Quantum Menace

I once watched the opening of QUANTUM OF SOLACE on a plane. I was curious to see what kind of film could be made by people who thought that title was good. Now that Leith’s charity shops are selling DVDs for, at times, 25p, I thought it worth picking up a copy to see if it was as bad as I remembered.

If memory serves, this one went into production during the writers’ strike, and it needed a rewrite. So despite the complicated writer credits (three names, one “and” and an ampersand) it’s as close to a film without a writer as you could hope to see, or not to see. The director and star were trying to cobble it all together as they went along. So we should cut them some slack. Will we? Nah.There are two schools of thought about incoherent action sequences — one says that they’re fine as long as they’re stylish and create a lot of visual dash and confusion to keep our eyes darting about, and they simulate the chaos of being in a dangerous, fast-moving situation. Occasionally this is true. The other school of thought is that if something genuinely exciting is happening, it would be nice to be able to see it.

We open on a car chase. There’s some nice photography here — details of bits of car pulsing in and out of the light as they pass through tunnels at speed. We get glimpses of our man Daniel Craig, so we know he’s in one car. There are quite a few cars, so the likelihood is the bad guys are chasing him, but there’s no way to be sure of this. Not to worry, all will become clear.

Well, actually, no. Even when we get some wide shots where we can see several cars and the road at once, it’s not easy to tell who is where. Bond’s car gets impaled on a big spike that’s part of a truck, and it punches through the door, inches from him. He puts his car into a spin, tearing the door off, and freeing himself from the decelerating truck. I figured that out after watching it twice. The poor cinema audience wouldn’t have a chance, and all that expensive stunt work counted for nothing.

SMASH! OK, James Bond’s car definitely got flattened by a truck just then, definitely. Well, that was a short movie. Oh no, apparently that was one of the other cars that got hit.

Here’s an Italian cop helpfully broadcasting a recap:Ah ha! Bond is driving a grey Aston Martin and being chased by a black Alfa Romeo. That’s bound to help. Nope. Bond’s car looks black to me. I might be able to tell one vehicle from another if they were ever on screen for more that eight frames, though.

Still, if Bond’s now only got one pursuer, things should be clearer, and they are, despite an Italian cop car joining the chase. The cops soon get wiped out, rolling down a hill and across Bond’s path, the mangled vehicle and its blameless corpse occupants serving as a fleeting bit of additional jeopardy for our hero. Well, these films are supposed to be ruthless, I suppose.

Still, the editing is jarring — I can see they’re using it to keep the pace up, because every time we get a real wide shot it does looks flat, slow and boring. I think actually staying in tighter POV shots moving with the cars would be much better, imparting a real rollercoaster sense of rollick and swoosh.The sequence ends when Bond picks up a machine gun he had all along and shoots the other driver. And then doesn’t make a quip because the writers are on strike.

Yeah, pretty bad: there’s no INVENTION to it, it’s all in the hands of the editors, who hash it up, and the sound designers, who do create a very dynamic, starwarsian mix, but can’t help create clarity where none exists.

I’m also picking up discs of the BOURNE series, piece by piece… more later…

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8 Responses to “Quantum Menace”

  1. I think there’s been a general incoherence to a lot of Bond films, they ride on the name alone. As a Fleming reader, I liked the short stories the best of all, and Quantum of Solace should’ve been done as the original storyline in another manner, but you wouldn’t have any incoherence, so no Bond film.

  2. Apparently this one is rumoured to have been edited in six weeks. And instead of that resulting in fewer edits, its led to MORE.

    It’s a mistake to think that whenever stretches of dialogue play out over reaction shots, they’ve been rewritten and dubbed in post, but if you start to SUSPECT this might be the case, then you’re probably right…

  3. This is my reaction to the few action films I see now. A lot of movement, noise, and mostly incoherence.

  4. revelator60 Says:

    Marc Foster was a bizarre choice for a director, but I suppose most of the action sequences were (mis)handled by the usual armada of second-unit/assistant directors. Blame for the car chase might lie with the editors trying to enliven a dully filmed chase by turning it into visual slush.

    There is never an excuse for incoherent action sequences, since talented filmmakers can create impressionistic visuals that remains comprehensible. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is proof of that. Unfortunately by 2008 Bond was busy aping Bourne, and one of QoS’s editors had cut “The Bourne Supremacy.” By 2012 the series had moved on to aping Christopher Nolan, and borrowed one of his editors for the deeply underwhelming “Spectre.”

    The rest of “Quantum of Solace” isn’t as terribly edited (or flat-out terrible) as the car chase, and there are a few good scenes—the scaffold fight in Sienna, the opera house intrigue, and the ending with Vesper’s boyfriend—but they aren’t enough to salvage the film.

    And I don’t understand why they used that title but never bothered to explain it, as Fleming did in the original short story:

    “The Governor paused and looked reflectively over at Bond. He said: ‘You’re not married, but I think it’s the same with all relationships between a man and a woman. They can survive anything so long as some kind of basic humanity exists between the two people. When all kindness has gone, when one person obviously and sincerely doesn’t care if the other is alive or dead, then it’s just no good. That particular insult to the ego–worse, to the instinct of self-preservation–can never be forgiven. I’ve noticed this in hundreds of marriages. I’ve seen flagrant infidelities patched up, I’ve seen crimes and even murder forgiven by the other party, let alone bankruptcy and every other form of social crime. Incurable disease, blindness, disaster–all these can be overcome. But never the death of common humanity in one of the partners. I’ve thought about this and I’ve invented a rather high-sounding title for this basic factor in human relations. I have called it the Law of the Quantum of Solace.’

    Bond said: ‘That’s a splendid name for it. It’s certainly impressive enough. And of course I see what you mean. I should say you’re absolutely right. Quantum of Solace–the amount of comfort. Yes, I suppose you could say that all love and friendship is based in the end on that. Human beings are very insecure. When the other person not only makes you feel insecure but actually seems to want to destroy you, it’s obviously the end. The Quantum of Solace stands at zero. You’ve got to get away to save yourself.'”

  5. For me this film is forever associated with Joe Cornish’s theme song from the old Adam & Joe BBC 6 show.

    “Dame Judi is FURIOUS with him
    The Quantum of Solace
    I’ve written it down..”

    Me and my 13 year old son sing it together whenever we have a Craig Bond-a-thon evening in front of the TV. The surprising thing is that the film gets better with each viewing. Who knew?

  6. Oops, sorry wrong video.

  7. Heh.

    The trouble with the title (apart from how goofy it sounds) is that if ou do explain it, it’s very un-Bondian. You could translate it as A Little Peace of Mind, which is BETTER, but doesn’t sound like an action film.

    Fleming had it easy: he could use any title he liked. It could be the name of the villain (Dr No, Goldfinger) which is a trope the movies haven’t returned to, or it could be a smart-ass phrase (You Only Live Twice, Live and Let Die) or a cool codename. Nowadays, the filmmakers only ever use phrases that sound sort of Bondian (Die Another ) or use well-known Bondian stuff (Spectre). I look forward to SMERSH.

  8. kevin mummery Says:

    A Quantity of Shoelaces

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