Review: “Quantum of Solace”
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli
Written by: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Cinematography by: Roberto Schaefer
Music by: David Arnold (score), Jack White and Alicia Keys (title song)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Gemma Arterton, Anatole Taubman, David Harbour, Joaquín Cosío, Rory Kinnear
Based on the character created by Ian Fleming
After the considerable critical enthusiasm over the James Bond reboot, Casino Royale, it was probably inevitable that disappointment would have surrounded the followup. Consider the fact that the film’s production was affected by the 2007 – 2008 Writer’s Guild strike (with writer Paul Haggis reportedly completing the final touches just two hours prior to the beginning of the strike) and the fact that the film’s director, Marc Forster, was making his action movie debut. So, yes, the odds were stacked up against this already unusually named Bond entry (which is named after but not an adaptation of a collection of Bond short stories — in case you didn’t know).
Quantum picks up directly after the events of Casino Royale, making its prologue that film’s epilogue and marking the first time that a Bond film plot has carried on directly into the sequel. The action sequence here, a pure car chase scene with few lines that truly matter until the very end, largely sets the tone for this quicker, shorter film. Though Casino Royale feels like a complete story, and we are led to believe that we have been satisfactorily introduced to the Bond that we know and love by the end, Quantum itself feels like an extended epilogue that manages to squeeze in all the necessary elements to justify its existence as a full length Bond film unto itself. Bond is now dealing with the grief from his losing Vesper, and now he’s out for revenge. That quest for revenge is pretty much the driving force for Bond in this film.
It’s one of the more simplistic plots that you’ll find in this series, and while the film does notably make a move toward establishing a larger world by pulling the curtain back on the existence of the Quantum organization (which is likely poised to be the 21st century equivalent of S.P.E.C.T.R.E.), this organization will not likely become too much of a concern for audiences until they are properly addressed in some other future film. (Skyfall? I dunno — it’s not out just quite yet in the US as I write this.) It also helps to get Bond together with the obligatory Bond girl, Camille.
Camille is a Bolivian girl who was forced to watch as her family was tortured and killed at the hands of the vicious General Medrano, who is in league with the film’s primary villain and Camille’s apparent lover, Dominic Greene. As soon as their paths cross, Bond and Camille’s journeys begin to intertwine, and it isn’t long before he finds himself playing mentor to the troubled younger girl as they work together to exact revenge on those who have wronged them. Oh, and Dominic is also damming up Bolivia’s water supplies in the hopes of hiking up the price of water once he and Quantum set up Medrano as their dictator, too.
As I said before, the plot isn’t really meaty this time around, but it does continue to be mostly satisfactory in making the character journeys more personal. The dynamic between Bond and his protege is enjoyable, as the two share to much in common as professionals than they do as lovers — suggestions of a romantic or sexual relationship between the two is largely relegated to a single kiss toward the end of the film, making it seem more like mutual friends who had or have the potential to be lovers, but aren’t quite ready for each other just yet. (MILD SPOILER: Bond does bed one girl, an MI6 liaison named Strawberry Fields, whose thankless but narratively significant role is to serve as one more female casualty left in Bond’s wake, echoing Vesper, and foreshadowing more to come.)
While Craig and Judi Dench continue to impress as their returning characters, Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko does a fine enough job as Camille, whose cute appearance belies her cold heart. Though the actress is not actually Bolivian (there’s even a quick line about her character being only half, with the other being Russian), she holds the accent and never feels as though she is creating a stereotype in the role. The character’s no Vesper, that’s for sure, but Camille is a welcome and respectable addition to the Bond girl line up thanks mostly to Kurylenko’s sympathetic portrayal of the damaged girl.
Mathieu Amalric, on the other hand, is tasked with making Dominic Greene a threatening presence, but the character just doesn’t seem to fully register. A villain whose green technologies company is a front for the larger Quantum organization sounds incredibly Bond-like on paper, but in execution, it really leaves the character feeling more like an obligation than one of presumably many faces of Quantum. It doesn’t help that Amalric sometimes confuses creepy for being just weird. He’s not ridiculous or campy, though, and hardly detracts from the film as a whole — it’s just that he’s not all that memorable, either
The action and other set pieces, however, are pretty great, with the opening car chase and the scene at the play being fairly awesome examples of what the film has to offer. Indie director Marc Forster’s shooting style seems to further delve into the Bourne Identity territory for action scenes, shaky cam and all, but most other scenes are quite clear and polished, playing muted, complementary warm and cool colors against each other often. It lacks the visual richness of the previous film, but this is fitting for the desert setting and the path of vengeance the two leads go down. It’s just that the film really needed a better story with a better villain, something that would have probably come through with more time in development. That being said, having come from the indie world, where characters are usually king, however, Forster really seems to have a handle on how these characters should relate to one another, particularly with Bond and the stern but increasingly motherly M.
With MGM’s financial issues making it look as though we wouldn’t be receiving a third Bond film in quite some time, would it have been satisfying to leave Daniel Craig’s last contribution to the series remain closed on Quantum of Solace? The answer is an obvious “No.” It does feel as though the film really could have used another rewrite, and perhaps following up the best entry in the franchise with a chance-taking average one was probably not a good idea. That being said, it does offer some closure to the previous film (whether it was enough is up to you — I get a sense that this is something that Bond will be dealing with for some time) while setting up new plot threads to explore in later entries and yet still remaining largely entertaining enough on its own, too. Growing pains are never fun, even in the movies, and some just come out a bit more awkward than others. I particularly like this brisk, action-packed film despite all its flaws, however, so I’m just going to go ahead and give the film a decent rating…
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5