Quantum of Solace Review

Sean Fun Fact: I am named after Sean Connery. My brother was very nearly named Ian. My father is a huge James Bond fan. In fact, my Dad called me up recently to have me answer a James Bond quiz in the newspaper and I pretty much nailed every question (as did he). I even threw out potential answers to guessed upcoming questions (I blurted “Avalanche” to the chagrin of my father. Name the question a la Jeopardy-style in the comments if you can.).

I grew up in a house filled with the Bond books, movies and soundtracks. So, I’m wired to dig me a James Bond movie. Leaving Quantum of Solace after a Sunday matinee, I felt entertained. However, I also felt like I missed all the important parts of the movie.

Casino Royale rebooted the franchise nicely for modern audiences. Bond, the character, retained the Fleming style of a “blunt instrument,” wearing his scars proudly, drinking and womanizing, but felt much more 21st century hero than Cold War spy. Surprisingly, the new stewards of Bond ditched the Goldfinger formula (arguably the best third entry in a movie series ever) and forged a new, more realistic portrayal of Bond.

Quantum of Solace begins right after Casino Royale ends, but it probably would have benefitted the viewer if there was a teaser highlighting the end of CR focusing on the Vesper betrayal and sacrifice, Bond shooting Mr. White, adding in the “Bond, James Bond” from the end of the movie and then move into the credits sequence.

The high speed chase at the top of the film probably would have been really exciting if a director with any originality was at the helm. It was nearly impossible to follow and set the stage for the rest of the movie: action, more action, little dialogue, little plot, bit of sex, tons of killing, more action, things go boom. It’s all adrenaline with scarcely a smile or a breath.

Marc Forster, the director of Monster’s Ball and Stranger Than Fiction, gets decent performances from his lead actors, but his chase and fight scenes suffer from ADD. They look like the Bourne movies, but without the style. (Paul Greengrass probably rolled his eyes at the obvious “homages”). The aformentioned car chase, boat chase, knife fight, gun fight and others are shot and cut in a way that the audience can’t follow the progression. I hate this.

I like Daniel Craig as Bond. He has a Steve McQueen-esque quality about him in the role and he can play the cold hard killer well. I like the tortured soul atmosphere he brings to the character. He also brings a much more physical presence to the role and is by far the most athletic of the Bond actors. While I understand the character is “becoming” the Bond we know and love, can we please have a quip or two? Make it more gallows humor. More, “What I helpful chap” and less “I think he got the point.”

Olga Kurylenko is strikingly attractive as Camille Montes and emotes her revenge-minded character well enough, but she isn’t given enough to do to make us care about her much past will Bond sleep with her or not. I thought there was some decent chemistry between her and Craig, just not enough time to explore it.

Mathieu Amalric as the main bad guy Dominic Greene is, unfortunately, boring and unmemorable. He might rank as the worst Bond villain since Jonathan Pryce’s media mogel Elliott Carver. I liked Gemma Arterton as the MI6 rep sent to bring Bond back home, but couldn’t the writers have given in and actually have her say her name was Strawberry Fields? It would have allowed Craig to make a quip and maybe smile as he seduced her? (“Fresh Strawberries?”). Judi Dench is fabulous as M and I enjoyed the mothering aspect she has with Craig and one of the best lines has Bond saying that very thing. Whatever is on the page, Dench brings twice as much to the role. She’s the best holdover from the Brosnan years.

As for the plot, I can certainly remember older Bond films with stories impossible to follow and giant, gaping holes in them as well. The storyline of QoS is so dense, it borders on incomprehensibility and is dispensed with more often than not anyway. I can sympathize with the desire to eliminate the silly trappings of old (megalomaniac villain, big henchman, hot girlfriend, impregnable fortress), but I’d like to have some kind of storyline to follow. In fact, QoS has three: What is Mr. White’s organization? Find Vesper’s old boyfriend and Camille’s desire to kill the creepy new Bolivian dictator.

The biggest problem I have with the film is the things that happen off-screen. I wanted to hear about this new scary SPECTRE-like organization called Quantum. Green supposedly tells Bond everything, but we never hear it. Sure, it sets up the next film, but this mysterious organization is the most important discovery of the film. It’s lazy writing.

Then we get the off-screen death of Green. That sucks. We should have had Mr. White come in to the Bolivian desert on a helicopter, pretend to save Green and then drop him from a thousand feet. The oil bit was nice, but having the major villain die off-screen is just poor cinema.

Lastly, the emotional center of the entire film is built around Bond dealing with the death of Vesper in CR by her former boyfriend. The end confrontation starts nicely and then abruptly we cut away to the end. This is the biggest emotional moment of the entire movie and the audience gets nothing. We don’t see how Bond reacts and that’s simply terrible movie-making.

Is the movie better than Casino Royale? Well, no. It has more action and is a non-stop thrill ride and is worth going to see at the theater, but it just doesn’t quite feel like a Bond film. Perhaps the next go round will add just a bit more Connery and a bit less Damon.