Quantum of Solace? Inconceivable!

Quantum of Solace was on the telly last night. Way past my bedtime of course, plus the clocks were going forward so I knew I’d lose an hour’s sleep. I wondered what James Bond would do in the circumstances, and decided to live dangerously. Sadly, staying up late with a glass of Southern Comfort proved marginally more thrilling than the movie itself.

Shame – I enjoyed the Casino Royale reboot, and I rate Daniel Craig as Bond. He’s closer even than Connery to Ian Fleming’s arrogant anti-hero. He just doesn’t have much to do in Solace than look, well, arrogant and anti-heroic.

The paper-thin story doesn’t help … plus it’s just a bit dull. Give me a Bond villain who wants to take over the world, not a wannabe utility supplier. Even worse – for a Bond film at least – there’s a serious problem with the action scenes, which you can usually rely on to keep you interested between the dull bits. They’re just too damn frenetic. Maybe director Marc Foster’s been watching too many Michael Bay films.

It’s not that I can’t keep up with the fast cutting. I have no problem with it in principal. It’s just that you have to moderate it. When every shot lasts less than twelve frames, you run the risk of detaching the audience from not only the action but – more importantly – the characters. I couldn’t help thinking back to Alfonso Cuarón’s stunning one-shots in Children of Men. There’s the ambush scene when the car runs into the foerst bandits, shot in one astonishing take that lasts, what, four minutes or so? And the later one where the camera follows Clive Owen through battle-torn streets, into and out of a wrecked bus, through a building that’s being shelled, again all without a single cut (or rather with the actual cuts seamlessly blended so you don’t notice). Both these shots are infinitely more gripping than anything in Quantum of Solace. A lot of that’s to do with point of view – as an audience we’re right there with the actor. And because the camera’s just rolling and rolling, there’s a real sense that anything could happen. So much for style and execution. It still comes down to story. If I actually care about the characters and what they get up to, I can forgive most of the rest. But the closest I got last night was rooting – very late in the day – for Olga Kurylenko’s Bolivian agent. Her revenge story was stronger than anything Daniel Craig was getting up to. Unfortunately – and unforgiveably – its resolution occurs off-screen. I’m therefore pleased to announce the crown for revenge stories is still held by Mandy Patinkin playing Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. Stay up late to watch Bond again? Inconceivable!

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