– Summary –
Director : Marc Forster
Year Of Release : 2008
Principal Cast : Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Anatole Taubman, Jesper Christensen.
Approx Running Time : 106 Minutes
Synopsis: Bond tracks down members of the mysterious Quantum Organization, who fund terrorism and change governments at will – often at the behest of legitimate Western powers – as they begin plans to usurp the government of Bolivia, in order to gain control of their vast underground reserves of oil….
What we think : Breakneck pacing and a dearth of generic Bond tropes ensure Quantum of Solace is a genuine roller-coaster ride of a film. Where Casino Royale introduced Bond, and gave us a rather leisurely paced affair interspersed with high octane action, Quantum goes for broke in the action department, often at the expense of character development and subtlety. Initial critical reception (my own included) had this as a messy, convoluted and shallow Bond film entry – upon reflection, I’m prepared to stick my neck out and say that this is a top-notch action film that just happens to have Bond in it.
Bond goes Bourne.
Check out Alicia Keys & Jack White’s track, Another Way To Die:
We have already reviewed Quantum of Solace, and you can read our original thoughts here. Then come back here and read these….
Many people didn’t like Quantum of Solace when it came out back in 2008. Critics labelled it a mess, a yawn-fest and the complete opposite of what Bond was supposed to be about – debonair, suave style as he trots about saving the globe. To a degree, those critics are correct in their assessment of Quantum of Solace, although I think the film’s lack of typical Bond-esque sensibilities actually enhances the movie. In a rare case of saying “I told you so!” first time around, I’m going to revise my original critical reaction to Quantum of Solace and declare it to be one of the top 3 of the Modern Bond films – it’s better than GoldenEye, but not quite as coherent as Casino Royale – it’s brilliantly shot, paced like an Olympic sprinter, and concludes the narrative begun in Royale with a real bang.
If Casino Royale was a three act opener, then Quantum of Solace is a 2 hour finale. The film starts almost exactly where Casino Royale left off – Bond (Daniel Craig) has just captured the mysterious Mr White (Jesper Christensen) and is taking him to an MI6 location in Italy. Meeting up with M (Judi Dench), Bond is questioning Mr White when one of M’s bodyguards tries to kill them, allowing White to escape – Bond chases the double agent and kills him. Through a series of leads, Bond learns that the mysterious organization Mr White refers to is, in part, led by one Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), and terrorist masquerading as an environmental philanthropist – an act, of course, and one Bond is keen to expose. He infiltrates the mysterious Quantum Organization to learn that it is actually a sprawling network of contacts throughout various levels of governments, business and financial sectors – Quantum is an exceptionally powerful entity. Greene’s plan is to overthrow the incumbent Bolivian government, in order to establish a renegade General as ruler allowing them to monopolize the country’s vast underground reserves of… well, oil, it seems. Meanwhile, the potential deposing General Medrano is also being pursued by the vengeful Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who seeks to kill the General after he was responsible for the death of her parents. This brings her into partnership with Bond, and the pair track both Greene and the General to a hotel in the vast desert of Bolivia.
Where Casino Royale was a love story (I guess, if you squint, you can see it in there somewhere), then Quantum Of Solace is a revenge film. Bond, seeking revenge for the betrayal and death of his lover Vesper Lynd at the end of Royale, is set adrift from MI6 as he ostensibly pursues those responsible – first Mr White, then the larger target of Quantum – in what is, essentially, one long chase film. Quantum opens with a car chase, followed by a foot-chase across the rooftops of Siena, Italy, followed by a boat pursuit, followed by a little bit of talking, followed by a plane fight, followed by a truly explosive building-demolition-by-Bond conclusion; Quantum of Solace is nothing if not action packed. Looking at the film bluntly, there’s very little of the old-style Bond here; Craig is again brooding, brutal and searingly focused as the title character, which is in keeping with the method he began in Royale. He has little emoting to do aside from get angry about Vesper’s betrayal – or perceived betrayal – from the previous film: instead, he’s given more and more action, and my personal belief is that he carries it off well. Where some folks had a problem with this action-at-any-cost Bond film was this lack of intellect, with the film’s insistence on persisting with a brutal action ethos seemingly more in keeping with the Bourne films starring Matt Damon.
This is probably the reason I didn’t like this aspect of the film initially, because I felt it didn’t deliver the Bond I knew, and had enjoyed up to that point. The wise-cracking Bond of old had been replaced by some kind of supercharged robotic killing machine, apparently, and I felt the charm of the franchise had been lost somewhere. On reflection, however, I found my recent re-watch of the film gave me a different viewpoint – this Bond is, regardless of your nostalgic bent, a thoroughly modern Bond, and he has to be that way. Can you imagine a Sean Connery type bond prancing about wondering what his Facebook login might be? Don’t be daft – Bond is nothing if not adaptable, as we’ve seen in countless films he’s been in, so why not make the films themselves adaptable to modern audiences? A spy in the modern age – an age where terrorism is a real and current threat, where folks like Dominic Greene might actually exist, where satellite technology and better weaponry allow for more effective surveillance and killing – needs to be more up-to-date, and I think Quantum of Solace does that job really, really well. Bond shouldn’t crack wise every other sentence, no, he should f@cking kill somebody hardcore and move on without a moments pause! That’s what a modern Bond would be like. Anybody expecting Bond to still carry on like Roger Moore (bless him) are living in the wrong century.
With that in mind, I think Quantum of Solace is a ripping film with dynamic, well-filmed action sequences that are both thrilling and exciting, pursuant to the style of spy Bond has become cinematically. The breathless scripting, the constant movement of Bond and the brutal, bruising style Craig brings to the role, ensure Quantum is an exciting thrill-ride. I’d hate the current Bond films to follow this template every single time, but as a conclusion to the story started in Casino Royale, it’s certainly terrific. That’s not to say the film isn’t flawed, though – not in the least. Probably one of the largest hurdles Quantum must overcome is that it’s a continuance film – a film with no true beginning, since we are following action and characters begun in Casino Royale, so as a typically structured film, Quantum doesn’t quite play by the rules. It’s a little like Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers, the second (and middle) film in his Lord Of the Rings trilogy. There, Jackson had to find a way to start a film with no traditional “opening” and with no definitive conclusion, a factor which leaves audiences feeling like they’re watching half a movie – in a way, Forster had a similar problem with Quantum, in that he was dealing with the sloppy seconds of Royale’s establishing narrative. Truthfully, I think Forster handles it superbly, deciding not to bother with “recapping” the previous film, which works in favor of keeping the brisk, slightly off-kilter feel to Quantum’s opening half in check.
The cast are somewhat limited in their ability to convey any real emotion or development in Quantum. Judi Dench seems confused by what she’s asked to do here, while Jesper Christensen has a beefier – if bafflingly obscure – role as Mr White in this installment. Mathieu Amalric, a terrific French actor, is a touch underwhelming as the central villain, lacking a genuine menace to his persona (his opening scene is nice, but after that he seems to go all sensitive-new-age-guy on us) and never really being a credible physical threat for Bond – after Greene here, and Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, isn’t it about time Bond had a villain who was at least his physical equal so they could have a cool brawl? Perhaps in Skyfall. The two Bond girls of this film are main star Olga Kurylenko (who appeared in the Tim Olyphant starrer Hitman) and British actress Gemma Arterton (who we saw in Clash Of The Titans), neither of which particularly stand out as classic Bond women, but certainly add a level of spice to an otherwise masculine affair. Kurylenko’s character is set upon revenge, making her an ideal partner to Bond, who is on the same kind of mission himself, while Arterton’s auspiciously named Fields (known outside the film as “Strawberry”, although this nomenclature isn’t mentioned on-screen) is obliquely a sub-Vesper Lynd type creation designed as an MI6-sanctioned ally to the then-rogue Bond.
If there’s a notable failure in the story to deliver a respectable conclusion, it’s the arc given to Giancarlo Giannini’s Mathis, who aides Bond in Bolivia and who is – spoiler – killed in a brutish street-side assassination. Mathis was a character of admirable quality in Casino Royale, and the way his part was concluded here lacks any emotional resonance, especially so considering the confusing way his role was ended in Royale. I thought his character was given short thrift considering the prominence Giannini was afforded in both films – it’s as if the writer, Paul Haggis, couldn’t come to a decision as to just how to write the character out, so he offed him in the most innocuous and un-thrilling manner possible. His death is really a waste of a good character, and I think I was most disappointed by this, of anything else in the film.
The action sequences, of which there are plenty here, are superbly mounted and, nearly without exception, thoroughly thrilling. From the opening car chase, to the footrace across rooftops, to the finale where Bond and Camille are trapped in an exploding hotel in the Bolivian desert (reminiscent of a Classic Bond Villain hideout), director Marc Forster delivers a breathtaking sense of realism and energy to proceedings. With only the mildest pauses for breath between the gangbusting action, Forster manages to avoid action fatigue by keeping things feeling fresh; he refuses to rehash any trademark camera angles or editing techniques, and avoids slo-mo or shaky-cam cliches which have caused many a modern audience to groan in frustration. Quantum of Solace’s visual aesthetic is clean, crisp and delivers the goods without extravagance, and that’s an aspect sorely missing in mainstream action films these days.
I’m prepared to admit that I found Quantum Of Solace a much better film now than I thought it to be originally. Perhaps I approached it with low expectations from a variety of other critics, and found myself pleasantly surprised again, or perhaps the expectation I had to it originally has been tempered by a new realization that things need to change for Bond to maintain momentum gained by Casino Royale. I had expected it to be a Bond like the ones I’d enjoyed as a kid, and I think because it so wasn’t like that that I didn’t appreciate it in the manner it deserves. Now, with my hindsight firmly in place, I see I was somewhat mistaken. Quantum of Solace is a breathless, magnum-opus of a finale to Casino Royale – it would be my highest recommendation to watch both in quick succession, if not immediately together – that ensures Daniel Craig a place as an upper-echelon Bond with lasting potential. For those who think Quantum is one of the lesser Bond films, can I strongly urge you to give this film another shot – I think the latitude of time and distance from initial thought might just offer up a more stimulating response than you had the first time. For this critic, Quantum of Solace plain and simply rocks.