Monday, December 01, 2008

The Bond Identity

It’s always dangerous for companies to screw with a money-making franchise. Then again, you have to admire those that decide to try something different rather than simply mix up the same ingredients every couple of years and sell it back to their audience.

For 44 years the Bond franchise had tinkered here and there – usually when a new actor took on the role of 007 – but it pretty much stuck to the same tried and tested formula. Although Die Another Day, released on the fortieth anniversary of Dr No, had its moments, the invisible car and that retched CGI in the para-surfing sequence really was the nadir of the film series. I mean, good grief!

Thankfully the trilogy of Jason Bourne films came along, raising the bar and showing that taking spy movies back to basics was more fulfilling than tipping over into fantasy, especially once Paul Greengrass got involved. Luckily EON Productions had the brains to figure out they had to follow suit, which lead to the reinvention of a far more brutal Bond in the guise of Daniel Craig, left to using guns and guile rather than the elaborate Q-branch gadgets for getting out of tight spots.

Of course the unprecedented success and praise heaped upon Casino Royale led to an even bigger dilemma: coming up with a worthy follow-up. Having skimmed various broadsheet and magazine reviews before heading out, many of which seemed to show a hint of disappointment, I wondered if I was watching the same film those writers had. I haven’t seen an inordinate number of movies this year, but Quantum of Solace was by far the best. While so many films weave their way around great big gaping plot holes, everything in this movie made sense.

A lot has been made of Quantum of Solace being a direct sequel to the previous film, rather than simply another adventure, but it soon becomes apparent that this continuation of the story is utterly necessary. Casino Royale saw the new, reinvigorated Bond go from a “blunt instrument” to the more familiar secret agent persona, but there’s more to accruing the physical manifestation through cars, tuxedoes and cocktails.

So Quantum of Solace is the final transform of the new Bond, getting past the urge for simple revenge to obtain a detached professional mindset. Like the final scenes of The Bourne Supremacy, Quantum of Solace is all about getting closure, which makes it all the more remarkable at a time when most action thrillers, much like the younger audiences they cater for, are so utterly empty-headed.

Finally saving the girl this time, from fire rather than water, while developing a particularly cruel streak that really needs to exploited, not only does the iconic gun barrel POV appear at the end of the film but they actually draw a lie physically across the screen. Of course this doesn’t mean that before leaving the auditorium everyone has to gather together like a bunch of eco-friendly Guardian-reading beardie-weirdies in need of a group hug.

With Gary Powell onboard as stunt co-ordinator it still incorporates everything to give an adrenaline junkie a real buzz. A couple of quick, close-quarter fights that includes head-butting and a quick wallop from a hardback book may invoke Bourne’s antics but each one is topped by harder action sequences; especially the rooftop chase in Sienna that ends in a tangle of broken scaffold and ropes and pulleys. With the windows of the Aston Martin bullet-proofed, what better way to make Bond vulnerable than ripping the driver’s door off.

Having Dan Bradley handling the second unit there are occasions when Quantum of Solace looks like a film co-directed by Sam Peckinpah and Terrance Malick. With everyone getting shot, beaten or burnt, for once the film showed how the evil machinations impacted on ordinary people, whether it was briefly returning to the Piazza del Campo in Siena after the shooting, or the sigh of the old dear after seeing her ingredients for a Bolognese sauce crash to the ground.

The script by Paul Haggis & Neal Purvis and Robert Wade rather than Casino Royale’s Neal Purvis and Robert Wade & Paul Haggis, makes all the difference. Luckily EON hired the Haggis of the morally ambiguous EZ Streets rather than the preaching to the converted Crash. After all, this isn’t the time for megalomaniacs intent on world domination fantasies, and thankfully Dr Evil put paid to the absurdity of SPECTRE demanding huge ransoms. Instead they concocted an enemy literally hiding in plain sight, which makes them all the more dangerous for it.

Nothing is perfect so there has to be one bugbear, In this instance the different typefaces used to identify each location bugged me a little, but that was the mildest of irritants. The second step in a back-to-basics reinvention, it was a darn sight better than The Dark Knight. In fact Christopher Nolan’s second turn in Gotham City had me pleading for the film to end. Once Quantum of Solace’s credits rolled I had the strongest urge to stay in my seat and watch it a second time.


At 8:14 am, Blogger Lee said...

Completely agree. I, too, was braced for disappointment, thanks to those damned reviews. Happily, as you say, QoS turned out to be a contender for film of the year.

At 7:00 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Fella, yeah, I'd put it forward as film of the year. And I really loved the little touches like the shootout in the opera house restaurant where we hear Tosca rather than gunshots. It really was a cracker.


Post a Comment

<< Home