaurant/kitchen. Why show us all of that opera when we really wanted to be watching the action? I just didn't see the point of that...That's not what a Bond film is supposed to be like." Thank you, Dawn. And note that, by being obscure about the action, Forster again mystifies his audience about what's actually transpiring. It starts off with Greene's thugs chasing Bond...but sometime during the gauzy montage, Guy Haines' bodyguard joins in. Why? When? How?!? Rather than share these petty details of what's actually happening in the plot, Forster feels it's more important to show us random scenes from Tosca (which has mysteriously leaped from Act I to the end of Act II and then into Act III...must have been a pretty long fight that he didn't show us). The opera business is a microcosm of Forster's QoS: Very pretty, great sets, well shot...but let's obscure the action and plot as much as possible in favor of some vague artistic statements.

And that's just a damn shame, because otherwise, Forster does a dynamite job as a director. Despite all my negativity above, in most respects he nails the scenes he has to. His scene composition, the angles and lighting, are gorgeous. The emotional scenes, the quiet scenes, are very effective, quite well done. Mathis' death, Camille asking Bond to kill her rather than endure death by fire, Bond's confrontation with Yusef...all fantastic. And he gets great performances out of the entire cast--an often neglected aspect of the director's job. It's jus unfortunate that for some important components of Bond movies--the action, the plot--Forster can't seem to summon up the same interest.

How the uadience felt after the chase sceneWell, that was a long digression. Back to the teaser...No intro, no dialogue, just a car chase. This is a very sparse, spartan teaser, no frills whatsoever. In fact, it feels perfunctory, more out of a sense of obligation than an attempt to make a mini-movie. There are two recent comparisons to make here. When TWINE was previewed, the original teaser (Bond killing the banker and escaping in Bilbao) was deemed not exciting enough, not spectacular enough, so they re-worked the whole opening of the movie. Obviously, they weren't concerned about that type of reaction a decade later. Not that there's anything wrong with a modest teaser--they have their place--it's just interesting to see how the standards have changed.

Secondly, well, it's not very Bondian, is it? There's no panache, or flair. There's nothing special that tells you "This is Bond," that this set piece couldn't be done in any other movie. If it weren't for the Aston Martin, there would be nothing to distinguish this scene from a dozen other action movies. Even in CR06's low key teaser, we meet Bond, we witness his dialogue with Dryden, we get a pretty good sense of 007's style and personality. This time around, we just one line of dialogue before a puzzling freeze frame (why??). QoS' teaser doesn't have a story to tell us, just an action scene to present us with. It's well done, but it's also as unambitious as hell in most ways.

Which brings me to the script. Paul Haggis reportedly finished his rewrite less than 2 hours before the screen writers' guild strike deadline, and I believe it, because this movie reads like an early draft. QoS is the shortest Bond film, and one reason is that it's not properly fleshed out. There are some very good bits, but there is also an awful lot that needs polishing, a number of good ideas that are just never fully developed. This is NOT the complete, confident screenplay we got in Casino Royale.

The first problem is the lumpy, uneven structure of the film. We get the nothing but action in the teaser. Then a couple of minutes of dialogue...then bang, another action sequence, the rooftop chase/cathedral fight. Then a few more minutes of exposition, then bang, Bond's fight with Slate. Then a bunch of exposition, and bang the boat chase. After that, though, we enter a long patch without any action--do you count the glimpses of a fight during the opera as an action scene? Bond taking down the two Bolivian cops? It's well over half an hour until the next full set piece, the plane chase. Then long pockets of conversation and desert-walking, a couple of ten second blips (the elevator fight and the CIA raid on the bar) that eventually lead--again, almost half an hour later--to the final set piece. It's very unevenly paced, with most of the action bits bunched up in the first half hour, and then a much more leisurely last 60 minutes.

The second problem is the script's complete lack of interest in resolving the plot lines it dredges up. Take for example, Mitchel, M's bodyguard. He turns on them at a critical juncture, and M goes on (and on) about how impossible it was, about how fully vetted the man was, how long he had been with her. How could they have made him go bad? Well, don't bother to wonder, because the movie doesn't really care. After Bond leaves for Haiti, not a single syllable is spent concerning Mitchell, not one!! After the big build-up of how and why, raising our curiosity, nothing...not even a shrug. Meanwhile, after all of the concern (and lingering shots) of the poor Bolivian people suffering from the drought, so you'd think the audience would get the catharsis of seeing some of their despair relieved. Nope. All we get is "What should I do? "Well, someone could blow up the dams" "Yeah, that's a thought" and walking off into the camera. That's it?!? Beam is removed from his job at the CIA--why? Virtually every plot and subplot--Mitchell, the Bolivian water crisis, everything--is just a prop that's never seriously dealt with. A complete, finished screenplay wouldn't leave these loose ends, or give us the impression that it just didn't care about all the issues it had raised.

Finally, the dialogue pales next to CR06. During filming Forster brought in Joshua Zetumer, who had written some spec scripts he had liked, to do some re-writes. Zetumer also "rewrote dialogue depending on the actors' ideas each day." Is that ever a good idea, outside of a Judd Apatow film? Does that ever work? Well, it certainly didn't work here. CR06 shined in its snappy, witty dialogue. In QoS, the dialogue rarely rises above the bare minimum needed for exposition. There are exceptions--Bond's conversation with Felix in the bar sparkles, Mathis gets some good lines. But otherwise, it's just terse, functional conversations. Bond probably gets fewer lines than in any movie since You Only Live Twice--and all too often it's of the same lifeless, monosyllabic quality.

As for the other characters, their lines are dry and repetitive at best--how many times do we need to have the "we have to business with villains" speech? How many times do Bond and M have to have the exact same conversation about trust and control and vengeance (the answer, 4). How many times does the dialogue seem to be written at right angles to itself, with conversations not making any sense? Given Forster's claim that everything in the script was shot, and that there's nothing on the cutting room floor, we've got to question the writers' ability to construct coherent dialogue.

Example 1: At MI-6, "Forensics Tech" comes up to M and Tanner in the corridor, saying they've done a thorough forensics examination and trace of all the bills in Mitchell's wallet. Tanner nods him off, saying "We're not in the mood." Except, of course, once they enter the room, Forensics tech then proceeds to tell them about what Tanner just claimed they weren't in the mood for. Huh?

Example 2: In Haiti, Bond gives his card to the thug. Elvis comes up, the thug explains what happened, Elvis calls the number. Then, mysteriously, Elvis derides the thug "Next time, pay more attention!" Huh? Attention to what?!? What are you talking about? There's obviously a line or two missing there, or else it's just dialogue that can't be bothered to hook up with itself.

OK, OK, enough with the negativity (except for some stuff in the Notes below). I just wanted to spell out, in some (annoying long) detail why the film falls short of being great. And that's important, because a number of the other elements in the movie do bring it to the edge of greatness.

Don't worry folks, he cleans up purtyPrimarily among these is Daniel Craig's performance. He picks up this movie and carries it on his shoulders for 109 minutes. When a number of critics and friends have suggested that QoS doesn't "feel" like a Bond movie, it's vital that we have someone whom the audience can identify with as Bond to keep the movie grounded. Daniel Craig wrings every bit of humor, every bit of pathos, every bit of emotion that he can out of the script, and gives us a Bond that we can believe in, a man who is just trying to do his job but keeps killing people when circumstances warrant it. (My friend Dawn noted that whenever Bond was accused of killing someone he didn't--Haynes' bodyguard, Mathis--he never denies it...he just stays quiet and lets the credit be given to him, knowing that will build his reputation. And she says she's not a Bond fan...) He takes the few humorous lines and milks them quite wryly...it's too bad that the "teachers on sabbatical...who have won the lottery" line is subtitled, because I think some of the audience miss it, and it hilarious, especially Craig's delivery.

Watch his scenes with Camille in the sinkhole, when she relates her tale, and in the hotel blaze, when he understands her need not to die in that fashion. You can literally see the empathy and humanity returning to Bond's face, as he finally begins to come to life again after having been a relentless machine for most of the movie. His final scene with Mathis is heart-wrenching. Craig doesn't just hit a home run this time...he hits a grand slam.

And we're helped by the fact that Bond is still so damn good at his job. He's a good detective...he knows how to follow a trail, how to figure out what the next move should be. He's a master at improvising during a chase or a fight, and you can always see the wheels turning as Bond looks for the next move. Using a motorcycle to jump from boat to boat may seem silly, But Craig sells it. And of course, his breaking up of the Quantum meeting (or is it QUANTUM?) is a classic--although, on a picky note: the blond at the table had a list on her clipboard showing who got the special gift bags. Shouldn't that have been Bond's first stop, to get a complete list, rather than hoping everyone flees at his voice so he can get pictures? I'm just sayin'...

Brought back just to die? Damn it!Speaking of Mathis, full props to Giancarlo Giannini for turning a tiny role in CR into a performance this good. Every time I've seen QoS, the audience gasps in shock and sadness when Mathis' body is revealed in the trunk...and that means he's made an impact on viewers, which is a pretty good indicator of how good he is here. He doesn't rise to the level of a Kerim Bay or a Draco, primarily because the script doesn't give him enough to work with. But his weary charm, his attempts to fill Bond's need for a father figure, and his sad death make him the most memorable supporting character since Columbo in For Your Eyes Only.

A number of people, particularly online, seemed upset at Bond leaving Mathis' body in a dumpster. Not me...I found it very appropriate, both as the only type of "funeral" Bond had available at the time, and as a reflection of his world view at the time. That's how Bond saw himself ending up some day. A beautiful (if ugly) scene.

Hey, baby, wanna ride?Camille is a fine Bond Girl, even though the movie doesn't give her a ton to do, and has her vanishing for a good chunk in the middle. Olga Kurylenko actually pulls off a fine Spanish accent, and the tale of a Russian mother is enough to cover any gaps...and we're about 46 years too late to start complaining about Bond Girls' dodgy accents, anyway. She's as reckless as Bond, continually confronting Greene even though he wants her dead. Bond does have to rescue her a lot, but not because of basic incompetence, but because her drive for revenge has made her heedless of her own safety (sound familiar?). Her scene in the blazing hotel--magnificent.

Of course, all the talk is how she doesn't become another notch on Bond's Walther. It's not something that I'd like to see become a trend, but for these two characters in this particular movie, it's entirely appropriate. Plus, obviously it's a thankless task to have to be the Bond Girl after Vesper...don't hold that against her.

French=evilMathieu Amalric makes a perfectly slimy villain, although the movie doesn't give him too much to do, either. Amalric is going for a Klaus Maria Brandauer/Largo vibe in Greene, the affected villain who lays on the quirky Euro-charm while casually being evil. But he has only one real scene with Bond--at the party--and Bond only has about 2 lines, both of which are essentially "excuse me, we must go" while Greene blathers on. There's not a lot of tension there, and so Greene's performance isn't really playing off our hero, which makes for a weaker villain than we need. To that extent, despite Amalric's best efforts, Greene comes off as not to different than Stromberg, another villain Bond barely meets--except Bond spent more time with Stromberg!! Greene only truly reaches a level of eerie hatefulness when Bond is holding him by his hair in the hotel fire, and Greene screeches, "It sounds like you've lost another one!" Now that's evil.

There's a seed of something there...in Haiti, Greene gives us the story of how he hates to have friends talk about him behind his back (a story that he doesn't finish..thank you screenwriters)...but it's never referred to again. Here we've got a prime opportunity for Bond to pull a "Sanchez" on him, a way to make their meetings sizzle with some intrigue and personality...but it's never mentioned again. Sigh...But other than walking around fund raising and doing dirty business dealings, Greene just doesn't actually do very much, does he?

As to his plot...lots of people complained about how Elliot Carver's plan in Tomorrow Never Dies was "only" about Chinese broadcasting rights. I wonder how those same people felt about a riveting exploration of Bolivian water rights? I don't mind "mundane" real-world plots, but it's clear that no one in this movie gives a rat's ass about the problems of the Bolivian people, so why should I? Bond would still be chasing after Greene even if this wasn't his scheme; Camille would still be using Greene to get to Medrano even if Bolivian utility rights weren't at stake. Even the movie itself doesn't give a damn about the issue, with it's shrug of "oh, yeah, I'll get somebody on that someday soon." All those artful shots of thirsty Bolivians with dry wells? They're all still just as thirsty at the end of this movie...MacGuffins are a great part of storytelling, but in QoS, the villain's entire plot is just a pointless MacGuffin. It's odd, to say the least, to see a movie that cares so little about the villain's goal.

As to QUANTUM? Well, that's still in the shadows, and I have no real problem with that. S.P.E.C.T.R.E. was still pretty shadowy early on, a behind the scenes player. Remember, we never actually met Blofeld until the fourth movie. And S.P.E.C.T.R.E. always had small schemes--blackmail, drug running, stealing secrets, toppling missiles--running long before their more ambitious efforts. So we should be patient (although it's hard, as few of us here were old enough to have to wait 2 years between movies for more revelations about S.P.E.C.T.R.E...we could just pop in the next tape or DVD). But I'll admit that it can be frustrating that we have so little indication of the group size, or goals, or aims. So far, we know that they recommend bankers to terrorists, put plants inside of government agencies, and try to buy up water rights. Not the most evil or thrilling resume we've ever seen...

Don't forget to order your Quantum mugs and stationery, while you're at itOh, and a tip for Quantum: just like in Thunderball, if you're a top secret organization that nobody even knows exists, maybe it's not a good idea to go around wearing jewelry advertising it. What are you going to say when somebody asks "Hey, Greene, what's the 'Q' for?" "uh...well, it's definitely not the logo of a super-secret evil organization!!"

I'm just here as eye candyHey, what about henchmen?!? More to the point, are henchmen a dying art? For the second movie in a row, we really don't have ANY classic Bond henchmen. LeChiffre only had his silent girlfriend. Greene has Elvis and the silent Rutger Hauer wannabe...but Elvis doesn't do a damned thing the entire movie, except fall down the stairs!! He has perhaps two lines in English, he's not particularly menacing, he never gets a confrontation with Bond or Camille, and nothing he does is of any consequence to the plot. And the other guy has no dialogue, looks vaguely menacing but doesn't do anything besides carry a briefcase of money, and is killed with 10 other extras in a flash in the hotel garage.

Has the current Eon regime decided that classic Bond henchmen are passé? Have they decided after Diamondface Zao in Die Another Day that these characters are too comic bookish? Have the writers run out of ways to portray henchpeople besides trumped up bodyguards? Do villains need henchmen? Do Bond movies (if for no other reason than to give the villain someone to talk to)? Discuss...

At this rate, I'll be running the CIA by Bond #25Felix, Felix, Felix...I never really figured out why Eon adopted the "Felix-of-the-week" approach back in the Connery days. Not that it made much difference, because Felix was usually only there so Bond had somebody to explain the plot to, nothing more than a glorified Doctor Who companion. But see what happens when you put a real actor in the role, bring him back for consecutive movies, and actually make him a valuable (albeit minor) component of the plot? Like in CR06, Jeffrey Wright doesn't have a ton of screen time, doesn't get to actually figure in any of the action--but he steals his scenes anyway. Let's hope he's around for several more movies.

I liked your old office much betterI luvs me some Judi Dench. And she does a masterful job of forcing a good performance through repetitive dialogue and odd plot contortions: really, M, the head of the British Secret Service, turns up in person for prisoner interrogations in Italy and Russia?!? Seriously?!? And reboot confusion: it's hard to hear her castigating Bond for using women when we recall in TND she's actually ordering Bond to use sex to get information out of old girlfriends. But those are merely quibbles. Dench rules.

And can I praise the living hell out of Bond's confrontation with Yusef? 007 waiting in the darkened room for Yusef brought things nicely full circle with the teaser in Casino Royale. The quiet intensity Craig brings to the scene is breath taking. Corrine's reaction is wonderful, and the quiet "thank you" she gives Bond as she leaves the room is one of the best things in the movie. No hyper editing, no unnecessarily obscure shots of inanimate objects, dialogue that explains things without lecturing, Craig exuding dry wit and menace...it's the best scene in the film, and almost makes up for the anti-climax in Bolivia.

There is a ton of really good stuff in Quantum of Solace. It continues the process of "James Bond Year One" effectively, many of the action bits are exciting (if difficult to follow), the performances are Grade A throughout, the location work is outstanding (and creative, not just relying on the old standbys, but taking us to new exciting places), there are some some exciting sets.

But the movie falls short of the greatness of Casino Royale, because the people in charge didn't have the vision or ability to fully implement their ideas. A director who didn't know action adopting an idiom that he can't handle, which hides a lot of the great action and stunt work; amateur writers creating dialogue on the fly, with off-putting results; a plot even those making the movie can't be bothered to care about. A movie that could have been as great as CR06 ends up being lesser in almost every way (although still enjoyable and good)...and the trend worries me.

People complain that QoS didn't "feel like" a 007 movie. Well, there's nothing wrong with a Bond film "feeling" different than what's gone before. I'm all for changing the game around once in awhile, for shaking things up, for trying new things. But there is a point where you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and it can be even worse when you're not doing it on purpose. Did they purposely make it not feel like a Bond movie, or did they just not know how? The movie sets out to do things Bourne-style, but in the process manages to give short shrift to many of the things that make Bond Bond. Was that intentional, or just because they didn't know what they were doing? Did they try to make a Bond movie as dour, terse, short and cold-hearted as possible? Or was it because nobody involved knew how to inject humor, or how to craft a plot that involved the audience, that fleshed out characters and motivations, that gives us Bond panache and "wow"? Many critics complained that the Monty Norman theme wasn't used more...well, there weren't that many moments in the film that justified it's use, frankly...there's not a lot in the film that calls for the "holy crap it's Bond!" music.

I wouldn't care as much, or have gone on for so long, if the core of the movie wasn't so good (hell, look how easy I was on Die Another Day). But wasted potential rankles me, and sloppy execution of good ideas annoys me. So don't get me wrong...I like the bloody movie. I just wish that, somewhere in the process, someone had taken a step back and said, "Can't we do this better?" And hadn't Eon better find someone who can before Bond 23?!?

SNELL"S RANDOM NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS:

**After Craig complaining that they shouldn't use Die or Death in the film's title, it's ironic that we end up with a theme song titled Another Way To Die. I don't hate the song, but I can't say that I particularly care for it. Like many a Jack White written song, it's heavy on rhythm, light on melody, which I'm not sure is right for a Bond theme. I'd like it better as a White Stripes song than a Bond theme, I think. And while I appreciate that they're trying to pastiche elements of many Bond themes, it feels like they just threw everything in a blender and set it "chop" instead of "puree," resulting in a chunky mess instead of a smooth song. Much like the movie, it feels not fully baked yet. And don't get me started on the lyrics: "Shoot 'em up/ Bang bang!" Really??? You're serious?!?

That being said, David Arnold manages to use elements of it extraordinarily well in the score...and I like the way he attempts to "localize" the score, altering the type of music to fit the area Bond is in. Thumbs up.

**In teaser, the cars shooting the hell out of the Aston Martin, and trying to drive Bond off the road--aren't they just as likely to kill Mr. White? Or did they care about that--"better for him to be dead than let him fall into enemy hands," perhaps?

**Note to mainstream critics who relentlessly whine about how "bad" a title Quantum of Solace is...shut up. Please. Like The Bourne Supremacy means anything...

**I don't usually complain about this type of thing...but what was this, bad wig theater? Gemma Arterton's wig was atrocious, and Olga's seemed to change in color and thickness from shot to shot. If I'm noticing wigs, you know they must be bad...(and what the hell was Fields wearing under that trench coat, anyway?!?)

**Speaking of Gemma, we have Strawberry Fields. Here's a memo to screenwriters--if you're going to make a joke of her name, it doesn't count unless you actually put that joke in the movie. If you're not going to put the punch line into the film, then why leave the "what's your first name" coyness in the script? If you decide that actual humor is wrong for the movie, than why call attention to your own almighty cleverness by revealing the joke in the credits? Commit, guys, commit...either give her the name or don't, no half way measures.

What's the point of a cute/silly name if you never say it on screen?**So, Strawberry had time to take a note to the desk saying "run?" And it didn't refer to M, because Fields was dead by the time she showed up...so it had to be Greene or his men. So they left her time to take a note to the desk? Or did she just realize she was being followed?

**Part of the whole unresolved Mitchell plot was the $20 bill in his wallet, that led them to Slate.

First, they had been placing tracer bills in LeChiffre's payoff money. But, LeChiffre didn't work directly for Quantum, did he? In CR, Mr. White said "we just do the introductions, we don't vouch for him," implying that LeChiffre was an outsider. So how did his cash get into QUANTUM's hands?

Secondly, since we never find out even a scintilla of a clue about why Mitchell turned, what do we make of his having a single bill? Were they paying him...and he hid the rest of the money except for one $20?!? Does that mean they didn't have an emotional blackmail hold over him, as with Vesper and the plan for Corrine? Or did they do that only with females (or maybe Mitchell was gay and really into Yusef, too)? I just find it hard to see why Mitchell would have one and only one bill from the same batch used to pay Slate. Did Greene give him they assignment and Mitchell then say, "hey, bro, lend me a twenty?"

**The exciting touch table tops and hyperkinetic GUI on all of MI-6's computers (which seem pretty damned advanced for "5 minutes" after CR, but never mind). Are they sweet, or are they ultimately more distracting than regular old briefings/info dumps? Cool, or too Minority Report? Discuss.

**We obviously have to reevaluate parts of CR now that we know that Vesper's "boyfriend" was really a bogus dude. Now, obviously, there's no way LeChiffre could have known in advance his stock swindle would fail, he'd have to enter a big poker game, and MI-6 would infiltrate it and send an agent for the Treasury along. And there's no way QUANTUM could set up some whirlwind romance intense enough to sway Vesper in such a short period of time.

Which means they must have already planned to turn Vesper, and this opportunity came up. So what had they planned to have a rogue treasury agent do? Siphon them money? And having the exact right person in the exact right place is awfully convenient--unless they have a plethora of double agents, ready to be "activated" at a moment's notice. Maybe Yusef was a really busy guy...or they have an awful lot of seducers around. Q.U.A.N.T.U.M--meeting your evil male prostitute needs since 2006 (female, too, I would imagine).

Also, M showing up for White's interrogation was surely not planned far in advance, so rescuing White was an emergency tactic...so what was Quantum's plan for him?!?

**Wait a minute--vital secrets from Canadian intelligence?

Just kidding, Canadian friends. But seriously, a couple of Quantum members want to make this their top priority? What the hell does Corrine have access to??

**Whereas Bond had a godawful time tailing people in CR06, he never gets "made" here. However, this time around he's Mr. Butterfingers, dropping his gun gosh knows how many times. Better start carrying a back-up piece, James...

**Bond also is terrorizing Haiti, undoubtedly their top vehicle thief. In a brief span he steals a motorcycle, two boats, and a truck...He's a one man crime wave.

**More opera fu: Bond interrupts the Quantum discussion during the "Te Deum," which is at the end of Act I. Since Bond procured his earplug before the start of the show, what has he been doing for the last 45 minutes (at least)?

Also..the audience is hanging in the lobby, and the company is still unloading equipment and costumes? I don't think so...

**Why is Greene so upset about Haynes' bodyguard seeing his face? Greene was already seen by tons of people at the opera--he was greeted by name in the lobby, he was mingling with other guests...everybody would have already known he was at the show!! So why the secrecy? (answer: more sloppy writing...they had to have an excuse for Greene's man to shoot the bodyguard, so Bond could be blamed for it...)

**Both a fighter plane and a helicopter are chasing Bond's DC-3. Bond takes out the plane...but the copter is still there..what happened to them? It just vanishes after shooting the DC-3. Did they just assume Bond was dead (which would be odd, since they were the ones who insisted that the fighter plane confirm the kill)?

**How did Fields know when Bond was arriving in Bolivia? Even if the airline agent finked out and told MI-6 that Bond had wanted to go to La Paz, he spends an untold amount of time traveling to Italy. Mathis supposedly gets them new untraceable documents, and they fly a private jet down there. Was Fields just staking out the airport 24/7? Remember, she had never heard of Mathis, so it seems unlikely they traced his connections...so how did they know when and where to be waiting?!?

**So, MI-6 bought Mathis that gorgeous villa as an apology for torturing him when he was innocent?!? Uh, where do I sign up for that package?!? Torture away, guys...

**So when he's dying, Mathis tells Bond that "Mathis" was just his cover name. We don't learn what his real name was (thanks for the follow through, writers!!)...but that does make us think again about the possibility that "James Bond" is also just a cover name...that, like in the "comedy" Casino Royale, maybe it's just the cover name given to whoever is 007. Which means maybe this hasn't been a reboot, which would explain why we still have Judi Dench as M, because the "Brosnan" Bond died or retired, and "Craig" was promoted to his spot and given his name and number.

Gentleman, start your fan fic...

**The clumsiest and most-telegraphed deus ex machina ever: "What's that sound?" "Hydrogen fuel cells!!" "Sounds unstable." From that moment, the audience knows with metaphysical certainty that those cells will blow up the hotel during the climax. Really, is it possible to be less subtle?

**Speaking of which, is this the most anti-environmental Bond ever? What are our messages--"Don't trust environmentalists--they're really evil scumbags who want to rape the Earth more than ever" and "don't trust hydrogen fuel cells...they'll blow up your place real good!!"

**Okay, okay, we get it, "US=dickheads." Do we need to keep piling on? (And did we need to make Beam such a braying jackass?)

**I know the hotel in the desert was "secured..." but only 1 employee? That's ridiculous, but the only "civilian" we see is the receptionist/waitress (played by Charlie Chaplin's granddaughter!)...not even a janitor? The writers/director are transparently trying to minimize the number of civilian casualties from 007 and Camille's raid...but common sense tells us that a number of innocent people had to die as a result of their actions. This isn't a S.P.E.C.T.R.E. hollowed out volcano, it's a private hotel!! (Cue the Death Star discussion from Clerks...)

**Speaking of which, can I whine about something here? We have General Medrano rape the poor girl just so we'll hate him and won't be conflicted about Camille shooting him. Given that, it was pretty dickish of the filmmakers to just let her die, offscreen, wasn't it? When we last see her, her hands are bound, she's thrown to the floor, and in a hotel room being consumed by fire with no way out. I'll suggest there was no possible way she survived that, and if she did she no doubt perished in the desert.

Which is in keeping with the movie's treatment Bolivia in general--pretend we care, then forget about them when it's convenient...I just find it disturbing that we set someone up to be a rape victim just as a plot device, and don't even give them the dignity of an on screen death or rescue.

**Producer Michael Wilson said they put the "gun barrel" at the end of the movie "as a surprise." Uh...any other reason than just to f$%^ with us, Mike? Because that doesn't make a lot of sense...

**Marc Forster said the poker scenes in Casino Royale were "really slow." Seriously, how did he get to direct a Bond film?

**Bond Score 1, just Strawberry Fields, and sadly not forever. Cumulative Bond Score: 58.

And, as always (no pic yet)

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN IN THE HILDEBRANDT RARITY

That's my prediction, and I'm sticking with it...

33 comments:

  1. The gun barrel said to me, after the "growth" we've seen him go through in this film, that he is NOW the "real" Bond, the grown up, wisecracking, whoring, smartass we remember from all those other movies. His training wheels are off, now he's become 007.

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  2. The jump-cut happy, hard-to-follow action scenes really got to me, too. And yeah, why focus on the horses so much?

    I strongly, strongly doubt that QoS would have been directed with the video game tie-in in mind, but some of the barely-there action scenes reminded me of the hinted-at but barely-seen Niobe action scenes in The Matrix Reloaded, which were fleshed out by the tie-in video game (clever, really, in that players could manipulate the characters without contradicting the way a particular scene went down in the film, as it was of course hardly there). Again, I doubt that's what happened in QoS, but I couldn't shake the idea as I was watching the film.

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  3. It's interesting to read Roger Ebert's Nov 19 Answer Man column in light of your comments about Bolivia: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=ANSWERMAN

    A reader writes to Ebert that "I had inner unease when reading your review of "Quantum of Solace." I sensed a sarcastic tone when you mentioned that the "tragedy" Bond was trying to prevent was the overtake of Bolivia's water supply. More minor one than the domination of the world indeed, but also a true and painful memory for me and my fellow Bolivians. We actually had a "water war," ridiculously simplified in the film." Then he goes on to mention another film, about Americans manipulating Bolivians politics.

    To which, Ebert replies "I had no idea the scheme was in any way based on fact, or I wouldn't have made light of it. Scary thought: I wonder if they didn't know? Or care? Which would reinforce your view of we Northerners. I wonder how the film will play in Bolivia. They'll probably dub in the name of another country. Hollow laugh."

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  4. I think you are being way too harsh on the film sneil. I for once adored Foster's direction and thought he was at last better than Tamahori and Apted. Everytime I read a review dissing his direction it sounds like they just wanted the action scenes to look like Martin Campbell's.

    Peter Hunt's action sequences for OHMSS get dissed and I always defend them as well. Looks like this will be the case with QoS in the future for me.

    I do not have a problem with the action sequences and managed to understand them just fine on the first viewing. The fight in the crumbling museum is one of the very best fights in Bond history.

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  5. It's funny, that whole "is Bond just a code name and role that different agents have taken on just like the various actors who've played him" idea is hilariously divisive among Bond fans.
    Some people just HATE the idea and become full-on rage-clowns when someone ventures to consider the idea. A year or so ago, another blog I read frequently (I think it might have been siskoid) broached the subject, and one of the commenters FREAKED RIGHT THE F#$K OUT on him for it.
    I kind of enjoy speculating about it, if only semi-seriously. If we're in the same continuity, then we can speculate about possible connections between SPECTRE and QUANTUM. Is one the predecessor of the other? Or perhaps the term "SPecial Executive" implies that it's the special executive of a larger organization.
    Even if this is never to be a factor in the Bond movies, I was thinking that if they ever managed to make that Prisoner movie they keep threatening to make, a fun cameo would be to get as many former Bond actors as you could get (preferably all, though that's probably no possible) sitting around a table playing cards in the background of a scene in the Village. Eon might not like it, but as long as you never say the name, and the actors are into it, there's not much that could be done...

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  6. Hmm... I say Bond fans have a very good reason to despise the idea of bond being a codename since it derives from the 1967 Casino Royale.

    I can't say there is a connection between SPECTRE and QUANTUM either since its a new continuity.

    It's fun to speculate of course...

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  7. "Feel some distaste for," perhaps. "Despise"? Lighten the hell up.
    I am fully aware that it's a new continuity, and was just having some fun speculating, as is glaringly obvious in my comment.

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  8. I don't understand why I need to be told to "lighten the hell up." I said while I disagree with the notion I find it fun too. I am not the full-rage clown now.

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  9. I'll defend the horse interspersion as the one good action interruption, similar to the bullfight in OHMSS. But the other scenes you mentioned, such as the opera, were truly horrible. Which is sad, because never before in a movie have I seen such INCREDIBLE stunt work. The movie needs to be reworked, if not for the audience, then for the hard-working stuntmen who were seriously injured making this film.
    I feel the gunbarrel at the end of the film indicating that he's now James Bond WEAKENS and HURTS Casino Royale, because the powerful ending of that movie signaled he was James Bond. You can't pull the same trick twice.
    About the Bolivian water scandal, it seemed only there to highlight the world's lust for oil. Once it actually became about water, it was abandoned like the Bolivian people.
    Also, it was funny how pundits and critics were saying, once again, that this Bond "abandons" the "Bond, James Bond" line. When asked, Forster laughed, and said it was in the movie but the scene it was in was cut for other reasons.

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  10. ...unless they have a plethora of double agents, ready to be "activated" at a moment's notice.

    I think that's exactly right, actually. The real-life intelligence agencies do a lot of "fishing," and it takes a long time to cultivate an agent, and you might not know precisely what you want from that asset during the recruitment stage. But having a highly-placed Treasury agent is the sort of thing that will likely prove useful to a global criminal conspiracy *somewhere* down the line.

    (Also the rationale for the Mr. White business, I believe. Sure, it'd be nice to rescue him alive instead of killing both him and Bond in the car chase, but the eventual "Plan B" requires burning M's bodyguard, obviously a highly-valuable asset.)

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  11. Good review, Snell. You fleshed out a lot of my own thoughts, and gave me new things to think about. Just a few nitpicks:

    -Nothing else to say about Agent Fields, besides knocking her wig? I thought she was one of the few moments of pure pleasure in the whole movie. The way she maintained her prim Englishness while on assignment in a Third World hole was a delight.

    -Disagree about Corrine's "thank you" at the end. I thought it was silly and tacked on -- in fact, a good number of people in my theater laughed at it.

    -No mention of Dominic Greene's laughable physical inferiority to Bond? In the absence of a tough henchman, Greene has to have the climactic fight with Bond himself, and it was a ridiculous spectacle. Also, Greene's taunt about "another one" -- was that a reference to Vesper? It seemed so, but Greene had absolutely nothing to do with the events of CR.

    -For Mathis to die so soon after hooking Bond up with his Bolivian military friend... it just didn't make sense. Are we supposed to think that Mathis was betrayed? Or that Quantum's Bolivian connections were just stronger?

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  12. "I never really figured out why Eon adopted the "Felix-of-the-week" approach back in the Connery days."

    Apparently, when casting Goldfinger, they asked Jack Lord to reprise his Leiter, but he wanted equal billing with Connery and a huge sum of money, so they had to re-cast Leiter. Richard Maibaum subsequently hated all the other Leiters, saying that they kept getting older or fatter or less charismatic actors in just to make 007 look even better.

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  13. I liked Greene's final fight with Bond, at least he got to confront him. I'd rather see that than no final confrontation at all.

    And once again in the minority I liked the opera sequence, thought it was one of the best sequences of the film actually. Reminded me of the restaurant action sequence in Luc Besson's NIKITA.

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  14. On the "real-life South America" front, I saw a news story about a mayor in the part of Chile they used to substitute for Bolivia. He got in a hissy fit with Eon because they used a part of Chile that had actually been occupied *by* Bolivia in a war 100 years ago or so. (Apparently, though, polling indicates that like 80% of Chile think this guy's an idiot.)

    Kind of interesting, though, and it got me thinking about the negotiations that must take place for shooting locations. Presumably, the governments of Haiti and Bolivia weren't inclined to allow filming of a movie that depicts their countries as godawful third-world hellholes... but on the other hand, what does it say for Panama and Chile that their countries can easily *stand in* for godawful third-world hellholes?

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  15. "Lighten the hell up" was a general statement addressed at the mass of all those out there who might "despise" the idea, not necessarily at anyone present (though I wouldn't feel bad if anyone who'd be upset by it was lurking either).

    The second part (about how I was clearly speculating) was, though, a direct cranky reply, so maybe they seemed like parts of the same statement. There seemed (to me) to be an element of "it's speculative, so why talk about it" to your "I cannot say" statement, which is a bit of a peeve of mine.

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  16. Sorry I did not mean to be cranky. But I am not a big fan of the whole speculation angle. The extremes that Bond fans go in their fan fictions to justify the continuity errors in the franchise (not only different Bonds but different Moneypennies and different Blofelds, etc...!!!) to me are just like the counter-UFO theories. In the end they sound way more ridiculous than just accepting that UFOs are real.

    Bond movies have bad continuity.

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  17. So many notes, so little time to respond...

    David C--I can;t pretend to know what factors prompting what locations were used...I suspect that costs and tax breaks (and in Haiti's case, perhaps, security) were at least as important as govts approving the storyline. But what do I know?

    Tags--Mathis' "friend" was purely motivated by money. Remember the first thing Mathis said to him on the phone: "Of course I wouldn't have called you if I didn't bring money!" There's little doubt Greene could significantly outbid poor Mathis for his loyalty, and probably had already agreed to sell Mathis and Bond out before they even got to La Paz.

    Strawberry's role was so small, there wasn't a ton to comment on. She's purty, she's English, she tripped Elvis, she's dead. Either stuff was left on the cutting room floor, or just a very underdeveloped role.

    I liked Amalric's explanation of the final fight, that of course Greene was outclassed physically by Bond, but he's so unskilled and desperate, fighting like a madman, that he catches Bond somewhat off guard, at least for a little bit.

    Anon-the difference is, the bull fight in OHMSS was interspersed with conversation, not an action set piece.

    But I agree completely about the end of CR--we get Bond not killing White, saying "Bond, James Bond" and the Monty Norman theme...everything about the final scene says "OK, he's Bond now," and QoS comes along and says "hold on, not yet."

    Icebreaker--that Bond films have "bad continuity" is hardly a revelation. Hell, George Lucas couldn't even keep continuity straight over 6 movies he created and mostly wrote himself, so there's no way a 22-film franchise spanning 45+ years and dozens more creators is going to have good continuity.

    Still, QoS did invite some of this speculation with the news that Mathis was just a cover name (and the fact that Bond knew that), which of course leads to speculation about who else might just be a cover name. If they didn't want us to think about it, they shouldn't have put it in the script...

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  18. I was not making a revelation, I was stating the obvious. If EON just sent the 12-year olds who write fan fictions and seriously spend their free time justifying that each Bond is a different character into frenzy by saying Mathis is a cover name then I'll never forgive them for it. :D

    They are going to go through tough times explaining how both Lazenby and Moore lost their wives in 1969.

    James Bond is not a cover name, and I am pretty sure no one here seriously thinks otherwise other than speculating. We can speculate he is a double agent as well. We can speculate he's a woman. Etc...

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  19. I thought the worse part of the movie was Grenne; he never really seem to be a true menace. He seemed to be more of a henchmen than anything. Definitely worst part of the movie. Come on, it's not that tough to make a good bad guy!

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  20. I don't see what is so bad about him, I liked him much better than Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. In order to portray "menace" they gave Madds a glass eye and asthma. Grenne didn't need that, you could tell what he was capable of through his eyes. A lot of people complained that the film doesn't give him a chance to show how evil he is. I don't understand why, I thought the film made it pretty clear. After all, all this would mean is that repeated cliched scene of the villain killing his own henchmen after they fail to aprehend Bond.

    snell- Now that you are done with the films, will you be reviewing the books? What did you think of Devil May Care? Will you be reviewing the OSS 117 films as well? :D

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  21. Snell:

    "There's little doubt Greene could significantly outbid poor Mathis for his loyalty, and probably had already agreed to sell Mathis and Bond out before they even got to La Paz."

    Okay, that makes sense. What doesn't make sense, though, is the complacent trust shown by Mathis and Bond. You'd think they'd know that whatever Mathis managed to scrape out of his bank account couldn't match the resources of Quantum. My guess is that Mathis *thought* it was about more than money, but like M, he was betrayed by someone he'd known for a long time.

    "Strawberry's role was so small, there wasn't a ton to comment on."

    I dunno -- she did more than Elvis, and you commented on him. There was a quirkiness to Fields' character that made her stand out, limited screen time notwithstanding. And of course she was the subject of the long-awaited Oil Shot.

    "I liked Amalric's explanation of the final fight, that of course Greene was outclassed physically by Bond, but he's so unskilled and desperate, fighting like a madman, that he catches Bond somewhat off guard, at least for a little bit."

    Now this explanation I don't buy. I think Almaric tried to sell it by grunting and squealing in deranged fashion, but it takes more than that to "catch Bond off guard." Greene's a pure white-collar thug; in a straight-up fight Bond should have dispatched him easily. The script should either a) have established at some point that Greene, despite his appearance, had some hand-to-hand abilities, or b) Put Bond at some kind of disadvantage during their fight, to even the odds.

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  22. "If EON just sent the 12-year olds who write fan fictions and seriously spend their free time justifying that each Bond is a different character into frenzy by saying Mathis is a cover name then I'll never forgive them for it. :D"

    So, everybody who makes an offhand comment about how it's a funny idea that it could be different guys given a code name is immediately equivalent to a 12-year old fan fiction writer? Sorry, but if a remark I make reminds of something that pissed someone off (way too much) once, that's just not my problem, plain and simple.
    Broaching the idea in conversation as something that's fun to think about is worlds away from some anal retentive attempt to fit everything into one continuity, and responding to it like the're practically the same, or even that one is a slippery slope to the other, is just plain nonsense.

    My whole take is more an "anything-goes, po-mo partytime, put in to or remove from continuity whatever you like when you're talking Bond, and if anyone gets mad about that for dogmatic or purist reasons, fuck 'em", not an attempt to get all the movies and books to fit into a rigidly structured continuity, so I'm not obligated to answer for any abuses of the code name theory by continuity fiends. Period.

    What I'd enjoy the most would be some offhand remark or reference in one of the new post-CR movies that would both titillate and infuriate both camps, something like the "they are Klingons, but it is a long story and we do not discuss it with outsiders" thing that Worf said in the DS9 Tribbles episode, only more ambiguous and divisive if possible; something that can be interpreted as both an endorsement and a fuck-you to the hardcore pro and anti continuity camps at once.

    And if it's convoluted attempts to fit everything in puts a bee in one's bonnet, what about the way Gardner and Benson (who, it could be argued, just produced paid fan fiction) had to jump through hoops to fit things into continuity, especially when the approach of a new movie meant that it was novelization time?

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  23. I'd like to see coverage of Devil May Care sometime too. Really enjoyed that novel.

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  24. "So, everybody who makes an offhand comment about how it's a funny idea that it could be different guys given a code name is immediately equivalent to a 12-year old fan fiction writer?"

    No. I never said that. Please stop with the drama, this is a Bond blog.

    "And if it's convoluted attempts to fit everything in puts a bee in one's bonnet, what about the way Gardner and Benson (who, it could be argued, just produced paid fan fiction) had to jump through hoops to fit things into continuity, especially when the approach of a new movie meant that it was novelization time?"

    Only Benson gave himself a hard time with that one. Gardner established in "The Man From Barbarosa" that Bond became a spy in the 1960s so we just assume that the book takes place in a different time continuum. That's what I do with the films anyway. Just don't worry about continuity too much when it comes to Bond and you'll be fine.

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  25. I have to agree with everyone's take on the gun barrel finale as compared with the end of CR. It was good seeing it in the movie "at all". But it's still nice to know that the creators are paying homage to the previous movies as with Field's death in "oil". Hell, she was even in Shirley Eaton's exact pose...I loved that.

    As to the "Minority Report" info screens...it strikes me as very strange that Wilson and Broccoli have opted out of using "gadgets" in the movie for Bond, yet they come up with these "space age" goodies that are just simple ways to put moge CGI in the movie. I like the fact that 007 has gotten away from the need for utilizing so many hidden playthings to help out, but these type of things, IMO, just get in the way, and tend to take one's mind off the business at hand.

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  26. "No. I never said that."
    Not in so many words, but as good as.

    "Please stop with the drama, this is a Bond blog."
    Pot, kettle, glass houses, etc. etc.

    "That's what I do with the films anyway. Just don't worry about continuity too much when it comes to Bond and you'll be fine."
    How on earth do you get "worried" about continuity out of anything that I said?

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  27. Stop with the drama, this is a Bond blog. I am clearly not "worried" about continuity, leave that to the 12-year old fan fiction writers. :D

    Now back to James Bond, or is he really the same Bond?

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  28. I think QOS was a stronger film thanks to Greene and Camille. Greene had much more going on than his predecessor, LeChiffre. Camille had more of a story/personality, too. Although her back story reminded me of O-Ren's origin tale in Kill Bill Vol. 1.

    They didn't need the evil general she was after to attack Chaplin's granddaughter for me to hate him. I loathed him sufficiently enough after hearing what he did to Camille's family. (Did he assault Chaplin's GD, though? I thought she was saved.)

    I was surprised to see QOS pick up a trait from Die Another Day: ripping off of the La Femme Nikita TV series. The magic table in MI6 makes Section's technology look quaint, and fans found it quite futuristic back in the late '90s. In fact, my friend who got me into Bond reminded me of how much fun was made of the Renard hologram and wall phone in TWINE. Again, quaint compared to the OTT magic table.

    Also, Vesper's "BF" seems a concept directly lifted from Nikita: the Valentine operative. Attractive, dedicated agents used to seduce (and sometimes marry and have children with, to establish a "blood cover") women and men who may prove useful to fighting terrorism. And yes, they often have more than one relationship going at the same time.

    I also think I noticed two more maybe-homages in QOS: 007 versus guy on edge of roof, guy has 007 by clothing, 007 hits the guy's grip away causing him to fall off roof (The Spy Who Loved Me). Also using oil pipelines to pump water reminded me of A View to a Kill.

    Anyway, I wonder if this film would have been better or worse if the writers' strike had not happened? I could see it being better had it made the connections that seem to be missing, but it could be worse if they ended up rewriting themselves out of what I felt were the more Bondian elements.

    I miss the wit of the pre-Craig 007 films, though -- and I'm not talking about the one-liners.

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  29. Thank you for ironing out all the random thoughts I've been having about this film. I don't know what you do for a living, but hopefully it is something related to reviews, but you're pretty good at them.

    What struck me as weird right off the bat was when the traitor reveals himself, shoots Mr. White (which I was unsure of until you clarified), runs and...Bond goes after him and NOT Mr. White. White is more important isn't he? They reveal a traitor to off him/help him escape, certainly he's a higher up. Plus he's connected to the whole Vesper fiasco, which is why they wanted him in the first place. Fine, the traitor is a shock and proves their security isn't as cool as they thought, but don't lose Mr. White! Get him! Especially if, as you say, he was shot, so what an easy re-catch! And in the end, Bond just kills the traitor anyway, so it was all pointless.

    Also, Fields was just a weird inclusion for me. It was weird how she just found Bond, it was weird how they hooked up, it was weird how she trips the thug as if that is somehow helpful to anyone, weird how she died. Weird that M even thought someone like her could stop Bond to begin with, as if he would actually listen to her and return to base. "We need someone for Bond to have sex with", seemed like her reason for being. Also...she obviously hand wrote that note so that means she got back to the hotel so how did they drown her in oil? Did they carry a vat up to her room? Did they capture her, take her away, and then somehow smuggled a naked chick dripping with oil back upstairs? Interesting nod to Goldfinger, but it left me more confused then delighted.

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  30. Thanks for covering many of my misgivings in the film. I would like to address one point:

    Speaking of which, is this the most anti-environmental Bond ever? What are our messages--"Don't trust environmentalists--they're really evil scumbags who want to rape the Earth more than ever"

    This is a fault in the screenplay. In fact, the QoS plot was quite radical rather than reactionary, but the screenplay was insufficiently fleshed out and so those radical threads were left hanging.

    The evil plot is based around several real instances of privatization of water. The choice of Bolivia for the setting showed that the screenwriters were very aware of the history there. In 1998, the International Monetary Fund approved a $138 million loan, the terms of which mandated that Bolivia sell off all public enterprises remaining. Then, the following year, the World Bank issued the Bolivia Public Expenditure Review which read, in part, that Bolivia should privatize its water and that failure to do so might 'interfere' with the funding from the IMF and World Bank.

    In late 1999, Bolivia legalized the privatization of water and signed a 40-year, $2.5 billion contract with Aguas del Tunari, a Bechtel subsidiary, allowing them to provide water and sanitation services to the residents of Cochabamba. As of January 2000, prices had suddenly tripled and the quality of water was worse than ever. Protests, then an full uprising, eventually forced Aguas del Tunari to withdraw from Cochabamba and the control of water was signed over to a grassroots coalition led by Cochabamba residents.

    The process of raping the land and water and pretending to be doing it for the environment is called "greenwashing". The "Wise Use" movement is one such example, and from Camille's statement which buggered up Greene's attempt at securing a large donation, one can tell that Greene is a big proponent of the "Wise Use" of timber land.

    I also loved the element that Greene's NGO was sponsoring a coup in South America. Those of us who watch that region with interest are well aware that NGOs are often key agents in facilitating coups and coup attempts (for example, the International Republican Institute in Haiti in 2004, Venezuela in 2002, etc.). The same thing goes on in Africa, Central America, Asia, and sometimes Europe (e.g. the "colour revolutions" in the former Soviet states).

    Even the choice of a French actor to portray Dominick Greene was probably inspired by this hidden history. Two of the largest profiteers off of privatized water are Veolia Environment and Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, both of them French companies. Suez Lyonnaise was behind the recent privatization of water in Atlanta, where residents got skyrocketing rates for water that was undrinkable out of the tap. It was literally brown and residents were advised to boil their water before drinking it.

    All of this could have and should have been explained in the screenplay, but the movie was too short and, as you noted, the screenplay feels like a first draft rushed into production.

    I also agree about Mathieu Amalric. A great performance. The way he sadistically snarled "Sounds like you've lost another one!" was just perfect. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be remembered as one of the great Bond villains because his character wasn't given enough to do.

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  31. Excellent review. Spot on.

    I think you may have overlooked something for the "clumsiest and most-telegraphed deus ex machina ever" though -- which has to be, must be, the buzzsaw helicopter in TWINE.

    "Don't mind us, we're just -- trimming up these trees. Nothing to see here."

    My head still hurts from that one.

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  32. Finally read this review! Phew! I think you put the finger on everything that made the movie not work for me. I think I completely agree.

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  33. "**Wait a minute--vital secrets from Canadian intelligence? Just kidding, Canadian friends. But seriously, a couple of Quantum members want to make this their top priority? What the hell does Corrine have access to??"

    Canada's all over this stuff. Think about it, priv'd access to both the UK and US.

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