James Bond descends into mystery as he tries to stop a mysterious organization from eliminating a country’s most valuable resource. All the while, he still tries to seek revenge over the death of his love.
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‘Quantum of Solace‘, the 22nd film in the James Bond series, arrived in 2008 with a great deal of anticipation following the success of ‘Casino Royale‘. Marc Forster took up the directorial reigns but the production was severely hampered by the Writers Guild Strike. So this film is not unlike the difficult second album, it struggles to live up to its predecessor and it seems that the ingredients that worked so well had been largely forgotten.
The pre-credit sequence hurls us straight back into the aftermath of Bond’s encounter with Mr White in the closing scenes of the ‘Casino Royale‘, an exhilarating car chase with Bond back in an Aston Martin pursued by machine gun toting villains in black Alfa Romeos. The sequence is brief, in keeping with the film’s relatively short running time but thrilling nonetheless. Bond’s car is riddled with bullets, loses a door along the way but he improvises well to get the better of his more heavily armed opponents. This sets up the opportunity for Mr White to reveal to ‘M’ just how omnipresent and insidious the Quantum organisation is.
‘Quantum of Solace‘ is a considerably shorter film than its predecessor at just 1 hour 45 minutes, and whilst it does squeeze in some excellent set pieces including an encounter between Bond and elements of the Quantum organisation at an opera in Bregenz, Austria (which calls to mind a similar scene in the recent ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation‘), it’s difficult to become truly engaged with the film. Craig is efficient in the role and continues where he left off bringing a physicality to the role but also cold detachment as a result of the losses suffered in the previous outing. The development of the character makes sense, but it does little to endear Bond to the audience in a film which desperately needs something at its core to pull the audience along.
The central villain is basically Le Chiffre-lite, Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric) is the head of Greene Enterprises whose seemingly benign intentions belie his true aim of securing access to the majority of the water supplies in Bolivia, doing a deal with the military who plan to overthrow the government. Greene is a threatening presence, particularly to the women in the film, but the problem is he doesn’t actually get to do that much and his distractingly silly looking henchman ‘Elvis’ sporting an ill-fitting toupee is perhaps one of Bond’s more insipid opponents. The action is still hard hitting, with the shootouts in particular having a feeling of heft and Bond gets to go rogue once again – this seems to happen in all of the Craig Bonds, 007 basically disobeying M’s orders and eventually proving he’s right to do so.
The Bond girls also aren’t served well by the writing, particularly any of the romantic entanglements. Gemma Arterton (Fields – listed as ‘Strawberry Fields’ in the end credits – really? Even by Bond girl naming conventions that is weak) appears as an office based MI6 employee who ends up making a dark tribute to Shirley Eaton from ‘Goldfinger‘. Olga Kurylenko’s vengeful Bolivian spy Camille Montes is the main Bond girl, but it really is a relationship of convenience with no obvious romance and certainly not anywhere near the emotional impact of Vesper Lynd. Bond helps her to seek vengeance for the death of her family at the hands of the lascivious General Medrano but there’s never really any sort of relationship between the two.
‘Quantum of Solace‘ doesn’t work as a standalone Bond movie, there’s very little in the way of the usual Bond tropes, in fact it could just be a standard revenge thriller that just so happens to have a central character called James Bond. The references within the story assume that the audience recalls the events of the previous film but it is worth treating it as ‘Casino Royale 1.5’ – it needs to be seen in quick succession essentially as the next chapter in the story. This film was not particularly well received by audiences or critics alike. It’s evidently underwritten and in places pretty underwhelming after the heights reached by ‘Casino Royale‘. However, there’s still just about enough in there to keep Bond fans happy, particularly Craig’s screen presence – he carries himself so well and is thoroughly convincing as the seemingly indestructible 007.
Review by Mark Thatcher
Directed By: Marc Forster
Starring: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Anatole Taubman, David Harbour, Joaquin Cosio, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen, Stana Katic and Tim Pigott-Smith