Quantum of Solace (Forster, 2008), the recently released Bond film, has already brought millions to the box office, including myself. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t let this entry spoil it for you. (Now I know what you’re thinking… this is a Hopkins film blog and he’s writing about the new Bond film? Just stay with me here…)
If there’s one thing I love about Bond films, it’s the action. The chases, the fights, the stunts, the cars, the explosions... all so fun. The director gets us caught up in the fast-paced universe of 007 and we aren’t let go until the end of the film. Nothing else seems to matter; adrenaline pumps for 106 minutes. Yet, this weekend, amidst the unending stream of adventure, I couldn’t keep myself from noticing one thing: Soviet montage. I sat awestruck at how film theory had apparently engrained itself into my head so well that it was popping up during a Bond film. My mind was suddenly conjuring simultaneous images of James Bond and Sergei Eisenstein. Oh boy. Anyway, it’s an experience I feel obligated to share.
Like many other Bond films, the action starts immediately. In Quantum of Solace, we get thrown into a beautiful Aston Martin right beside James and watch terrified as a number of gun wielding assailants from a trailing car blast hundreds of holes into the side of 007’s car. The quick cuts keep our hearts beating fast as the superior skills of James Bond impress us time and time again. As expected, Bond gets away only moderately scathed despite yet another gorgeous car destroyed at his hands. The first scene gets us ready for what turns out to be one of the most action-packed Bond films to date. A little bit later, we get our first true montage sequence.
This scene begins with a beautiful shot of Siena, Italy, the setting for the action soon to follow. We get a brief glimpse of the horse race that will play a pivotal role in the montage sequence. After a brief interaction between Bond, M, and Mr. White, a traitor’s gunshot initiates a furious chase. Mitchell, the traitor, sprints away from the scene with Bond close behind. This is where the montage kicks in. An exciting, crowd-drawing horse race is juxtaposed to the shots of James and Mitchell. As the horses run spraying trails of dust behind them, Bond and Mitchell do the same. As the chase builds in intensity, the horse race begins to implode on its own volition. One horse stumbles, others begin to collide, and a horse and rider go down. The crowd closes in on the fallen victims. Meanwhile, Bond and his target make their way through a series of underground tunnels, eventually climbing out of the sewers and right to the center of the horse race. At this point the crowd has become frantic. The chaos in the streets evokes a feeling of chaos in both Bond and Mitchell. The shots work together both emotionally and visually. Each action by horse and crowd seem to heighten the action of Bond and Mitchell and vice-versa. At the end of the scene, the two plots collide, and Mitchell fires shots into the already chaotic crowd. This creates absolute mayhem. The final bits of juxtaposition involve a dying pedestrian and Bond avoiding being shot. It predicts the violent future Bond has to look forward to, and fittingly enough, Bond’s chase ends with a deadly bullet fired from his pistol.
Later in the film we get another wonderful action sequence of montage. This time the action takes place in and around a beautiful arena in Austria. Members of an evil organization have gathered at the opera in order to discuss their upcoming project. Bond quickly recognizes what’s going on and steals an earpiece to listen in on the private conversation. He then cleverly interrupts the meeting and begins to pursue several members of the gang. Again, montage plays a critical role in the action that follows. The opera becomes the item juxtaposed to Bond’s chase. As Bond takes off after his enemies, the opera takes a violent turn. The opera’s female protagonist is draped with blue light as her voice fills the arena. Bond smashes through the kitchen of a restaurant, a fire starts, and the chase becomes increasingly violent. Meanwhile, the woman in the opera has obtained a knife. The increasing drama of the opera plays into the increasing intensity and violence of Bond’s chase. Ultimately, the woman in the play thrusts the knife into her assailant, and Bond catches one of the men he had been chasing. When James can’t obtain any information from him, he drops him off the side of a building. Both stories end violently.
Quantum of Solace is a quick moving and violent film. The montage used worked beautifully to enhance the emotion in several scenes. It’s clearly an essential part of film, and it’s great to see it used so prevalently in the latest film of the Bond series. The next entry I write will focus on a film more “blog appropriate,” but you’ve got to love Bond, especially when it brings a film theory discussion to the table.
Quantum of Solace, 2008. 106 minutes, 2.35 : 1 Aspect. Directed by Marc Forster. Based on the novel/story by Ian Fleming.