Quantum of Solace (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content.
Length: 106 minutes
Grade: DDDD=D
Budget: $200 million
Box Office: $610 million (168 U.S., 408 Intl., 34 DVD)

Written by: Pall Haggis (In the Valley of Elah, Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby, Crash, and Casino Royale) and the team of Neal Pervis, and Robert Wade (Casino Royale, Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough).
Directed by: Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland, and Monster’s Ball)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, David Harbour, and Mathieu Amalric.

Still bent on revenge from the last movie, James Bond now finds himself in the middle of a plot to overthrow the Bolivian government being perpetrated by a secret organization fronted by environmentalists with the consent of the American government. There’s girls, guns, and a lot of stern looks.

Entertainment Value: D
Slower is faster. Less is more. These are simple words which the makers of the new Bond movies need to learn, which is weird since both the Marc Forster and Paul Haggis have created some brilliant stuff before. This is a simple case of craziness and disjointed filmmaking which is trying to do far too much and thus winds up doing far too little. I have a hard time believing that anyone could really follow this story and make sense of it. I couldn’t. My dad couldn’t. Even my wife couldn’t. And we’re fairly sharp people. Then again, who am I to argue with 600 million dollars of revenue? Still, they’re all wrong, and I am right. Old Bond good (though campy), new Bond bad (though profitable).

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity C, Violence D, Language D, Illegality D
As in the first “new” Bond, there is much more distressing violence in these movies, including torture and sexual assault. Some back nudity and implied sexuality, occasional strong language, and fairly constant alcohol consumption. But violence is certainly the main concern, which has become realistic rather than cute. I would go at least R-15 on this. PG-13 has been granted on reputation, not on a realistic standalone evaluation.

Significant Content: D
All the world’s problems are solved by stern-faced violence. Governments are all corrupt, at least mostly, and if not corrupt, then so practical that they wind up behaving immorally to their own self-benefit. Revenge is unfulfilling, but really enticing. Morality is highly relative in foreign policy and spy work. No one can really be trusted.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
It’s very simple. People must be able to properly understand what is happening and they must be given sufficient time to merge their emotional states with a movie before they can fully enjoy the tensions and developments of that movie. Hitchcock was a master of this, and even modern filmmakers like Marc Forster usually grasp the concept, but he seems to have just forgotten it here, as did Martin Campbell in the remade Casino Royale. My frustration is I grew up liking Bond movies, and I want to like them as I keep watching them, but I may be done with the modern versions unless I hear that something has substantially improved.

Discussion Questions:
~When Bond says that the dead don’t care about vengeance, what is he getting at? Is he admitting that his own crusade is misguided? Do you think that when we act vengefully, we are really serving those we are avenging or merely using them as an excuse for justifying our own needs? Does revenge affect the person on whose behalf it was done?
~Do you believe that governments are as corrupt and immoral as portrayed in this movie? What do you think about the repeated refrain that one must compromise and deal with unsavory people in foreign politics?
~Would you want to be a spy like James Bond? What do you think would be the costs involved in such a life? Can morally deep, conscientious people succeed as spies? Can they be happy in such a life?
~Who in this movie seems healthy? Admirable? Heroic? What impact does it have on viewers to watch movies that don’t offer anyone to particularly emulate?

Overall Grade: D
$600 million still isn’t enough to convince me that a movie I wanted to like and really didn’t is anything better than what I experienced it as. If you like Bond movies, go watch one of the ones not starring Daniel Craig.

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