Friday, April 3, 2009

Quantum of Solace

I saw Quantum of Solace back in November on the day it came out. I left the theater very disappointed. I just didn't care for it. I thought the story was confusing and the action scenes were poorly directed. But, I know that movies tend to play different in a movie theater than they do on a smaller screen in your home theater. So, when it was released on Blu-Ray this week I decided to give the movie another shot. I am happy to report that watching it at home completely changed my mind about it. I really enjoyed it and got much more out of it on the second go-round.

I loved Casino Royale and was instantly a fan of Daniel Craig and this new take on James Bond. I don't miss the goofy gadgets, and silly one-liners. Nor do I miss the aloofness that guys like Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore brought to the character. Daniel Craig's Bond takes his job seriously. He can get the fine pussy when he wants it but he isn't more interested in getting his dick wet than stopping the bad guys. Let's face it, in the post 9/11 world, we expect our heroes to take threats to freedom seriously. A flippant attitude just won't fly with today's audience.

So why did the movie work for me at home but not in the theater? I think the main reason was I re-watched Casino Royale a few days before re-watching Quantum of Solace. The two films are so closely tied together that a more than passing familiarity with the previous film helps tremendously. Back in November I had completely forgotten about Vesper's boyfriend who she claimed was being held for ransom. I had also forgotten the details of Mr. White's role in the death of LeChiffre and release of Bond. So having the knowledge necessary to fully understand and appreciate the events of QoS made a huge difference.

The other thing is the simple fact that fast edits work better on a smaller screen. I tend to sit closer to the theater screen than most people. I mean, I don't sit right at the front but I never sit in the stadium section. Action sequences with rapid edits come off as a blur when you sit where I do. On my 42" set at home, sitting back some, I can see and appreciate the action sequences much more. The gun fight at the performance of Tosca is an especially cool sequence that was lost on me in the theater.

I also think QoS defied my expectations. Most of the time, when you go into a movie with a set of expectations you end up getting disappointed. That happened to me initially. This is the first true James Bond sequel film. In a way, it's really the conclusion of CR. Looking at both films as one complete narrative really helped me to appreciate what I was watching. QoS breaks Bond conventions in some major ways. 1) The opening teaser sequence is directly related to the plot of the film. 2) the famous "gun barrel" shot doesn't happen until the end of the movie. 3) It is a sequel and not a stand-alone adventure with recurring characters. 4) Bond never has sex with the main girl. In fact, he never even shows interest in her sexually.

The last point, about his lack of interest in the main girl Camille, is very important to the movie. In fact, it's one of many things that make Craig's Bond a more fully developed character than previous incarnations. The notable exception being George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Bond and Camille both share a desire for revenge. If he had fallen for her it would have cheapened his relationship with Vesper and undercut his drive to avenge her death and learn the truth about her feelings for him.

I think that many will look at QoS as a revenge picture. But upon a second viewing I think that would be wrong. Bond starts out looking for revenge but learns throughout the movie that his duty is more important. He is filled with rage throughout the film and constantly kills men who would have provided MI-6 with valuable information about Quantum. He starts to change throughout the movie though. He even remarks to Camille that he doesn't think the dead care about revenge. By the end, when he confronts Vesper's boyfriend, he realizes that his desire for vengeance will undercut his mission. He leaves the man alive for interrogation. He gets what he really wanted, the truth. I think he also realizes that developing feelings for Vesper also compromised his mission with LeChiffre. Once he drops the necklace in the snow, he is not only finally letting go of Vesper but also letting go of personal motivations like revenge.

If you are longing for the campy Bond with gadgets, silly Q scenes, and cartoonish villains then I suggest you rent one of the Moore or Brosnan films. If, however, you'd enjoy seeing a more serious, character-driven take on the character, rent Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace and watch them together. I gave QoS a second chance and I'm glad I did.

1 comment:

Jim Blanton said...

You have done the seemingly impossible sir . . . you have made me want to watch this again!