Review: Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace (2008)
[PGP-13] Starring: Daniel Craig, Neal Purvis, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric,  Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis
Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale left off not just from the standpoint of story but of style. Bond no longer boarders on parody. The new Bond is edgy and realistic, at least somewhat realistic.

The movie opens with a typical mindless movie car chase--multiple car-loads of submachine gun wielding bad guys ineffectively firing hundreds of rounds of ammunition at Bond while repeatedly failing to run him off the road. On the other hand, Bond has no such problems. Not only does he out drive his pursuers--most of them crash and burn--but he dispatches the last car load of them with a single burst from his submachine gun.

Okay, it is Bond and his car could be bullet proof, but even this has limitations. Bullet proofing adds weight to a vehicle and unfortunately weight reduces a car's acceleration. Furthermore, it takes a lot more bullet proofing armor to protect against high powered rifle than against pistol bullets.  Ultimately, car's level of bullet proofing  is a tradeoff with its weight, hence, performance and its appearance. A car that accelerates and looks like a military tank will be far more bullet resistant than a car that accelerates and looks like a high performance automobile.  In the high-performance car, handgun bullet proofing is about the best one can hope for. Even then multiple handgun bullets impacting in roughly the same area will eventually penetrate the armor, especially in window areas. Being raked by submachine gun fire is definitely not a safe situation.

After the car-chase-shootout, Bond rolls into a secret location and pulls a suspect out of his trunk for interrogation. Alas, M's bodyguard turns out to be a double agent and foils the plan allowing both the prisoner and the body guard to escape. This leads to a Parkour-type foot chase--now becoming a trademark of the new Bond style. Our key complaint in this scene, and for that matter all the movie's action scenes, is that the cuts and camera angle changes are way to fast to comprehend what's happening.


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Fast changes are usually done for two reasons: to build excitement and/or enhance believability. The movie's camera work and editing accomplished neither. After seeing the Bond foot chase we were left emotionless and confused. While fast changes do hide otherwise obvious flaws, taken to an extreme, they hide just about everything. By contrast a Parkour video on You-Tube is amazing. Instead of detracting, the amateurish camera work and editing leaves little doubt about reality and reality is what makes Parkour breathtaking.

The story eventually leads to the great showdown scene in an eco-hotel situated in the ultra-dry Bolivian desert. The hotel is run by the bad guy's organization, Greene Planet and is powered by hydrogen.

The notion that hydrogen is an energy source falls somewhere between a delusion and a scam. There is no free hydrogen available on Earth. Hydrogen has to be made by stripping it  from a hydrocarbon fuel like natural gas (releasing CO2 in the process) or by the electrolysis of water. The first nets out less energy than simply burning the hydrocarbon and the second less energy than simply using the electricity directly. Biological production is also a possibility but requires a biomass feedstock, not likely to exist in one of the world's driest desert, a place where virtually nothing grows.

Hydrogen does have potential as an energy storage medium, in other words as a battery substitute, but at the moment, based on cost and overall efficiency, it's not competitive,  In a hydrogen-based energy storage system electricity would be used to generate the hydrogen. At a later time, the hydrogen would be consumed by a fuel cell producing electricity as needed. Unfortunately, such a system would loose about 50 to 70% of the original energy as heat. Current fuel cells are also very expensive because they typically contain platinum. By comparison, a relatively inexpensive lead acid battery in the same type of application would loose only about 10% of its energy as heat.

So why is anyone even looking at fuel cells? The answer: they offer some potential advantages in vehicles. For example, the hydrogen tank of a fuel cell can be refilled in minutes as compared to a typical charging time of hours for batteries, a huge advantage for a vehicle. However, producing, storing, and distributing the massive amounts of hydrogen needed for replacing gasoline in vehicles is itself a major expense with many serious technical problems that need to be overcome.

In an application like storing energy for a hotel, the fuel cell advantage of quick rechargability is unimportant. Hotels don't have to move around or be quickly recharged during brief pauses in their motion.

The future of fuel cells is based on the hope that, with enough R&D money, the many problems facing widespread fuel cell use in vehicles could be solved. On the other hand the same statement can be made about fuel cell's competitors, not to mention that they have a significant head start.

Lithium ion batteries already greatly outperform lead acid types and there is yet another new kid on the block, the supercapacitor. Unlike batteries, supercapacitors can be charged in negligible amounts of time and can endure millions of charge/discharge cycles. While they are not yet competitive with batteries for total energy storage per pound, they are already being combined with batteries in hybrid and fully electric vehicles. If the hype surrounding them proves true supercapacitors or supercapacitor/battery systems are going to blow away current battery performance limitations.

Conceivably, there could have been banks of solar cells on the desert producing energy for the movie's eco-hotel. Part of this energy could have been used to produce hydrogen gas by the electrolysis of water, then compress and store it in large tanks for later use. At night the hydrogen could then have been consumed by fuel cells in order to produce electricity. However, this is not the system depicted in the movie. Here power is being generated by fuel cells in the middle of the day. What's more, the fuel cells are distributed throughout the complex. This means that high-pressure hydrogen would have to be piped throughout the buildings--not a particularly safe or efficient system.

At first, we found this use of hydrogen was incongruous with the idea that the Greene Planet organization was promoting green philosophy and design. Upon reflection, we changed our minds. The supposed environmental mission of the Greene Planet organization was merely a cover story for various nefarious activities. The organization itself was a scam, so what could be more fitting than having it operate an eco-hotel using a green-looking but impractical energy system.

During the final showdown scene Bond finds himself trapped in a room with the latest Bond girl, not a bad fate except that the room is ablaze and they're both about to experience a painful death. Bond is holding a handgun contemplating euthanasia when he has a sudden epiphany, or should we say movie cliché. There's a hydrogen fuel cell on the wall across the room and thanks to the Hindenburg disaster, everyone knows that hydrogen is wicked stuff. Of course, unlike real fires where visibility is measured in inches, there's no smoke to obscure this discovery or Bond's aim. He shoots the fuel cell, or was it the hydrogen line feeding it, no matter, the hydrogen detonates and blows out the wall allowing Bond and girl to escape.

An explosion-generated shock wave powerful enough to blow out a wall would also travel into the room. If the occupants survived, they would be seriously stunned and at least temporarily, if not permanently, deaf. However, the detonation itself would be problematic. Even the Hindenburg did not detonate although once ignited it did rapidly turn into a major conflagration. To detonate, the hydrogen would first have to be mixed in explosive proportions with oxygen and then provided a sufficient amount of activation energy.

While we can't claim to have shot any fuel cells, our bet is that not much of anything would happen. Fuel cells do have both hydrogen and oxygen in them but the two components are not mixed. They are separated by a membrane. Also, handgun bullets, as explained in our book are not a very good source of ignition.

On the other hand the fuel cell does produce electricity and shooting it could short it out, producing a spark that could easily ignite a hydrogen leak. If there were no safety shutoff on the hydrogen supply the result could be like a very hot, very large, and very dangerous blow torch. Shooting a high pressure hydrogen line might be even worse, but there is little reason to think it would immediately detonate.

After escaping, it's once again cliché time. Bond captures the main bad guy, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), drives him into the desert and abandons him with nothing but a can of motor oil, telling him that he doubts he'll go far before drinking it. We're later informed that Greene was found in the desert, shot dead, with motor oil in his stomach. We don't know where the bullet came from but obviously Greene had suffered mightily from thirst before dying.

The cliché stems from the idea that even a short walk in a desert produces unbearable thirst. While the Bolivian desert is one of the driest places on Earth, it's also one of the coolest. Night time temperatures routinely approach freezing. Summertime highs rarely exceed 80 °F (27 °C). At such temperatures and low humidity, a walk in the desert is quite pleasant. Yes, he would eventually become fatally dehydrated, but it could take several days, and on flat terrain he could walk a considerable distance. Certainly, there would be no reason to carry, yet alone drink, a can of motor oil.

By contrast, if the desert's temperature were elevated to say 110 °F (43 °C) or higher, walking even a few miles would be torturous, if not impossible. Without water, the lifespan of most people would be measured in hours. Aside from immediate thirst, walking in such heat makes the heart race, the head feel light, and the stomach nauseated. Movement has to be extremely slow and rest stops frequent in order to compensate.

As for the Greene Planet organization, their dastardly plot consisted of damming up underground rivers in huge caverns beneath the Bolivian desert, in order to cut off Bolivia's water supply. Next they overthrew the Bolivian government and replaced it with a hand-picked dictator who in return granted them rights to the desert's resources. Finally, they pressured the dictator into signing a water contract doubling its price. (Yeah right, and dictators can always be trusted to obey contract law.)

It's amazing that Bolivia's entire water supply would come from beneath one of the driest desert in the world, considering that much of Bolivia is in the lowland plains of the Amazon Basin where rainfall is abundant. But our biggest source of amazement  was that brilliant master criminals would go to the trouble and expense of setting up a phony eco-organization, overthrowing a government, and constructing underground dams with the required distribution system just to sell water to people in one of the poorest countries in the world. Haven't these crooks ever heard about gambling rackets, embezzlement, blackmail, prostitution, forgery, theft, or selling dope to people in one of the richest countries in the world? Surely there's an easier way to make a dishonest buck than by peddling water.

In spite of flaws in the current installment we like the new Bond style. Our favorite Bond is still Sean Connery but Daniel Craig ranks high and we would like to see more of him. Hopefully, the new Bond movie style will mature a little more in the direction of reality and lose some of its youthful silliness.  We also hope the camera work and editing of action scenes in future editions will be neither shaken nor stirred, at least not so vigorously. We'd like to not just see but comprehend action scenes.



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