My James Bond Retrospective: Quantum of Solace

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Even before Casino Royale was released, Eon Productions announced their plans for the next Bond film. It would be the first time a direct sequel was written for any Bond film, and the decision was made to exploit the emotional turmoil Bond was experiencing at the end of Casino Royale.

Following the twenty-first Bond film’s massive success, both financially and critically, fans expected to see Eva Green reprise her role from the previous film in some form. While she didn’t make any real appearance, her character from Casino Royale was felt throughout the entirety of the film, serving as the motivation for much of Bond’s actions in this story.

The film’s title was taken from a short story in For Your Eyes Only by Ian Fleming, but none of that short story’s plot elements were used in the movie.

Some of the screenplay was written during the 2007-08 Writers’ Strike that halted work on a number of film and television shows. Pre-production continued for Quantum of Solace, however, forcing actor Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster to write scenes themselves, according to Craig. He cites this as one of the primary reasons he was unsatisfied with the film.

However, there are conflicting reports. Marc Forster went on record saying that the script was practically finished, and that the final product reflects the screenplay completed before the Writers’ Strike. No one really knows what happened. Aside from Daniel Craig and Marc Forster, of course.

quantum-of-solace-movie-poster-01Quantum of Solace premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square on October 29, 2008. The film received mixed reviews, most of which criticized the film’s plot and screenplay. Craig’s performance was praised, however, as were the action scenes.

The film picks up almost immediately after the events in Casino Royale with Bond (played once again by Daniel Craig) driving through the streets of Italy with Mr. White, the informant that Bond shot in the final scene of Casino Royale, in the trunk of his Aston Martin. Bond brings him to M for questioning, where White reveals that he’s part of an organization that has people everywhere. M’s bodyguard turns out to be a double agent and attempts to kill M, but his plans are thwarted by Bond, who chases him through the city. Bond loses him, and he and M return to England to continue their investigation into White’s organization.

Their investigation leads them to Bolivia, where Bond meets Camille Montes (played by Olga Kurylenko). He discovers that her lover, Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric) is attempting to kill her, so he follows her to the docks where she confronts Greene. Bond discovers that Greene is working with exiled Bolivian General Medrano—the man who had killed Camille’s family.

Bond then follows Greene to Italy, where he discovers that Greene is working for the same organization White works for. Bond disrupts the organization’s secret meeting, and a gunfight follows. Greene kills a Special Branch agent, but the murder is pinned on Bond, whose assets are subsequently frozen.

14quantum.xlarge1Bond turns to his friend Mathis for help. Mathis joins him on his return to Bolivia, where he meets fellow MI6 agent, Strawberry Fields. Fields demands that Bond return to London with her, but he refuses and instead recruits her to his mission. Bond and Fields attend a party held by Greene, where he encounters Camille again. Bond and Camille escape the party with help from Fields.

While driving away, Bolivian police pull them over and uncover a body in the trunk of their SUV. The body turns out to be Mathis, who’s been assassinated by one of his contacts in Bolivia.

article-1065225-02C124E900000578-387_634x615_popupQuantum of Solace is every bit as dark and gritty as its predecessor, but it lacks the charm and entrancing storyline that Casino Royale possesses. The main Bond girl, Camille, is played well, but I never felt compelled to cheer for her despite the screenwriters’ attempt at making her sympathetic. Her backstory is a bit over-the-top, in my opinion. She’s seeking revenge for what Medrano did to her family, but the plot was too complex for me to truly care about the character.

Craig shines as Bond yet again. While he maintains that gritty, angry persona that he created in his debut, there are a few flashes of the playfulness we grew familiar with while watching Pierce Brosnan play Bond. They’re very brief and barely noticeable, but there’s an occasional twinkle in his eye.

This is offset by the emotional turmoil he portrays for the character throughout the entirety of the movie. Vesper was his first love, and in his mind she betrayed him and then allowed herself to die, leaving him with one unanswered question after another.

QUANTUM OF SOLACEThe cast of characters around Bond never feels complete in this movie. Throughout the film I felt like something or someone was missing. I enjoyed seeing Felix Leiter return, but he felt like a much weaker character in this movie than he did in Casino Royale. M didn’t have that same punch she had in GoldenEye or Casino Royale. Even the villain, Dominic Greene, felt lacking.

That’s not to say the characters (or the actors that played them) weren’t any good, they were just comparatively weak, particularly given just how good the previous film was. It is the Bond series though, and you can never really have two fantastic Bond films in a row (with the notable exception of Licence to Kill and GoldenEye, but there’s a six-year gap between those two films).

The film seems caught in an odd place overall. Casino Royale changed the Bond series in so many ways and successfully “rebooted” the franchise. Quantum of Solace appears to want to continue in the vein of its predecessor, but it also seems to want to hold on to some of the elements that were Bond staples before Craig took up the Walther.

UntitledA perfect metaphor for this is the homage paid to 1964’s Goldfinger. Agent Fields meets an untimely death by drowning in oil. The image lacks the poignancy of the original death. It’s not nearly as eerie, despite the fact that it’s far more realistic, and it feels out of place. Auric Goldfinger’s murder of Jill Masterson is cold and points to the weirdness of that character. Strawberry Fields’s death is too theatrical for either of the villains in this film to be at all believable.

The oil is meant to carry that fear element for today’s audience and the image of a naked girl murdered lying face down on a bed is meant to carry the nostalgia for legacy audiences. It ends up not connecting with either audience.

All in all, Quantum of Solace is a decent Bond film. It attempts to find a balance between the classic Bond and the new Bond and, while it doesn’t fail miserably, hardly succeeds. It’s a fun Bond film, but it lacks the charm of films like Goldfinger, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and The World Is Not Enough. It also fails to reach the realism and emotional fervor of Casino Royale.

Next up, Skyfall.

(Click to go back to the list.)

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