Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is the latest James Bond movie, which I thought I would make clear from the start. These films arrive with such little pre-publicity and hoo-ha they can often slip by quite unnoticed. (As one regular cinema goer told me, ‘I’d have at least liked the chance to win his watch.’ And as another said, ‘I’d like to dress like him, so why doesn’t anyone ever write about the clothes?’) Anyway, what’s it like? Well, although it’s not the most crushing disappointment of all time — finding you have won the lottery but lost the ticket is probably more crushing, I imagine — it is still a crushing disappointment.
It has none of the emotional power, intelligence or stylishness of Casino Royale, and doesn’t even give itself the odd, knowing wink. No Speedos, no plays on Martinis being shaken or stirred, no Omega moments and, as for the theme music, it doesn’t strike up until the final credits roll, which is a bit weird, considering it has to be the most rousing, iconic, film theme music of all time. I do think director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) has rather thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and while I am all for throwing babies out with the bathwater generally — babies are a lot of work, after all — the result here is an unengaging, cold and mechanised affair without heart. It’s also quite boring. And there isn’t enough sex. Not nearly enough sex. Hell, let’s be honest, I’m never going to have sex with Daniel Craig, unless he happens to be passing and I can get the rugby tackle in quick enough, so I’d have liked my Craig fantasy to have received a little nourishment at least. But it did not. Indeed, as my fantasy said on our way out, ‘Well, that was a waste of time, wasn’t it?’ And I could not have agreed more.
The film opens in Italy, then travels to Panama, Chile, Mexico, Austria…more countries than any previous Bond film, apparently, which is a shame, as concentrating on the narrative journey rather than the glossier, geographical one might have made for a better film but there you have it, and what do I know? So, Italy then, with Bond speeding away from cops in his Aston Martin and with sinister ‘Mr White’ tied up in the boot. This is a true sequel, with the action picking up minutes from where Casino Royale left off, so if you didn’t really get sinister Mr White then, you so won’t get him now, and if you did get him then, you so won’t remember now. It’s a big ask, I think, demanding audiences recall a plot from two years ago, and while normally I don’t mind a big ask — ask me and ask me big, I will often say to people — this particular ask utterly defeated me. Oh, age and increasing forgetfulness…I can start searching for a word at breakfast and not get it until well after supper, by which time I don’t need it anymore. I did this just yesterday with ‘lamentable’ which is now going spare, if anyone wants it. First come, first served.
My point here? My point, I think, is that while QOS may make some sense to you, it made absolutely none to me. All I can properly tell you is there are goodies and baddies, M (Judi Dench) gets irritated with Bond, is then proud of him, and, along the way, there is Mr Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who is plotting nasty things beneath his cover as an eco-philanthropist, and an exiled Bolivian dictator (Joaquín Cosio) who also appears to be up to no good. Throughout, Bond is meant to be seeking revenge for the betrayal and death of the woman he loved, Vesper — if I ever knew who killed Vesper or why, I certainly don’t now — but you never get any sense of him as some kind of wounded man seeking the closure that may, one assumes, bring him a quantum of solace. In many ways, this Bond is a return to almost Roger Moore-ish non-form; just a shooting, fighting, stunt-ing action figure jumping and racing his way from one set piece to the next. There are a lot of set pieces: a shoot-out at the opera, a high-speed boat chase, a jump from a plane, a fire-ball of a finale, but nothing to match the adrenaline and beauty of Casino Royale’s free-running sequence. Nothing even comes near it.
I don’t blame Craig, who still has the same physical presence and the face like a hammered pumpkin which shouldn’t work, but does. But the script gives him nothing to work with: no humour, no emotional truthfulness; no vulnerability, no human touches at all. And as for the totty, well. The one played by Gemma Arterton is entirely regressive — just eye candy, basically, and of no narrative value whatsoever — while the one played by Olga Kurylenko is extremely beautiful but has nil chemistry with Craig who, in turn, does not strip at any point and barely gets a kiss. This is no good; no good at all. Or, as my fantasy says, ‘Unless he does something really sexy soon, I think we are just going to have to go back to Colin Firth.’ Again, I could not disagree.
It’s as if all the lessons learnt when Craig first took over the role — that audiences are as interested in emotional engagement as exploding buildings — have been unlearnt, and it’s all rather…yes…lamentable. Sorry, it’s gone now. But there will be more very soon, I promise.