By Willie Krischke — November 15, 2008.
“Casino Royale” was the first Bond movie I’d liked in a long time, so I came in to “Quantum of Solace” with fairly high expectations. Big mistake. Probably, if I’d just expected yet another entry into the Bond canon, I might’ve enjoyed it more. Because “Solace” shows that its prequel was more a happy accident than a masterful reworking of the Bond character.
All the ingredients of a Bond flick are present in “Quantum of Solace,” but they’re somehow not mixed right. Tuxedoes and fast cars, gadgets and girls with silly names, ridiculous villains with ridiculous plots to take over the world; check and double check. But then there’s Bond… well, Daniel Craig, and his tortured, violent, no-nonsense Bond. “You’re incredibly efficient,” one of the Bond girls says to him. “Is that a compliment?” he replies. Roger Moore would know that it wasn’t. Efficiency is the opposite of style.
Craig worked as Bond in “Casino Royale” because that movie was a prequel to all the others – saying, essentially, this is Bond before he was Bond. It was fun, then, that he was rough and raw and rude – we knew he’d eventually become Connery smooth and Roger Moore silky. But here we are in “Quantum of Solace,” and no progression has been made, or even hinted at. Is this the Bond we’re going to stick with, or are stuck with? Might as well change his name to Bourne.
“Quantum of Solace” picks up immediately after “Casino Royale” – Bond manages to capture Mr. White, who executed Le Jiffre last time around, but can’t learn anything from White before he escapes, except that whoever he works for is “everywhere.” So here we are chasing the same bad guys again, about whom we know nothing, except that they’re everywhere. We won’t learn anything in “Quantum of Solace,” either (in fact, I still have no idea what a “Quantum of Solace” even is) as Bond finds himself chasing yet another one of the Mystery Organization’s foot soldiers in Mathieu Amalric. Amalric specializes in orchestrating political coups in Third World countries in exchange for water rights. Yes, his Evil Plan to Take Over the World is to control all the water. This might look good on paper; in an over the top action film, it feels pretty weak. Along the way Craig bumps into Olga Kurylenko, who is the Bond girl he doesn’t sleep with, and Gemma Arterton, the Bond girl he does. Arterton gets about four minutes of screen time, and is clearly in the movie for one purpose. Kurylenko is trying to avenge the death of her family, and is in the movie mostly to help Bond ruminate on his need for revenge.
Director Marc Forster has a good sense of where action scenes should take place, but not much sense about how to film a good action scene in those places. In order, the sequences take place in a quarry (car chase scene,) underneath/in the middle of an Italian horse race, backstage at an opera, while flying an ancient airplane in and out of canyons and around mountains, and inside a giant, hydrogen powered complex. That last one was certainly the least imaginative; the screen is dominated by giant balls of fire as the hydrogen tanks explode. The car chase works best, and is breathless and exhilarating; it kicks the movie off with a bang none of the rest of the sequences can match. The opera scene feels totally wasted, as it’s mostly closeups of a really bizarre stage design cut with Bond kicking people downstairs. I think I might rather be watching what was happening onstage.
Judi Dench gets a lot of time in this Bond film as M, though Moneypenny and Q are nowhere to be seen. Dench, as always, is spot on. Her tough demeanor betrayed only occasionally and only slightly to reveal a mother’s heart is one of the best things about this new Bond. Mathieu Amalric makes a great bad guy, gleefully amoral and perhaps a bit mad; the way he swings the axe during the final fight saves that sequence from total doldrums. It is, however, a little hard to really dig him as the bad guy when you know, from the beginning, he’s only a henchman for the “real” bad guys, who are never revealed, even a little bit. I suppose the Bond series could go on for another 28 movies like this: Bond picking off the Mystery Organization’s henchmen, one by one, never really learning who it is he’s fighting against. What an exercise in futility that would be.
- If you’re really, I mean seriously, I mean hardcore, a devoted Bond fan.
- If you don’t care about Bond and the Bond “legacy” at all, and just want a decent action flick. In fact, another Bourne would suit you just fine.
- If “Casino Royale” raised your hopes for the future of Bond.
- If you never liked the Bond formula – girls, cars, guns, gadgets – in the first place.