Friday, November 14, 2008
It's funny how when you see a lot of movies, you start seeing parallels in some of them. In the case of Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball), the 007 series' first direct sequel, the film is designed much like a memory piece. In many respects, Quantum of Solace is about as close to surreal and stylized as I bet you'll ever see a Bond flick get. And when seen as a companion to it's predecessor, Casino Royale, it reminds me of what Soderbergh achieves with his Che films, The Argentine and Guerilla.
Casino Royale showed us the events that shaped the James Bond we've come to know in the long-running superspy series. Daniel Craig's performance expertly spotlighted the brutal side of this government-sanctioned assassin who has an obvious chink in his steel armor for the women. When he loses his newfound love of his life, Vesper (Eve Green), to a shadow organization he was previously unaware of, the movie ends with Bond determined to make the destruction of the organization his life's mission. But where to begin?
Forster's film starts right in the thick of things with Bond in a stunning car chase through a tunnel in Italy. Only, this chase is staged as if a subjective memory, with aural ellipses in the action. This teaser is only the prelude to a film full of such surreal and dissonant designs. A shootout at a restaurant adjacent to an elaborate outdoor opera house becomes a dangerous ballet, the gunfight intercut with a performance of Puccini's Tosca, with the opera serving double duty as the setpiece's score. Even the opera stage, a giant eyeball, seems like something out of Dali. Later, Craig's walk in from a Bolivian desert, where Bond was stranded, affords us the opportunity to see the unusual sight of the elegant suit-clad man dusted up and surrounded by the impoverished locals.
And hasn't that always been the appeal of the classic Bond? Sean Connery, and now Craig, always give spot-on performances because they know that 007 is essentially a gorilla in a tuxedo (this informed more by the Scottish working-class Connery than the more refined character of Ian Fleming's novels). Bond is a natural-born killer, easier educated to mingle in the stratospheric circles his job required him to traffic in, since his inherent talent to coldly terminate is impossible to learn.
As Casino Royale is to The Argentine, both depicting the formative experiences of their respective legendary protagonists, Quantum is to Guerilla, both depictions of the interior lives of said characters. The difference is that where Guevara's overreliance on his early success in The Argentine ultimately doom him in Guerilla, the lessons Bond learned as a result of Casino serve to propel him beyond his facile black-and-white outlook to a shaded and emotionally reserved approach to his nemeses in Quantum.
Here he does not fall for the lovely Camille (Olga Kurylenko) as much as he nurtures her to fend for herself, forgiving himself for allowing Vesper to get too close in the previous film. Here he doesn't slide into a morass of murderous rage when confronting the villainous Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, in a performance that serves as a spiritual doppelganger to Craig's Bond, uncouth finger-picking of his teeth while clad in tailored clothing, and not just a little reminiscent of Polanski as a thug in Chinatown). He instead allows Fate to preside over Greene's destiny.
The newest film poster touts the film as "Marc Forster's Quantum of Solace," a first for the Bond series, I believe. Given the emotional depth Forster brings to this film, it seems like like the honor is well deserved.