Quantum of Solace (2008)

James Bond film #22 (Daniel Craig Bond)

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in Quantum of Solace, the 22nd Bond adventure and the first to be a direct sequel to the prior Bond film. And when I say direct, I mean immediate. Quantum picks up mere moments after the conclusion of Casino Royale (21), Bond speeding down a seaside highway with the captive Mr. White in his trunk. It’s an interesting approach, giving us a chance to see exactly how Bond deals with Vesper Lynd’s death; and the revelation that there’s a SPECTRE-like organization called Quantum, with members in every major national government, is a great chance for the more personal story of Casino to bloom into a larger-scale affair. Unfortunately, Quantum was produced during the 2008 writer’s strike, a fact plainly evident in its scatterbrained script. Though it’s still slick and action-packed, Quantum of Solace (21) is a huge downgrade from the phenomenal Casino Royale (21), plagued by confusing storytelling and inferior direction.

Quantum pits Bond against Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of Quantum plotting to install a dictator in Bolivia and monopolize that country’s water supply. Publicly, Greene is an environmentalist; this do-gooder facade and his milquetoast appearance underlines the way Quantum members are able to infiltrate governments and organizations. They’re not walking around with diamonds in their face or crying out blood tears; they’re normal everyday people who apparently hold a lot of power. It’s disturbing and unsettling the way Mr. White laughs at M while she interrogates him – Quantum had always feared they were being watched, but instead, her questions let him know that MI6 has been ignorant of their organization this entire time.

Shortly after White escapes, though, the story becomes almost impossible to follow. Part of it has to do with character motivations, which are sometimes entirely absent. The main Bond girl, Camille Montes, first picks up Bond thinking he’s geologist Edmund Slate. She quickly finds out that Slate was sent by Greene to kill her, but after getting away from Bond, she runs straight to Greene – the man who just sent a hitman after her. Later on, M tries to have Bond arrested, but immediately repents just because he lets her know that another field agent was brave. Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) helps Bond out even after he was wrongfully tortured because of him. Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) lets Bond leave a party with Camille even though her only objective is to not let Bond leave. Nobody’s consistent and characters exit and enter scenes at random.

Just as bad as the senseless actions of basically every character are the frequent gaps in dialogue and action, like entire pages of the script were lost during production. At an hour and 45 minutes, Quantum is the shortest Bond film ever made, but its brevity is not the result of efficient storytelling. Instead, it’s story-suggesting; so much goes untold that it feels like you have to piece things together for yourself every scene. Even in the end, after Bond apprehends Greene, the information he finds out is undisclosed to the audience. Crosscut editing, sometimes with completely irrelevant scenes (like the wasted opportunity of a horse race), further condense the film and leave it feeling like an abbreviated whole.

The action scenes are still well-choreographed and intensely busy like they were in Casino Royale (21), but director Marc Forster shakes the camera up more often than Campbell did, making a lot of it very jostling and difficult to follow. The best sequences are the ones on foot, like when Bond chases down the undercover Quantum member early on or the spectacular raid that Bond and Camille launch on the Atacama desert hotel. Less enthralling is a pretty standard boat chase that fizzles out in the end, and a dogfight that’s only memorable because Bond flies a gigantic retro DC-3 during it. Most of the other action sequences are Bond slinking around like he’s Solid Snake, evading MI6 and CIA agents alike.

Quantum of Solace has a lot of potential to be another great Bond movie. Daniel Craig is in top form, both physically and in his acting, and the timely environmental story offers a chance to flesh out both Quantum and MI6. It’s a tragedy of circumstance that production occurred during the writer’s strike, meaning Forster and Craig had to make up a lot of the movie by themselves on-set. The resulting story is all over the place, equal parts confusing and frustrating. The final segment in Russia is a nice epilogue to the tale begun in Casino Royale (21), tying up the last loose end involving Vesper and showing that Bond is finally on his way to becoming the master spy we know he’ll become, but the movie leading up to it is a sadly disappointing follow-up to the masterpiece that was Casino Royale (21).

Final rating: 6.5/10

–James A. Janisse

Stray Observations:

  • In any other series, “Quantum of Solace” would be the worst title, hands-down. Lucky for Craig and the filmmakers behind Quantum, there will always be Octopussy (13).
  • M’s domestic life continues to get shown. It’s weird seeing her at home, but it’s part of the humanization of these characters that the Craig Bonds are notable for.
  • Daniel Kleinman’s job got taken away by the design/film collective MK12! And their title sequence is… pretty much in the same vein as Kleinman’s and Binder’s. Lots of sand.
  • For the first time ever, we get Felix Leiter played by the same actor in two consecutive Bond films, and I’m glad that they’re sticking with Jeffrey Wright, who plays Leiter as a very jaded and cynical fellow this time through. I’d be pissed too, though, if I had to deal with Beam (David Harbour) as my superior.
  • Dominic Greene’s bowl-cut henchman, Elvis, was pretty useless. He had one or two moments where he looked goofy, never felt threatening, and ended up getting blown up pretty randomly. Honestly, I’m not even sure if the dude spoke any lines.
  • That scene at the opera was probably the best in the film. The way all those Quantum members got scared and left gave the whole organization a very cultish feel, and Bond, like a G, got a snapshot of all of them as they exited. And of course Mr. White kept his cool.
  • Speaking of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), I’m very sad to see that he won’t be retuning in Skyfall. I understand that they’re done with the story told here, but it’d still be nice to get some closure with that character.
  • A lot more technology present this time around, mostly in the form of Minority Report-like screens and tabletop touchscreens. All very cool, all very realistic.
  • Glad to see Mathis’ name cleared; sad to see him die.
Bond Girl Fate

Camille Montes

(Olga Kurylenko)

Main Bond Girl:A Bolivian woman seeking vengeance on General Medrano for the death of her family. Bond helps her reach the General and she’s able to extract her revenge. She and Bond share a kiss, but that’s it, making her the first main Bond girl that Bond doesn’t bang. Progress!

Strawberry Fields

(Gemma Arterton)

Secondary Bond Girl: An MI6 officer who attempts to return Bond to London. She instead lets herself be seduced by him, helps him escape with Camille, and winds up dead, covered in oil in an homage to Jill Masterson from Goldfinger (3).

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