Quantum of Solace

My mother told me that if you can’t say something nice about something or someone, then you shouldn’t say anything. Obviously, she never foresaw that I’d be a critic one day. If you’re reading this, the chances are that you’ll have read other reviews of Quantum of Solace and the picture spun by them isn’t pretty. So, although I can’t find too much nice to say, let’s try saying something constructive instead.

1. Stop being an imitation and be the one people imitate

If I wanted to see another Jason Bourne film, I’d wait for one to come around. Although stripping Bond back to a more realistic stance gave Casino Royale a much-needed shot of energy, just repeating what we’ve seen in Bourne and Spooks really won’t cut it in the long term. Next time, get a director who properly knows how to handle a big action film and understands pace – a scriptwriter with the same skills would help, too.

2. Don’t hide the action

Because no shot in the action sequences lasted more than about three seconds, I have no real idea if they were any good or not. We didn’t see enough to know if Bond was particularly clever or skilful or, indeed, to know what was going on. Watching something that appears to shot in the style of CCTV footage does stop you from becoming involved in the action.

Which is truly a shame when you have an actor as physically capable as Daniel Craig. Usually excessive jump cutting suggests that they couldn’t physically do the stunt or need to hide that it’s not the star doing the work, but here you can see Mr Craig driving, running, climbing and putting himself at risk – so let us enjoy that. Please. It’s one of the main things we’re there for.

3. Have a coherent story and tell it coherently

Quantum of Solace felt like half a movie. It was impossible to follow the story because we couldn’t see large chunks of it and the characters had clearly had many things explained to them that we didn’t as they made huge intuitive leaps we couldn’t follow.

Don’t assume everyone saw the previous film and knows it inside and out. Although I’m not a fan of people spouting huge amounts of exposition and slowing things up (a technique well sent up by Austin Powers), a sentence here and there would have done it. We clearly weren’t expected to be able to figure that the action next takes place in La Paz after Bond has announced he’s flying there, judging by the size of the captions announcing each location, but we are expected to remember people from Casino Royale or from a half-seen photo.

4. Get a decent song

By all means have current stars doing a modern take on the Bond theme, but do have something we can bear to listen to for the whole credits. I loathed the new one when I heard it on the radio, but have to concede it was more effective on a cinema sound system. Unfortunately, it was also a crashing bore after a verse and a chorus.

5. And get someone to do the credits who isn’t a misogynist

Before the days of computer-generated sequences, the Bond credits were a thing of exotic beauty (and an opportunity for my father and older brothers to strain to catch a glimpse of a naked dancer). Somehow being able to do anything on the computer has taken the creativity and sexiness out of them. Quantum’s credits are based on the desert theme of the film and present naked women as giant sand dunes – but as they don’t have heads, it takes a while to figure out that they’re body parts and they’re really not presented attractively (yes, your bum does look big in that).

6. Could we have an attractive Bond girl please?

My apologies to Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton, but they were done no favours by poor costuming and bad hair (Miss Arterton coming off worst). They didn’t help by being seemingly incapable of acting.

7. What’s with the name?

I know it’s the title of a Fleming short story, but it’s still daft in the extreme. And worse is trying to justify it by calling the nebulous organisation Bond is pursuing Quantum.

8. I don’t want to see half the film before it starts

Before the film proper begins, it feels like every other advert has chunks of the movie in it. I don’t have to worry about whether Bond can strain to reach his gun during an action sequence, because I’ve already seen him grab and fire five times a few minutes ago. Perhaps it’s a cunning ploy to compensate us for not being able to follow the action at the time…

9. Most importantly, could I have Bond back please?

I don’t really count Casino as a Bond film as it was very much a resetting of the universe, so I was hopeful that Quantum might have been a good strong follow-up. Sadly, there’s almost nothing that distinguishes it as a Bond film bar the names of the lead character and M. Yes, the series had turned into a parody of itself and needed modernising – it’s done it before – but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Everything that people have enjoyed about Bond for decades seems to have been consciously erased or done with a knowing cringe-making wink (being self-referential is rarely clever).

It’s happened before though. With Roger Moore, the films got sillier and sillier and the gadgets more outrageous, so, when he left, they brought in Timothy Dalton, much vaunted as finally a serious actor tackling the part, and made two films in which many of the Bond characteristics were erased (no sex, no drinking, no sardonic wisecracks). The result was that people got even more bored with Bond and the series took a break, before coming storming back with Pierce Brosnan and the Bond elements intact. Unfortunately, they once again allowed the films to get stupider and have reset again. So now’s the time to put some of the things we love about Bond back in.

So there’s the bad. Do I have anything good? Oh yes, I’m happy to say.

1. Don’t blame it on Daniel Craig

I’ve already apologised profusely for saying that I thought he’d be a terrible Bond. He’s not – he’s a triumphant Bond (or he would be if they’d let him). But next time, could I just see what he’s doing?

2. The sexiest Bond girl

Yes, I know I’ve complained the Bond girls weren’t up to standard this time round, but that didn’t include one of the sexiest Bond girls ever (though I’m sure she’d wither me with a glare at being called a girl). She eclipsed the others at the premiere and Mr Craig admits he fancies her. Who? The wonderful Judi Dench as M, who steals every scene she’s in without trying. Long may she reign over 007!

Read other reviews:

* Time magazine’s review