Quantum of Solace (2008)
Release Date: November 14th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Marc Forster Actors: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen
uantum of Solace” is a first for the enduring Bond franchise in numerous ways. It’s the first to be a direct sequel; it’s the first to have a duet sung as the theme song (“Another Way to Die,” by Jack White and Alicia Keys); it’s the first time Felix Leiter has been played by the same actor in two consecutive entries; and it’s also the shortest James Bond movie to date (an irony, since its predecessor “Casino Royale” was the longest). It’s not, however, the first Bond film to fall back into a rut that will require the changing of the lead actor to get out of.
Picking up almost immediately where “Casino Royale” left off (going so far as to start in the middle of a chase scene), “Quantum of Solace” finds a somber James Bond (Daniel Craig) bringing Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to MI6’s M (Judi Dench) for some off-the-record interrogation. With double agents in the midst, Bond soon resumes a personal investigation into the existence of a mysterious criminal organization, with ties to his former love’s sudden demise. His quest will take him across the globe, team him with a beautiful spy (Olga Kurylenko) seeking her own form of revenge, and pit him against a ruthless environmentalist and a military dictator attempting to control a country’s water supply.
“Quantum of Solace” is essentially one action sequence after another, loosely tied together with the usual nonsense of world takeover plots posed by high-tech terrorist institutions, flexing their muscles with endless funds and resources. It’s no wonder the film is short – the high-octane action scenes and complex stunt choreography are so jam-packed with destruction, props, vehicles, location changes, and disposable thugs that the entire budget is gone before a sensible story is even pondered. Although Bond films have never been revered for their logical or even meaningful plots, “Quantum of Solace” doesn’t bother to try. The premise only serves as a means to get from one exotic stunt locale to the next. And great lengths are taken to make sure 007 utilizes sea, land, and air vehicles and weaponry, spread across several countries (including Austria, Spain, Chile, Italy, and Mexico).
Every five minutes, there’s another high-speed pursuit or violent duel (bullets tend to interrupt even the calmest conversations). While this isn’t entirely uncommon for the series, the use of “The Bourne Ultimatum’s” stunt coordinator, Dan Bradley, paired with his signature, frenzied editing techniques, makes this new Bond faster, more hectic, and visually hard to follow. A few interesting juxtapositions, such as alternating shots of an opera and a gunfight, or the splicing of a speedy chase through underground tunnels with matador footage, are the bright points in editing – not the moments of confusion, which are meant to be intense. And even then, these tactics are overly artistic, as if the Bond franchise needed to venture down that path.
Perhaps what’s most disappointing is the absence of the original James Bond theme (often credited to Monty Norman, but arranged by John Barry), which is as recognizable and powerful as John Williams’ tunes for “Star Wars” and Indiana Jones. How could the creators of “Quantum of Solace” possibly assume that its disuse would be beneficial, especially considering that the new title music is so bland that it couldn’t even be mixed back into the picture as a leitmotif? Every single stunt could have been intensified tenfold if only a hint of that riff was added in.
With all the cinematographic modernizations the Bond installments have undergone, it feels like the creators are trying too hard to forget the previous entries. And yet, a few trademark Bond-isms remain – though not the most important ones. A sulky siren sent to keep tabs on the secret agent sports the name “Strawberry Fields,” a classic throwback to the vixens of old; Bond quickly seduces the fiery redhead – an act that wouldn’t seem odd for any other incarnation of the British agent, but with Bond’s recent attachment to Vesper, it seems stagey; and, to top it off, there’s even a scene recalling the famous gold-painted beauty from “Goldfinger,” forced to linger onscreen as an unintentional reminder of “Quantum’s” shortcomings.
This 22nd Bond film is all action for the sake of action – which should please audiences looking for nonstop thrills. But the ceaseless nature of the pacing prevents any individual sequence from standing out. And with a notable absence of clever catchphrases, silly puns, shaken martinis, and over-the-top villains (the baddies here are unusually dull), this episode is finished quickly and is instantly forgettable. “Quantum of Solace” is also the first Bond film not to use the famous spy’s drink of choice, his knack for gambling, or even his celebrated gun barrel introduction (though it appears at the very end). And aren’t these some of the indispensible things that constitute a 007 picture?
– The Massie Twins