Yesterday I saw:
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum of Solace
I was blown away by Quantum of Solace when I first saw it in theaters. This wasn't the popular opinion at the time but it hit a lot of visual elements I was very interested in and did so in a spectacularly visual way. I was sucked in from the start by the car chase through mountain side tunnels in Italy to reveal the chase took place directly after the conclusion of Casino Royale. Bond opens the trunk to show Mr. White holding his knee, the same Mr. White who Bond shoots in the final scene of Casino Royale based on the last tip Vesper gave him before her death. Then we see the opening tltle sequence with the Jack White and Alicia Keys theme. I like this theme and love the animation that is as spectacular as the other Craig Bond animations. I think this theme is not thought of as being all that great of a bond theme, but I like it, dammit.
I find this movie to be a series of sequences I had dreamed of seeing in movies or didn't know I had dreamed of seeing them. It has a colorful horse race through a city, it has impressive graphic design of a computer interface M uses, airplane stunts, Bond at a dinner party with the villain, and the action caps itself in the Atacama Desert. I had seen a documentary on this desert around the time I saw Quantum and I became obsessed by how desolate it is. It is the driest place on earth, a place where rainfall is measured in milimeters per year. It's arid climate is the result of the landscape and altitude. At the coast the humid air hits the hot landscape in a daily mist that is soaked into the coastal cacti and burns off before it can get into the sands of the desert. Despite this dryness small animals find ways to live in the heat, lizards burrow through loose sand swimming like fish through water.
I watched Casino Royale just before seeing Quantum for the first time in the theater, and when it came out on DVD I invited a friend of mine from work, Parkman, who had not seen it yet to see it at my apartment. I thought I had told him we were going to see Casino Royale before getting into the main event but perhaps that slipped my mind. "Oh cool, it starts just like the last one," he said at the start of Casino Royale. I was confused at first then said it was worth it to see both. Luckily he was on board for both. We had a great time viewing it and by the time Quantum started we were both on board for the Bondness, the continuation of the story, and he was able to point out a lot of the fun peculiarities I had not noticed before.
One of the early things he noticed was the strange car Olga Kurylenko's character drives when we meet her. It's a smart car sized microcar that is noticably divergent from the Aston Martins Bond traditionally drives. Parkman was the "Nascar Guy" at work due to his complete knowledge of all autoracing and his preference for American made cars so when he saw the Ford emblem on the front and couldn't place what kind of Ford it was, we were intrigued. Pretty quickly we researched and found that it is a Ford Ka. That car was a Ka. It's a model only sold in countries where space is at a premium where longer cars can't fit in parking spaces and wider cars can't fit on the roads.
Another of the peculiarities of the movie is the line when Bond breaks into the base in the Desert, smashing through the windshield of a car, kicking the driver in the process. Just before he smashes through the window he yells a one-liner to the faceless henchman. "You and I have a mutual friend!" For some reason, perhaps the magic of moviemaking, I didn't notice how strange this was when I first saw the movie. He yells it at a guy he doesn't know, while sneaking up on him, in a place where the guy probably can't hear it, and it doesn't quite make sense in the context of the movie. If he means to reference the guys who killed Mathis, those two police officers are dead. If he means the villains of the movie, he is hardly a friend of the bad guys, and the henchman would be presumptive to claim to be friends with his bosses. I know this can be thought of as a flub or a plot hole or a result of the writers strike (Craig and the director came up with most of the dialogue on set) I find it to be charming and fun to have these imperfections.
Many years later, this movie is a favorite Bond movie for me even if critics seem to think it could be one of the worst. I was happy to hear on the James Bonding Podcast that they believe it's a Bond film that will gain cult status like Her Majesty's Secret Service did over time. I think that paired with Casino Royale, and watched as close in time together as possible the two films creat one amazing and long film much like Kill Bill Parts 1&2.
Skyfall didn't have as big of an impression on me as Quantum. I think I was annoyed that Bond had aged quickly, as though we had missed out on some of his adventures in the meantime. None of it quite sat right with me. I wanted more of the things that were teased. I wanted more of the Bond Girl he meets and who dies, maybe, in Asia. She is in and out of the movie so quickly that we only get a taste of her character and her death, maybe, is quick and forgotten. I say she maybe dies because we see her shot with a single bullet, she hunches over, but it feels as though perhaps she is not dead because of the lack of reaction by the film to her possible death. It almost makes me feel like I will see her again in the movie and they'll say "oh she just passed out or played dead.
I wanted more of the Island, more of the evil genius in his secret lair. I wanted more of a plan by the attackers at Skyfall, and a better explanation of Skyfall. In the trailer for the movie they show Bond doing word association during his evaluation and he responds to the word skyfall with something like "done" or "finished." It sounds like Skyfall was a previous mission, something difficult that was going to arise as something unresolved, but in the context of the movie it's the run down mansion in Scotland he grew up in. Once you know what Skyfall is, and that he does have warm feelings towards the place, and that he does see it as a refuge for when he is in trouble, the word association makes no sense for Bond or the person asking him.
Those were problems I had from the first time I saw it and on, but this time viewing Skyfall, I liked it more than usual. I still don't think it's as amazing as some critics let on, but it's a movie filled with great visuals. I love the shots of the island, the shots of Scotland, and the final shot of London. They give the film the class of Bond that makes a Bond film exciting.