Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Oh dear. Sub-Bourne in the Sienna section and thereafter sub-Bond for most of the rest of the film. 

It's as if the script was cobbled together by a committee of individuals who either only half remembered or only half understood what makes a good 007 caper. The worst part was that, the nod to Goldfinger aside, the Bond it most reminded me of was Dalton in License to Kill, but even that had provided a more intelligent portrait of Latin American politics. (It certainly had better reason to be trapped in the 80s!) 

Having introduced us to Mr White and his oh-so-secret organisation, the action diverts into a Bolivian sideshow which we are invited to give at least one hoot about because it is somehow linked to the death of a character that we know Bond himself cared a lot about.

But as he goes about settling this score with a look of full-blown ennui, albeit pugnacious ennui - teaming up with the equally weary-looking Camille and a Felix Leiter who can barely keep his eyes open - it's ultimately difficult to devote much mental energy to working out what Dominic Greene is really up to. (Only Judi Dench as M comes over as confused rather than simply bored.)

Craig hasn't squandered the good-will generated by Casino Royale and has one or two good lines in the midst of his rather taciturn performance in the sequel, but the style of direction works against the qualities of the script, such as they are. 

Ian Fleming never flinched from taking on the Russians during the Cold War. Jason Bourne's excuse for not taking on Western society's current set of designated enemies is a good one - his conflict is an internal one to the CIA. Bond's writers are too terrified to pit him against anyone even vaguely Middle-Eastern (and think themselves too' modern' to provide him with adversaries like Hugo Drax in Moonraker), so what we end up with is a cop-out - with 007 running away, running around and running towards a blend of threats both internal and external, against a rather impressionistic backdrop of nasty geopolitical machinations, which are ultimately grounded on the trade of certain commodities. It's just not good enough. 

Greengrass keeps the Bourne plots racing so fast that you have little time to notice the shallowness below the surface.  Here Mac Foster demonstrates that there is more to this than simply shaking the camera so that viewer is only barely aware what's going on. There's enough depth of character in the Ludlum-derived series that Bourne's loss of Marie matters to us, and his relationship with Nicky has also started to intrigue, but Q of S's attempt, pardon the pun, to bond 007 with Mathis serves only to reveal how garbled this series has become. 

And series it is, unfortunately. Such is the lack of resolution surrounding the 'Quantum' gang and their friends in high places, that one is left with the impression that another convocation of scribblers will soon be tasked with picking up from where Q of S left off. But I find myself better disposed to finding out the truth behind all the various conspiracies and secret organisations in Lost and Heroes than I do with this now fumbled reinvention of a venerable franchise. 


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