'Quantum of Solace' – What The Critics Said (Part I)
The first press screening of Quantum of Solace was held on Friday, 17 October at the Odeon cinema in London with journalists from numerous media outlets attending.
Anticipation for Daniel Craig’s second James Bond adventure was at an all time high following the unstoppable success that Casino Royale sparked almost exactly two years ago, becoming the best reviewed 007 film of all time
CommanderBond.net has compiled together an exhaustive list of various media reviews of Quantum of Solace–both the good and the bad.
Read on to see if the 22nd Bond film lives up to expectactions…
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID (PART I)
Wormy, arrogant villains, naked agents–latest film has it all
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
James Bond is back, and this time it’s mighty personal. Daniel Craig’s craggy agent picks up exactly where he left off in another bruising thriller that leaves you feeling both drained and exhilarated.
There are hand-to-hand fights that make your eyes water and old-school stunts involving motorbikes, speedboats, jet fighters and expensive cars that give you whiplash just looking at them. Really, nobody does it better than the new 007.
What makes Marc Forster’s film such an intriguing watch is that this is the first of the 22 Bond movies where the plot flows organically from the last instalment, and Quantum of Solace looks a far stronger picture for this rare continuity.
Needless to say the plot is as forbidding as the title. After the death of his girlfriend, Vesper Lynd, at the end of Casino Royale, Bond mixes revenge and duty dangerously as he hunts down the shadowy group that blackmailed Lynd to betray him.
A link to a bank account in Haiti puts Bond on the scent of Mathieu Amalric’s chief creep and ruthless businessman, Dominic Greene. All great Bond adversaries are generously blessed with kinks and quirks and Greene is no different. Amalric has a wonderfully wormy arrogance.
Bond is badder, better but not bigger
Clocking in at one and three-quarter hours, it’s a good half hour shorter than 007’s previous outing. And its reduced running time results in a leaner, tauter experience.
Picking up shortly after the end of Casino Royale when Bond confronted the mysterious Mr White, Quantum of Solace quickly throws him into a round-the-globe hunt.
Bond is trying to track down the shadowy organisation whom he holds responsible for the death of Vesper–the woman he loved and who died at the end of the last movie.
And that leads him to sinister bad guy Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric.
So far, so familiar. But what this film does differently is to focus closely on an emotionally battered Bond, his mission and his motivation.
There are odd moments of uncertainty when the film tries to juggle Bond’s personal story with the ambitious plans being pursued by Greene.
But for the most part the villainy rightly takes a back seat to Bond’s emotional journey.
007’s mission may be what drives the film’s plot, but the real interest lies in how Bond deals with the individuals and situations he meets along the way.
That’s not to say that the film jettisons all the things that have characterised the previous stories.
There are broad nods to Goldfinger especially, but this film manages the difficult task of moving the franchise into interesting new areas.
The raw nature of the film may put off some who yearn for the days of gizmos, gadgets and Bond quips as he dispenses with faceless opponents.
Mystifying title, accident-prone production, awkward end-product… From blond Bond to bland Bond
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
“A man is judged by the strength of his enemies…” M.
Two films in, and Daniel Craig’s rookie 007 is racking ’em up nicely: African arms dealers, international terrorists, high-roller lowlifes, gangster bankers…
But, with his girlfriend forced into suicide by the murky QUANTUM crime syndicate, can he outfox the hunters and still secretly serve Her Majesty through a tear-streaked sheen of melacholy flashbacks?
Perhaps fearing a lovestruck Bond playing as a bit of a moper, and mindful of producer Barbara Broccoli’s promise of “twice as much action”, director Marc Forster has cranked the action up to 11 – and in some cases, 12.
The lights have barely dimmed before we’re hurled straight into Bond threading the Aston along a dusty mountain road, scattering pursuers with machine-gun fire, screeching and swerving around oncoming tractors, skidding motorcyclists, fist-shaking locals…
Then it’s Bond in a crowd-chase, Bond in a speedboat, Bond in a sewer pursuit (underneath a horserace)… Bond leaping over rooftops (like in Hulk), Bond on a motorbike, vaulting onto a boat… Bond in a dogfight, Bond in a fist-fight (in a lift, handcuffed, nailing a quadruple-captor takedown).
Best is a Bond-vs-baddie clash on collapsing scaffolding which ends with both men jangling and dangling on chains, straining for their dropped weapons…
But, since most of this is frontloaded into the first hour, the pace is fidgety and unsettled, with finger-drumming patches of muddled, talky, plot-exposition functioning as downtime while the stunt-guys set up the next sequence.
With an over-caffeinated, Greengrass-lite, handheld style and a twitchy finger on the Big Explosion button, Forster has delivered a 24-nodding, Bourne-winking action flick which happens to have James Bond as the main character. And that isn’t really the same thing as a Bond movie. With 007, the pleasure is in the measure. This is shaken, stirred, whisked and centrifuged. Even Craig looks dizzy.
Craig inhabits the character with a ruthless charisma that never lets up. And he, above all, keeps you watching.
In this much darker film, picking up from where Casino Royale left off, 007 finds himself after two people: the man who fatally betrayed Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved; and Dominic Greene (bullfrog-eyed Mathieu Amalric), a big player in the sinister organisation that blackmailed her, now striking a shady deal in some Bolivian desert.
For half an hour or so after the pre-credits “teaser”, the film barely lets up.
An interrogation-gone-wrong leads to a cracking foot-chase across Siena’s rooftops–particularly Bourne, this one.
And this, in turn, morphs into a brilliantly shot fight on a building-restoration platform. Giddy stuff.
And then, the pacing becomes more fractured. One wonders if director Marc Forster and screenwriters Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis haven’t tried a little too hard to distance the film from traditional Bond plots. The expository dialogue scenes can be dull, and cram in so many machinations and double-crossings that it’s easy to lose track of who’s duping whom.
And yet, several times–just when you’re tempted to consult your watch–the movie suddenly surprises.
A Quantum of Nonsense
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
The 22nd Bond picture is the shortest yet, but feels like one of the longest.
About an hour in, I began to feel something I haven’t for quite a few years in a Bond film–bored.
That’s because the script makes very little sense. We rarely know how or why Bond is doing what he is, or going where he is.
The script makes such huge leaps of geography and motivation that whole scenes of exposition must have been left on the cuttingroom floor. The resulting film is as meaningless as its title.
If we don’t marvel at Bond’s ability to extract the information he needs, and he becomes just a running, chasing, killing machine, that removes a large part of why he’s attractive.
Daniel Craig looks extremely cool, and he has always been a strong actor, but he’s never able to show us the depth he did in Casino Royale.
In his second outing as 007, he sets about using his licence to kill, in no uncertain manner. So set is he on vengeance that he makes Rambo look like a pussycat.
That monotony of callousness may be very modern, but it’s the reason Timothy Dalton never quite worked as Bond–he lacked wit and humour.
Craig showed in Casino Royale that he can play comedy, but he’s lost without help from the script.
The gags have gone, along with the gadgets. Wit and fun have deserted the franchise.
Quantum of Solace is a superb action film but only a ‘good’ Bond movie.
The twenty-second Bond film arrives amidst huge expectations and it is a curious work, with some stunning set pieces amidst a flurry of extraneous action scenes. This would be the first time in the franchise’s history that a Bond film be a direct sequel to its predecessor, Casino Royale, itself a strong adaptation of the Fleming novel.
However, insisting on taking the character on an extended journey from Royale, screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis have concocted a rather dark and sinister tale and a consistently darker interpretation of the character that was never part of either the Fleming basis of the character or previous interpretations from Sean Connery to Timothy Dalton. Craig’s 007 is a little lighter in tone than in Royale but his thirst for revenge plays havoc with an iconic character who, in Solace, is very grim. Of course the Bond films have never been about character development, and this one is no exception.
The film opens with a frenetic car chase through the back streets of Sienna, Italy and while it opens with a bang, not a whimper, its fast cutting visual approach employed by director Marc Forster doesn’t serve the film that well. One has the distinct feeling that the opening is a generic action film and takes some time for it to settle into a Bond-like rhythm. Once it does so, Quantum of Solace evolves into a fine work, offering some verbal drollery that Casino Royale lacked.
There are some stunning set pieces in Solace that prove what a formidable filmmaker Forster is, including a collage sequence during the staging of an opera which is beautifully done, counterbalancing the tragedy of that Puccini opera with gun play between Bond and those that make up this secret Quantum organization that Bond is trying to pull down.
There is an extraordinary mid-air chase sequence which is breathtaking, and cinematographer Roberto Schaefer, a frequent collaborator of Forster’s, knows how to shoot in the film’s disparate locations, accentuating a striking visual tone for the major locales that range from Haiti to earthly browns that represent Bolivia. Sharply edited by Matt Chesse, who cut many of Forster’s films including the likes of Kite Runner and Finding Neverland, edits with precision, and Forster’s direction is crisp.
Quantum of Solace is little else than action with scant room for charm, comedy or seduction
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
It was always going to be tough to follow Casino Royale. Not only did the last Bond sweep out the cobwebs of the franchise and introduce Daniel Craig as a leaner, meaner, less camp 007 but after its success the producers went a step further and hired a ‘proper’ director, Marc Forster, known for quiet works such as The Kite Runner and Finding Neverland, to keep the momentum going. The final break with tradition was that Quantum of Solace (named after, but not based on a 1960 Ian Fleming short story) would be a sequel to Casino Royale, with the action beginning just an hour after the curtain fell on the last one, with Bond seething with anger and revenge following the death of his lover, Vesper.
As if the stakes weren’t high enough, all the pre-release chatter had Forster and others talking so much of character, psychology, story and drama that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Bond is first and foremost an action hero who thrives on a stage of crashes, bangs and wallops.
You won’t forget for long: Quantum of Solace is little else than action with scant room for charm, comedy or seduction. It’s the shortest Bond ever but with the same amount of airborne, watery and rooftop high jinx. The result? Lots of noise, little story, fantastic sets (although no fantastic sex: the one classic lovemaking scene is ruthlessly, almost perversely, cut short.)
It starts as it goes on: loudly and relentlessly, stylishly and superficially. A brilliant helicopter shot glides us over an Italian lake to find Bond tearing along a lakeside road, in and out of tunnels. It turns out he’s got Jesper Christensen’s Mr White in the boot. So that’s his first motivation revealed for a killing spree that takes in Italy, Haiti, Austria and Bolivia: vengeance. The second reason emerges soon enough: the blossoming of an undetected organisation with tentacles (and double agents) all over the globe and linked to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), an environmentalist who you suspect may not care much about ice caps. Amalric is slippery and creepy; but his creaky, strangely mute storyline doesn’t live up to his performance.
Quantum of Solace plays like an extended footnote to Casino Royale rather than a fully realized stand-alone movie
Though pic is the first in the series in which the action follows directly from the previous film, the differences in tone, look and tempo are instantly apparent. As the camera zooms across northern Italy’s Lake Garda to pick out Bond (Daniel Craig) being chased in his Aston Martin by armed villains, it’s clear that the elegance of the franchise that Royale director Martin Campbell resuscitated is already a thing of the past. Even David Arnold’s music seems to punch the clock rather than elevating the visuals.
Thanks to his sheer physical prowess, Craig–less muscular this time around, and more panther-like–still manages to make the character look as if he’s in control, even when he’s being hunted by various villains and at least two major spook agencies, and even though seems to have suffered a personality bypass. However, the plot is unengaging: basically a grim series of near-escapes as Bond hunts (but is mostly hunted) between Latin America and Europe.
From the grittier lensing by Forster regular Roberto Schaefer, through the distractingly antsy editing by Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson, to the close-up second-unit work by Dan Bradley, Quantum has a generic, in-your-face functionality and a restlessness that just wants to push the movie on to the next chase/shootout/slugfest, rather than–in the traditional Bond way–relishing the spaces in between.
Part of this different feel is simply due to the pic’s brevity: At 105 minutes, it’s the shortest Bond of all, four minutes shorter than even Dr. No and Goldfinger and 39 minutes shorter than its immediate predecessor. However, it’s a also a direct product of Forster’s staffing: Both Pearson and Bradley worked on the Bourne films, while the former was Oscar-nommed for United 93.
Still, none of this matters in the early reels, as the opening 15 minutes sweep the viewer along in a genuine adrenaline rush. Bond arrives, bloody but unbowed, in Siena, Tuscany (during the famous Palio horse race, natch); attends the interrogation, with M (Judi Dench), of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), his captive from the end of Royale; and pursues an assassin across the city’s tiled rooftops. So far, so good, if a little different.
As always, keep your eyes on the CommanderBond.net main page for most up-to-date and complete coverage of Quantum of Solace.