- Released Internationally on 31/10/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 14/11/08
In a nutshell
Cinema’s most successful and long-standing franchise is back for its 22nd outing, fresh from the reboot it received in 2006’s Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig debuted to great acclaim as the man in the tux.
Who’s in it?
Craig returns as Bond, which is no surprise considering the new life he breathed into the character two years ago. All concerns about his blonde hair and looks were swept aside by his performance, and the film was a huge critical and box-office success. Olga Kurylenko is the new Bond girl, Camille. This Ukrainian model and actress was seen in last year’s Hitman, but this is her first big role. Let’s hope her acting is even half as good as her looks. Gemma Arteron, the young British actress who had a small role in the recent RockNRolla, plays a feisty M16 agent, and Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini reprise their roles from the last film as Bond’s boss M, Felix Leiter from the CIA and René Mathis the French agent, respectively. Last but definitely not least, the French actor Mathieu Amalric makes his entry into the 007 archives as the latest Bond baddie. Last seen as the star of last year’s wonderful The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, he also had smaller parts in Munich and Marie Antoinette, apart from his extensive work in French cinema. It was decided that he wouldn’t need any grotesque physical oddities in order to appear menacing, as opposed to many of his predecessors.
Behind the camera, Marc Forster sits in the director’s chair, in his first Bond outing. His impressive body of work includes the brilliant Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction, Monster’s Ball and The Kite Runner, so let’s hope he keeps to that run of form. The story is an original one, and numerous writers contributed, as often happens with Bond films. The most notable contribution comes from Paul Haggis, who is famous for having penned or adapted Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and Casino Royale. David Arnold, who has been composing Bond’s characteristic music ever since Tomorrow Never Dies, is still on board, and this time the all-important Bond song is written and performed by Jack White (from The White Stripes) and Alicia Keys. The duet, a first for the franchise, is called Another Way To Die. I guess they couldn’t find many lyrics that rhyme with Quantum of Solace.
Why we’re hyped
Even at its worst, this franchise has always managed to provide wonderful entertainment, and people of all ages flock to the cinema knowing exactly what they’re going to get – espionage, explosions, femme fatales and vile villains. But in the last outing, the franchise turned out to be in top form, with less self-indulgent frills and a grittier, more emotional Bond. This film picks up moments after the last one ended, with Bond still aching from the loss of Vesper. So we can hope for more of the same, but with a Bond who’s growing into the role and gaining confidence.
So where were we?
Not needing any introductions, and having had a whole film of back-story, this film starts out at break-neck pace, with a stunning (and for Alfa Romeo lovers, painful to watch) car chase through the outskirts of Siena, Italy. Famous for its Palio, or annual bareback horserace, this city adds class to the film’s first act, and Bond just happens to arrive in town as the Palio is about to begin. Cue the opening credits.
Another way to die
The title sequence is of course as much a Bond trademark as the martinis and the gadgets, and over the years the franchise has presented us with some stunning combinations of visuals and title songs. This time around the theme is sand dunes, but the display seems uninspired, and backed by a disjointed theme song it manages to seem overlong despite clocking in at around four minutes. Pity, because Casino Royale’s titles were amongst the series’ best.
Location, location, location
Bond’s passport gets stamped a number of times this year, starting off in Italy as mentioned above, and rushing through Haiti, Austria, Bolivia and Russia. The scenery is great, especially before Bond has wrecked everything in his path. Some of the sequences suffer from awkward directing however, with Forster choosing to intersperse many action scenes with largely irrelevant scenes happening elsewhere. It works at times, such as the stylish and effective opera sequence, but at other times it’s distracting.
The Bond essentials
With Casino Royale, agent 007 was stripped back to his basics, and presented as a tough, no-nonsense agent still earning his wings. There were no fancy gadgets, no cheesy quips, and overall less gloss, but it worked, as Bond was praised as being closer to Ian Fleming’s literary character. This sequel follows that trend, but I have to admit, I’m already starting to miss some of the old Bondisms. He’s even starting to slack when it comes to female conquests, though I guess that could be excused since he’s still fuming over the death of Vesper (in the previous film).
Perla De Las Dunas
For the final fireworks, Bond finds himself in the middle of the Bolivian desert, where the setting for the big bombastic finale is an environmentally-friendly luxury hotel surrounded by sand dunes. Despite plenty of flames and fist-fights, the climax is a bit disappointing, although the later epilogue in Russia offers the film a better ending. Ultimately, this is a hard-hitting action film which should appeal to nearly everyone, but as a Bond film it left me disappointed.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/quantumofsolace/ (High-res QuickTime)