"Quantum Of Solace": Cutting To The Chase

Opening car chase scene from the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace."
MGM/Columbia Pictures
They don't make chase scenes like they used to, which is not entirely a good thing, in the view of our critic David Edelstein:

"Quantum of Solace" opens in the middle of a car chase, which wouldn't be so bad if you could tell where any car was in relation to any other car.

But you can't - the action makes no spatial sense.

As a whole the movie is fun, and Daniel Craig is a great Bond - his eyes are so cold that they chill and burn at once.

But the chases and fights remind me of that other big mash-up, "The Dark Knight."

I know people loved it, but could they follow it?

We're in a new world when it comes to on-screen action, a world where close and fast and jangled and deafening have replaced, well, something like this:

(MGM Pictures)

"North by Northwest" is an extreme case. But look at the elegance. Look how Alfred Hitchcock enlarges the space and then contracts it; how he gives you your bearings but still completely upends you.Or as long as we're on Bond, look at the duel between Sean Connery and Harold Sakata's Oddjob in "Goldfinger": there's the simplicity, the deceptive simplicity, of the staging.

It's a dance of death.

(Universal Pictures )
I think most filmmakers have abandoned the idea that chases and fights are dances ... that it's better to see whole bodies in fluid motion in relation to the larger environment.

Nowadays, action directors take their cues from the Jason Bourne movies (left), in which everything is shot documentary-style with a hand-held camera to put you right in the middle of the melee.

The "Bourne" films are exciting, but they're all sensation, the action is almost abstract.

They're not motion pictures; they're motion-sickness pictures. They trigger your primitive fight-or-flight instincts.

(Twentieth Century Fox)
Look, I'm a movie nut: I love speed and noise and pow!!! But at "Quantum of Solace," I was so disoriented that nothing seemed at stake.

It's not like in "The French Connection" (left), where you knew there was a car moving through that space at that time.

The forward motion of that scene is thrilling. But it doesn't have to be forward!

Look at Brian De Palma's "Carlito's Way."

The final chase and shoot-out is a geometrically ingenious progression of horizontals, verticals and slingshot angles.

(Universal Pictures )
Give me action that makes me marvel at the miracles of space, time and motion ...

... instead of, as in "Bourne" and "The Dark Knight" and "Quantum of Solace," reach for a Dramamine.