Quantum of Solace
Remember how Casino Royale ended? You’d better hope so, because the new James Bond movie picks up maybe an hour later. Bond remains motivated by revenge for the death of Vesper Lind, his lover in the first film who betrays him at the behest of an unnamed, shadowy organization.
That organization, a SPECTRE retooled for a new millennium, is named Quantum, though that detail goes by so quickly in this frentic movie that I had to confirm the fact on Wikipedia. As the first Bond movie to be a direct sequel to its predecessor, Quantum of Solace doesn’t take half-measures. It relies on the first Daniel Craig installment for motivation, theme, character development and all its best moments of relationship between characters. Someone who either didn’t see or has totally forgotten the initial installment from 2006 (like my companion for this screening) will be totally lost (like my companion for this screening).
The new movie ratchets up the violence and action, maintains the humorless brutality more suited to a realistic thriller, again makes only a passing nod to the Casanova aspect traditional in Bond films, and avoids the slight lulls that were noticeable in the second half of Casino Royale.
Marc Forster is an interesting choice for director—the guy who did Monster’s Ball and Stranger than Fiction never gets enough character moments or human drama to make the most of his talents, but he delivers a brisk, intense film that serves the revamped Bond franchise well. Viewers have to have patience with the new blur-o-vision school of ramping up the action in films like this by making it insanely confusing (see: The Bourne films, The Dark Knight, et. al.) and moving the plot so quickly and offhandedly that there’s a danger it all becomes a blur of brooding and battling.
The Craig era continues to deprive itself of the hallmarks of the long-running series. The film fails to fetishize overly accessorized cars, underdressed women or ritualistically mixed martinis. The gadgets consist of a cell phone, many guns and a few knives. There’s not even a magnificent action setpiece, like the parkour chase in Casino Royale, but rather lots of fast, brutal action that feels less self-consciously (though brilliantly) staged.
In further service of realism: The bad guys are depressingly ordinary. They are corporate villains willing to overthrow national governments (Bolivia, here) to turn a profit. Also, we see that international intelligence agencies have no idea who their deadliest enemies are, and the CIA will still get in bed with any puppet regime that delivers a shareholder dividend.
Our official Bond girl this time out is Olga Kurylenko, who is drop-dead gorgeous, and a decent actress in her role as a vengeance-driven orphan. She’s tough, brave, human and not fetishized into a sex object, and she plays well against Craig’s wounded, cold-fury James Bond. Judi Dench continues to bring emotional depth and panache to the film series as M, and the underused returns of Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis and Jeffrey Wright as Leiter were very welcome.
This film is best viewed immediately after rewatching Casino Royale should be all right with its continuation, and the way the slightly muddled script returns Bond to the MI-6 fold (once again, he must go rogue to get the job done) and gives him, dare one say, a final quantum of solace over the loss of his beloved Vesper.
With the completion of Craig’s first Bond story, the future looks bright for the franchise, and you’re no fan at all if you’re not already looking forward to Bond 23.