Thursday, October 30, 2008

The name's Bond...

...James Bond is back and bigger than ever. Warning some minor [SPOILERS].

After much deliberation over whether I liked the new Bond theme, I was still undecided...until tonight.

Yes folks, I have just returned from watching "Quantum of Solace" the 22nd James Bond film and the news is predominantly good.

As you may have read, Quantum picks up almost directly after the final scene of "Casino Royale" and it proceeds to throw the audience right into the action with a beautifully orchestrated car chase. The term "beautifully orchestrated" might not be the first to come to mind when describing stunt sequences, but Marc Forster (Director) and his stunt team have got these sequences down to a fine art. Not only that, they have succeeded in creating sequences that not only tie Casino and Quantum together as one film but are also reminiscent of Bond films from the past. All of this and only five minutes of the film have passed (in an adrenaline pumping blur).

Cue title sequence. Another blend of contemporary and old-school Bond. Lots of images of sand reflecting the arid landscapes depicted throughout the film. And as Bond aficionados may spot, the return of the Walther PPK, Bond's weapon of choice up until it was replaced by the P99 in the Pierce Brosnan movies. The title song "Another Way To Die", as performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White did not immediately strike me as a typical choice for a Bond theme, however, it blends seamlessly with the images of bullets and scantily clad, undulating dancers. The only problem I have is that the wire-frame globe motif used throughout somehow reminded me of something I once saw in "The Man From Uncle" (another franchise screaming out for a contemporary "re-imagining").

Already the film had succeeded in grabbing my full attention, I was riveted. Some people have claimed that this film has less depth than Casino, but I am inclined to disagree. In a film with so much action it would be inadvisable to break up the flow of the film with extended, introspective shots of a brooding, bleeding-heart Bond. Instead Forster chooses to cut the excess expository dialogue in favour of a few brief shots that manage to easily convey the emotions of most of the primary cast. Amazing considering Quantum is a good 35 minutes shorter than its predecessor. These differences in style can be attributed to Casino and Quantum having very different directors. By simply comparing the back catalogues of Martin Campbell and Marc Forster it is plain to see that audiences should expect a different visual style to the one they became accustomed to in Casino. However, I find the two films work best when considered as one. Casino is a film created to show Bond's flaws and emotions. Quantum was created to show the aftermath of a mans breakdown and his re-emergence into the world, albeit through bloody, violent revenge.

And be warned, it is violent. I am somewhat surprised that it passed as a 12A.

Another issue that has been brought to light is that the character of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is simply not threatening enough for a Bond Villain. Tosh! Greene is a leading-edge villain fit for the modern age and the current political climate. He has no need for a facial disfigurements, white cats or caricature-esque hench-persons (I won't say henchmen, who could forget Bambi and Thumper?) to make an impact. Although he does share many character traits with Messrs. Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Elliot Carver insofar as he is a man of great influence and ambition who will do anything to succeed. I still haven't completely ruled out the return of Blofeld in a later film. The Bond slate has been wiped clean so to speak, the possibilities are boundless. Or that might just be my inner geek wishing out loud.

It seems that this film is bursting at the seems (or is that scenes) with sly little homages to past films in the series. Most aim not to specifically recreate past scenes, but do create a familiar ambiance that Bond fans will appreciate. Some of the choices of shots alone led me to believe that Sean Connery could burst onto screen at any moment. There is however, a single scene, that will either delight or disgust due to its (intended) similarity to a particularly memorable scene from 1964's "Goldfinger". You know the one.

So, lets complete our James Bond checklist. Car chase's: check, Bond girls: check, speedboat chase: check, obligatory tuxedo scene: check, M in a bad mood: check, Felix Leiter: check, explosive (and I do mean explosive) showdown: check, numerous product placements from Ford (extolling the virtues of hydrogen powered cars...remember this, hydrogen cells play a part in the penultimate scenes) and Virgin: check, Bond getting revenge and the closure he so desperately needs...well I'll let you discover that for yourself.

In conclusion, this was a truly excellent film. The juxtaposition of retro and contemporary worked a treat. The stunts were jaw-droppingly amazing and the dialogue tight and concise. This gradual insight into the mindset of Bond should leave audiences longing for more. Roll on Bond 23!

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