Monday, November 03, 2008

James Bond: Vengeance is a dish best served cold (no spoilers intended)

Quantum of Solace through the lense of Pete Dray's film questions. I watched this having heard Mark Kermode's scathing review of "Question of Sport" I enjoyed the previous Bond film Casino Royale.

QoS ends like the previous film with the classic Bond images and tune. We're reminded of where we are, but at the same time left wondering where we've been. The action began so frenetically and we've been round the world a couple of times. I watched it with four other people and I think I was the only one who seemed to have anything positive to say about it.

We picks up straight from the end of Casino Royale. Vesper died and Bond is on the trail of the people who caused her death. What follows is a chase for the guilty party based on duty or vengeance. Along the way we meet Dominic Greene who is manipulating Latin American states in pursuit of money. We assume that, being Bond, he will succeed though it's not particularly obvious how, when or where. The obvious crisis was caused in the previous film with the death of Vesper, a resolution is required to bring justice. In this way the film feels like an extended conclusion to Casino Royale. If the only aim is to catch the bad guy then it's a weak and unncessary film - just declare Mr White (who Bond finds at the end of Casino Royale) to be the top of the food chain. The other crisis is the one in Bond - how will he cope with loss, how will he move on, where will he find resolution. This is the story I think Forster, Haggis and Co. attempt to tell.

In the world of QoS values are confused. A politician comments that as oil runs out we can't just work with the good guys. Villans are real but might still be associates of the good guys. We see the world through high-powered people with vast resources, it's the world we know but is nothing like it. This is a world built on action and locations more than dialogue and characters. This is a surprise given that Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland) is the director and Paul Haggis (Crash) is one of the writers. We begin with action and end with a low-key moment. Since the film seems to be exploring how Bond copes with loss you'd expect much more of a character piece than this film delivers. That said - we do move between cold duty, raging anger and the occasional moment of honesty between Bond and Camille. Exposition isn't the only way to explore the issue.

We don't have the tender emotion of Casino Royale or it's pain. It's noticably detached. That's been critiqued but I wonder if it's intentional. In this cold world we see integrity is on the line for governments. M struggles with betrayal and whether she can trust Bond. Vengeance and justice are being sought in a world that is no longer playing by the rules that previously governed it. Relationships matter and when they're called into question people are damaged. Bond's grief motivates everything in this film. The impression we get is of a numbed reflex of a driven hunter pursuing vengeance. He doesn't hurt enough. He's damaged but not really broken enough. I think this is why many reviewers have panned the film. It's just too cold.

I watched this very much through the lense of my recent study of Cain and Lamech in Genesis 4. Cain has committed murder and lives in fear of vengeance. The LORD's vengeance protects Cain by declaring his own vengeance. Cain's descendant Lamech also kills but revels in this and declares his own vengeance. Both reflect our concern for justice. But, whether we can obtain it ourselves remains in question - is it attainable? Is it ours to attain? QoS takes us with Bond on the search for the solace of vengeance.

1 comment:

  1. I have finally watched film and now read the post. Although I had to watch the film en francais which occupied all my attention (leaving none for narrative themes etc) I really liked it. I shall be buying it in January and shall watch it again then looking at it in the light of these themes.