Monday, November 17, 2008

Movies: Quantum of Solace

Writing about Daniel Craig as Bond brings me, oddly enough, full circle—back to the exercise (at which I failed) that started me on this compulsive response writing: a challenge to review Casino Royale. I didn’t post it, but kept the unfinished draft on my laptop. The choice quote, I think, is this:

I positively loathe all Sean Connery Bond films, because I think Sean Connery is an apish thug who lacks the class and physical grace necessary to properly portray the character. But Daniel Craig has done what I thought impossible: he has swindled Sean Connery out of his uncontestable My Least Favorite Bond medal.

A second film in, Craig has failed to cultivate any suavity. He remains the converse of Pierce Brosnan’s debonair hero, who was always a natural with the ladies. Craig, in those IPO khaki pants (the real Bond would never be caught dead. . .) with his renegade Dennis the Menace tuft of blond, spends most of his time mooning over some lost girlfriend, and only manages to tumble one set (though a lovely set she is). Even Connery would be ashamed.

But the grand failure of Quantum of Solace cannot be blamed fully on Craig: plenty of blame lies with director Marc Forster, who turns out to be incompetent when it comes to filming coherent action sequences (and if Bond is not about the urbane hero, it must be about the action). During each vehicular sequence (and there is a car chase, a boat chase, a plane chase, etc.—to the point that one waits and waits for the train sequence, and is then let down to find that the penultimate scene, which does take place in front of a rail yard, involves no action), the cuts are so fast and so poorly organized that one does not come away with a general understanding of what just happened. The effect is more of being in a car wreck than watching one—we cannot logically string together the interior shots of Craig driving with the exterior shots of his and his enemy’s car/boat/plane. The sound of crushing metal is loud and the scrapes and explosions are gritty—again, a kind of grit not appropriate to Bond (who is the kind of hero who doesn’t wrinkle his dinner jacket while fist-fighting, who is such a clever driver that his sports car escapes chases unscratched).

The final key to any Bond film is, of course, the Bond Girls. And the casting agents do not disappoint with the plump-lipped, doe-eyed Olga Kurylenko and the dishy, red-headed Gemma Arterton (whose naked body (or body-double) looks disturbingly fantastic clad in a coat of black oil). But shame on the stylists—why are Kurylenko’s breasts so immobilized in those tank tops? And who did Arterton’s matronly updo? And more shame on the screenwriter—since when is Bond too sensitive to soothe Cami with more than just a kiss?

Even if the girls are the end-all be-all of the film, a word must always be given to the villain as well. I don’t know whether to blame lazy screenwriters or Mathieu Amalric’s definitive role in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but I just couldn’t summon up any hatred for his character Dominic—a natural-resource capitalist wolf in green non-profit sheep’s clothing. And even the even badder guy, a dictator-cum-rapist who would sell out his own people for a buck and a fancy title, is such a hackneyed sketch that we can’t take him any more seriously than we might take the militants in Woody Allen’s Bananas.

So what do we have in the end? A very expensive, very noisy B-movie with A-movie fixings: gorgeous fireballs, pretty girls, and a disappointed audience.

No comments: