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Some Ramblings - Quantum of Solace
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
quantom of solace

Sometimes the idea is so left of the spectrum that in fact becomes right, goes a circuitous joke in the political circles, which is another way of saying, that the idea is too radical even by radical standards. Defying the norms was what the Bond franchise under the new guy did, as the character did a volte-face on what was trademarked as Bond's attitude. He traded his suave for some seriousness, cool for some chaos, and humor for some real hurt. And the result was 'Casino Royale', probably the first character piece in the Bond series. Gone are the casualness, nonchalance and devil-may-care approach even during life threatening situations. Gone are the ridiculous one-liners at the most of inappropriate of moments, which downplayed any seriousness of the character, and thereby, the film. And gone are the silly double-entendre names - Pussy Galore, Plenty O'Toole, Xenia Onatopp and such. In effect, the entire franchise was rebooted and James Bond jumped into serious film making, if one can discount the spectacular (read, over the top) stunts. 'Casino Royale' was considered as a serious movie for the serious times, a testament to the fact that the world has become too complex a place for Bond to exist in his own ditzy world and happy times. That single decision of retooling Bond's priorities saved the franchised from slipping into the action equivalent of pure slapstick. And the trade proved more than fair, attitude for soul. The British secret agent finally got his stiff upper lip, not to mention, a quivering lower lip. So far so good. 'Quantum of Solace' stretches the idea even further making it the first completely action oriented movie in the series (and the first true sequel). And the result - not so good, which circles back to the original statement about living dangerously on the far edges of the frontiers.

The question that begged to be asked at the end of the movie was, could it have been any different if Bond was replaced with Jason Bourne (of Bourne series) of Ethan Hunt (from Mission Impossible series) and many other secret agent heroes from an already crowded sleuth market. And sadly the answer is no. The idea of a serious Bond has been stretched far to the extreme for its own good, whereby, what the movie got was an action hero who was way too busy to slow down and make small talk. While chiseling down to the core of what made Bond the heartless killing machine in 'Casino', the writers accidentally chipped away that essential human ingredient by the time they got to 'Quantum', making him more a terminator type automaton. The movie became a series of intense action sequences punctuated by even more serious talk, and the result was exactly opposite to how 'Casino' came out, employing those same set of tools. While 'Casino' came across as more human, 'Quantum' projected cold, detached, unemotional action. That it was all intentional, as Bond sets out to avenge the death of his lady love at the end of 'Casino' and hence cannot appear composed, jovial and cordial, may serve the purpose of the movie well, but not of the audience. And the plot involving promoting global green initiatives by hording the key natural resources of a country, by means of a military coup bankrolled by major corporations under the watchful eye of the CIA, hits too close to the reality and sounds straight out of a John Le Carre novel (author of 'The Constant Gardener', 'The Tailor of the Panama' etc, who specializes in international conspiracies in more plausible and realistic ways), than a regular James Bond movie. Realism can be welcomed, once in a while, in escapist fares, but too much reality becomes too hard to digest. Franchise movies involving super heroes are burdened (saddled) with the weight of the image of the central character, like Superman, with his idealism, Batman, with his dark nature, Spiderman, with his innocence, and finally, Bond with his suave. And trading this image for dark undertones may help the character (and the movies) unearth a different side of them, which may add some depth to their otherwise cardboard features. But moving away too much from their core, so as to become indistinguishable, and worse, mistaken for some one else, works against their very being and entity. For all practical purposes, 'Quantum of Solace' can be termed 'The Bourne Quandary' and it would have still worked well. And that is a sad statement, considering that a Bond movie is more mere action piece.

Which brings to the next quibble - the action sequences. And even here the influence of Bourne was too hard to shake off, in that, the stunts appear to be put together (even choreographed) at the editing table than on the sets, with the constant and rapid cut aways, taxing the discerning and retention power of the eyes to the utmost degree. And therefore, what was supposed to be intense and gritty came off as confusing, chaotic and even hard to follow. 'Elaborate' is another keyword associated with Bond adventures, meaning, the canvass of the action is quite wide enough for the choreography of the action sequences to be awe-inspiring and eye-popping. Ex: The boat chase sequence in 'Moonraker' where at the end, the top of the boat becomes a glider for Bond to pull out at just the last moment before the boat plunges into a cascading waterfall, or the airplane escape sequence in 'The Living Daylights', where Bond and the heroine jettison a huge army cargo plane, by jumping out of it seated in a military jeep or even the 'Parkour' (free running) sequence at the beginning of 'Casino Royale'. Unfortunately, almost all the action sequences in 'Quantum' are shot in such a rapid action mode, including the outdoor stunts, with the focus remaining strictly on Bond's face, that it becomes virtually impossible to differentiate who is hitting whom, and even more difficult to track what exactly is happening in the first place. Similarly choreographed stunts worked quite well in the Bourne series only because most of the action happens in confined spaces, and also confusion is the key trait to Bourne's character. But Bond's stunts are supposed to be like a ballet, evenly paced a with great flourish at the end aimed at bringing a smile (much like how Jackie Chan's stunts are). In trying to fit a square peg in a round hole (a Bond stunt in a Bourne mold), the makers missed one more key ingredient of every Bond outing - delight. With no charm, no humor, and certainly, no delight, leave alone solace, the movie would have better served with the title 'Quantum of Morose'

More Ramblings on films
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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