Truth at 24 frames per second

By Steve Sedlak

Quantum of Solace-or “Iota of Comfort” or “Tidbit of Consolation” as my roomie likes to say-is a movie you have to give a second chance after the first ten minutes of its running time. Why? Because Jack White and Alicia Keys definitely should not sing together, ever again. Once I got over the opening credits of this flick, which engage in some of the most obnoxious computer graphics I have ever seen, I generally enjoyed this installment of the Bond franchise, although it definitely differs from 2006’s “Casino Royale.””Casino Royale” seemed to me like a return to a more classical form of storytelling. It had plot with a little action on the side. People and things were shiny, like a film from the 1930s. Meanwhile, “Quantum of Solace” is the incarnation of the inverse relationship of the equation between plot and action; altogether the film seems li
ke action with bits of plot tacked onto it at opportune moments. But since this is an international spy thriller, it works.

It would have been nice, however, to have had a little more elucidation on exactly what was going on most of the time in the plot. I am certain that viewers not watching the films consecutively on DVD will be a little bewildered by the car chase scene of the first ten minutes of the film (which apparently occurs only one hour after the ending of the “Casino Royale”). I sure was, maybe because I couldn’t remember who Mr. White was (with a bland name like that it’s difficult).

As for the plot, there is really only so much I can say without ruining the whole thing for people who haven’t seen the film yet. Bond is angry that Vesper (the love interest of “Casino Royale”) had to die, and the only way for him to get relief is to find out why it had to happen. At the beginning of the film, we find out that the man Vesper betrayed Bond for is in fact still alive. This sets up the motivation for the next two hours of spy thriller storytime.

There’s a certain ’60s chic to the film. There’s a squabble on motorboats (this might just be me associating the vehicles with the postwar period via films like “Crazed Fruit”), and stylized titles to introduce the exotic locales that the events of the film take place in. A smattering of crazy, new modern technology, like glass wall computer screens and fuel cell technology, also decorates the film in the same way the Bond films of yesteryear excitedly gave Bond crazy up-to-date gadgets to work with.

One of my favorite moments in the film had to be the incredibly obscure reference to “Tosca,” an opera by Giacomo Puccini. The film cuts between shots of the actions on stage (Tosca stabbing Scarpia to death) and Bond getting caught in a gunfight in the halls of the opera house where the work is being performed. I don’t really know what the producers of the film were thinking, because I doubt that very much of the viewership would be familiar with “Tosca.” It was still pretty awesome though, so I advise reading the Wikipedia article on Tosca before seeing the film. It provides the scene with a fun nuance. You can also appear more cultured to your friends (which is why Wikipedia exists, I think).

The structuring of parallels between independent actions in the story world of the film (like the opera scene) occurs throughout the film. When tensions start to rise during Mr. White’s interrogation at the film’s beginning, the film cuts between the interrogation room and scenes of a horse race about to begin. At first there is no way of telling if the horse race scene is even in the same city as the interrogation room-that’s cool. Later the two locales come together as Bond pursues a bad guy into the crowds (via a manhole), but this ambiguity of spatial relationships provides the film with a certain artistic and intellectual flair. I guess to a certain extent it is kind of cheesy, but it worked well.

Overall, I give this film a big thumbs up, but also a disclaimer: if you like spy thriller films (like I do), this is the way to go. It’s no “Casino Royale” or even a “Bourne Ultimatum,” but it sure is fun, and sometimes pretty images and explosions is all you need to keep you alive until the end of the Minnesotan winter.