The James Bond movie Quantum of Solace (2008) was recently released on DVD in Australia. I freakin’ loved it. The fact that I didn’t love it quite as much as Casino Royale (2006) doesn’t make it a bad movie. But try telling that to the critics.
The media’s negative reviews mystify me, especially this one by Roger Ebert who’s usually more insightful. By all means read it for yourself, but in a nutshell, Roger wants his Bond movies to be like the arch, silly fare of yore; using the same logic, a reviewer might pan No Country For Old Men on the grounds that they were in the mood for a comedy that day. Fine for a pub conversation, but is it good enough for a professional review?
As well as unreasonable subjective whines, another recurring theme in critical reviews of Quantum of Solace seems to be Completely Missing The Details, as demonstrated in this credibility-killer from Australia’s Andrew Urban:
…losing the sense of all the unique Bond elements, including James himself, who no longer tosses off darkly comic lines and doesn’t even know what martini he’s drinking.¹
… looks like you need to watch it again more carefully, Andrew. In any case the elements you referred to are one-dimensional, and quite rightly downplayed or subverted in the new film.
While Andrew wanted less substance, at the other pole the affable David Stratton said
… though it’s all very efficient it lacks heart and soul and substance.²
… which suggests he was another reviewer who watched the film while he was making dinner. There are moments of surprising emotional resonance in the movie, not least of all the relationship between Bond and M (here I discreetly avoid a spoiler); certainly it has more “heart and soul and substance” than anything in the series since the ending of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which you might recall is more-or-less the reason why Roger and Andrew didn’t care for it.
Another recurring review motif is complaints about the film’s title, again surprising from people whose job it is to craft words. A quantum is the smallest possible amount of something; solace is consolation; the story’s about revenge. Not only is it not rocket science, it’s not even physics.
Despite all the evidence that it’s too challenging, Quantum of Solace follows the formula of older Bond movies more closely than the critically lauded Casino Royale did: including the secret global organisation, the string-pulling villain with grotesque henchman, the frequent changes of exotic locale, even a woman’s corpse dipped in coloured goo and left on a hotel bed³. It’s just that Quantum’s leading man isn’t a glib caricature, and it’s all done at a smarter pace than in the past. Perhaps the pace explains why the reviewers are taking so long to catch up.
In any case, reverence for the professional critic is fading as the web makes everyone a reviewer with a global voice. From that we can take some small measure of comfort.
1. Urban Cinefile. http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/view.asp?a=15077&s=Reviews
2. At The Movies. http://www.abc.net.au/atthemovies/txt/s2412223.htm
3. And her name was Strawberry Fields. What more do you want?