Quantum of Solace

This is it. After 3 weeks or so, I’m done with the 22. I’ll concern myself with Skyfall when the time comes (9 days and counting!) but for now, I’m going to lie down in a quiet darkened room and think about how many precious minutes of my life I’ve wasted on this self-flagellation.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

After the sudden shift into awesome that was Casino Royale, I had no idea what they were going to do next. Was Royale just a one-off to get audiences used to Craig and the follow-up would take us back to a world of campy one-liners and invisible jetpacks? Thankfully, this turned out to not be the case. Quantum of Solace holds the distinction of being the only direct sequel in Bond history. Until now, it had been a series of self-contained adventures, yet here is QoS picking up the action about an hour after  Bond shot Mr. White in the leg in Casino Royale. It’s an interesting idea at least. Whilst I dodged spoilers in my previous review, I want to talk specifics in this one, which will probably spoil the events of Casino Royale too. Just a heads-up.

“I think you’re so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don’t care who you hurt. When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, it’s time to go.”

Still understandably pissed off by the death of Vesper, James Bond (Daniel Craig) has vengeance in mind against the shady group behind all of that, a massive organisation MI6 know nothing about called “Quantum”. He soon suspects environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) of being in league with them, whilst he controls Bolivia’s water supply. Bond also meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who also has plans of a vengeful nature. I’m not quite sure what went wrong here, but the plot is weak as hell. QoS was written around the time of the 2007-8 Writers’ Strike and it’s evident here. It all strikes me as unfocused. Some long dialogue scenes lead nowhere and there’s little point in some scenes at all. This is really noticeable when I came across what should be emotional gut punches and I found myself to be uninvolved. I’m not a psychopath, at these moments I did have a “oh, that’s sad” kinda thought process, but it didn’t register on an emotional level at all. Often I was as cold and compassionless as a German holiday rep.

 Craig is the one thing that’s holding it all together. Much like Dalton, he’s hit his Bond stride after two films. He’s consistently good. Olga Kurylenko isn’t really a Bond girl as such, she just happens to tag along with Bond to get to Greene. She’s quite similar to For Your Eyes Only‘s Melina Havelock, except a better actress than Carole Bouquet. Mathieu Amalric is nice and reptilian as Greene, but the lack of an actual character lets the man down. Gemma Arterton makes a brief but effective appearance as Agent Fields (she refuses to give her first name, but the punchline is in the credits) and Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) from Casino Royale is back, apparently having proven to be innocent between the two films. Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter is about for a bit and it’s a shame he doesn’t feature for long. Also Judi Dench is awesome.

The pre-credits car chase sequence is great in theory, but the editing is way too frenetic and choppy to really tell what’s going on. The frustrating thing is I know there are some awesome stunts happening, I just can’t appreciate them because of the spasmodic way it has been shot. The last thing you want to do is exhaust your audience before the film’s even started. I had to really fight to tell what was going on. It settles down and has a nice pay off. I sort of like Jack White and Alicia Keys’ “Another Way to Die”, but it’s really ill-fitting as a Bond theme. It just seems off. This isn’t helped in any way by MK12’s underwhelming title sequence. Director Marc Forster brought in his own team to handle the graphics and they’re one of the worst things about the film. The titles coupled with the song remind me of a film school project rather than a legitimate Bond film opening. This is what GoldenEye‘s titles could have been after Maurice Binder died if Daniel Kleinman hadn’t stepped up. So glad the guy’s back for Skyfall. MK12 and Forster are also responsible for the ridiculous styled location titles. They’re really distracting and childish.

With no real plot to speak of, the responsibility of actually entertaining the audience falls to the action. With the exception of the above poorly-shot car sequence, it’s really good. There’s a fantastic rooftop chase that ends in a really unique and cool Rube Goldberg type sequence with Bond and a suspect battling in and around some scaffolding. There’s a decent plane set-piece which works well and the finale is just as stylish and explosive as one would expect from a Bond film. Neat little character moments, whilst fleeting, can still be found. Bond is still like a wrecking ball, tending to kill people before he has a chance to question them and racking up an impressive bodycount. There’s a nice little bit where M inquires about a suspect and Bond quickly replies “Slate was a dead end.”. After being relayed the information, M incredulously says “Damn it. He killed him!”. Camille has a nice character arc which I’m sure would have been a lot better if it wasn’t lost in all the fuckingmegahuge explosions. The Vesper story arc is also satisfactorily concluded, with the final scene being all kinds of kick-ass. By the end, Bond has learned a lesson he won’t forget in a hurry. The image of the Algerian love knot in the snow is a great one. I also like the fact Bond does some actual spying in this one, with him gatecrashing a Quantum meeting at a performance of Tosca. It’s a really cool scene. I also love the fact we get a proper Craig gunbarrel, albeit at the end.

“It’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.”

Quantum of Solace isn’t terrible, but it isn’t very good either. It’s very average which is a shame after all the promises Casino Royale made. And no, I’m still not sure what “Quantum of Solace” actually means. I assume it’s something to do with how Bond feels at the end of all this, but I’m just grasping at straws. Insane theories to the usual address please. Despite this film’s failings, I still appreciate the direction they’re taking Bond in and I hope Skyfall brings us back on track.

P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to Adam and Joe’s proposed Quantum of Solace theme songs, both of which are great. See here and here.

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