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QuickView: The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote poster

“You think explaining explains anything?”

Don Quixote

In a week that saw the death of one Python, it was wonderful to see another’s dream finally realised. After (at least) 25 years Terry Gilliam’s take on Don Quixote, inspired by Cervantes’ novel principally by the titular character, will finally reach a wide audience this year, having been shown at Cannes in 2018. His ill-fated shoot with Johnny Depp is captured in the 2002 documentary Lost in La Mancha, and the new film is dedicated to Jean Rochefort and John Hurt, both previously cast as Quixote but who died before the film could be made. Suffice to say, Don Quixote carries significant baggage. In the script that emerged, Gilliams deftly translates the novel’s themes of the power and danger in fantasy from the medium of books to filmmaking, as a man is consumed by a role he played a decade ago while a girl is seduced by the idea she could be a star. Adam Driver is excellent as Toby, a dissatisfied director returning to rural Spain where he once shot a student film and witnessing the impact left behind. Jonathan Pryce spent years lobbying for the role of Quixote and dons the armour made for Rochefort with aplomb, bringing a sense of guileless innocence to the role. Whilst most of the women are under-served by the script, Joana Ribeiro’s Angelica is more nuanced: her dream may have crumbled in contact with reality with trite predictability but she owns her choices even if she has regrets; Toby’s guilt seeks to rob her of agency. Gilliams’ skill has always lain in occupying the inchoate space where fantasy and reality merge at the edges so his obsession with Quixote is understandable. Perhaps fittingly for a film about the dangers of fantasy, it is the full-blown dream sequences that feel like an unnecessary confusion. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote may not be an unqualified triumph but it is a joy to watch ⁠— at last the curse is lifted and this quest is complete.


Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum of Solace poster

director: Marc Forster
writer: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric
running time: 106 mins
rating: 12A

The first thing you should know about us is… we have people everywhere.

Despite clocking it at around half an hour shorter than any of the recent Bond films, Quantum of Solace actually proves one of the most exhausting to view, feeling like a single protracted action sequence in which the adrenaline never really lets up. The downside is that neither the story nor characters are given a chance to breathe. Given the scant fragments of the former that is perhaps not an issue, but the latter leaves this film an underwhelming experience.

Picking up shortly after the end of Casino Royale, Bond [Daniel Craig] and M [Judi Dench] interrogate Mr. White, revealing an organisation called Quantum who blackmailed Vesper. Still motivated by revenge for her betrayal and death, Bond cuts a swathe of destruction as he hunts down Dominic Greene [Mathieu Amalric] who is buying up land to control the most important natural resources. Meanwhile Bond meets Camille [Olga Kurylenko], a woman with her own vendetta and a useful ally as a rogue Bond must keep ahead of the CIA, terrorists and even MI6.

Quantum of Solace still

It is telling that the film opens on car chase already in progress, but perhaps its style is moreso. The action direction leaves much to be desired, featuring a lot of lazily edited quick cuts that serve to confuse the viewer rather than let them enjoy the events. I thought we were beyond that. Some is clearly borrowed from Bourne, but adequately reproduced such as a lift escape scene. The noteworthy exception is a fight through a glass ceiling onto scaffolding which is expertly choreographed with a great tracking shot as they fall. This moment of brilliance ends up standing out since it is sadly not repeated.

Quantum of Solace still

Such is perhaps the trouble with a franchise that replaces its director each film. By contrast the cast, returning and new, are all impressive. Craig’s Bond will continue to delight all those who enjoyed him in Casino Royale, effortlessly cool with suppressed rage while his tense chemistry with M remains as compelling as ever. Unfortunately what arguably made the last film so compelling was character development in Bond, but since it had the entire arc, there was really none left. Olga Kurylenko does well in providing another strong Bond girl and could have filled this gap had she been given the time to do so. Meanwhile the villains felt surprisingly flat this time round. Real perhaps, but decidedly uninteresting.

One emerges with the sense this is the middle instalment of a trilogy — the plot already set up and largely action heavy — although those involved refuse to comment. The truth is that the relentless pacing actually fits the plot rather well, with Bond on a rampage of revenge while everyone else is after him. The problem is that the result is just not very Bond. There is more to a Bond film than simply action, and in failing to deliver that, Quantum feels untrue to the franchise in a way that Casino Royale, while a reboot in style and tone, never did.

rating: 2/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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