CBn Reviews 'Quantum of Solace' (2)
Daniel Craig is James Bond in Quantum of Solace
As with the 24 previous (official and unofficial) James Bond films, CommanderBond.net once again asked our forum members for their verdict on the latest cinematic 007 adventure: Daniel Craig’s Quantum of Solace.
If you wish to join in on the forum discussion all you have to do is register–it’s free and only takes a minute. In addition to those reviews, forum members can post their own reviews of Quantum of Solace in the Members Reviews forum.
What follows is a selection of the reviews…
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
(Part 2 | Click Here For Part 1)
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
(Part 2 | Click Here For Part 1)
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… 001carus
Quantum of Solace is, as many have cited, a very different Bond film. On the surface, it appears to follow more of the Bond formula than its big brother, Casino Royale – but delving deeper there’s quite a chance Solace is every bit as different. The film is a short, punchy, 106 minute adventure, which leaves audience members behind if they’re not paying attention in its race to the finish line. Never does Quantum of Solace hold the hand of the viewer, but nor does it move so fast as to blind a faithful viewer who has seen Casino Royale. Yes, Casino Royale is almost required homework (not that Royale is ever as tireseome as homework) before Solace, because for the first time in Bond canon, we have a direct sequel. But this isn’t a bad thing – nor should it be for any sequel. Instead, this new film enhances Casino Royale‘s use, and what is even more exciting, enhances the entire film’s history. But more on that later.
Quantum of Solace picks up about a half hour after the final “Bond, James Bond,” heard in Casino Royale, and after the first breathtaking shot of a Sienna lake, there is little breath allowed to be taken. The car chase is, as many have cited negatively, convoluted, hard to see and messy, but this is, infact, part of what makes the scene so intense and so unique. The sequence feels so raw and real with a hint of style to it all. This reflects the manner for the rest of the film – A heartpounding, realistic, but not without a sense of slick style and fantasy adventure, with its intent partly misunderstood by audiences.
The Bond character is in the best point in his 50 year on-screen career. Bond can owe this largely to the actor who portrays him, Daniel Craig, who once again, delivers a magnificent performance. Daniel Craig represents Ian Fleming’s Bond like no other – Suave and rugged, gentleman but not afraid to get his hands dirty, and above all – vulnerable. Quantum of Solace represents Bond when he’s at his most vulnerable infact, really ever. Coming off the death of his lover, we’ve never seen Bond with such a rage. He walks around the film with his certain swagger, but always with purpose, always scheming in his head. If people get in his way, they die. This is in no way Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan, killing a man with a clever trick, a twinkle in the eye and a quick line attached. This is a man you could believed was a hired assassin.
The two storylines that run parallel in Solace are as follows. The first being the larger picture and affecting more in the rise of Quantum – a terrorist organization not unlike SPECTRE. Bond is trying to uncover the mystery of Quantum throughout, as well as stop, seemingly, one of its biggest players – the villain Dominic Greene. A lot of complaints are directed at the film for failing to develop the Quantum storyline, but, like a lot of backdrop settings in films, not a lot can be done in this short space of time. The film’s second storyline is by far the more prominent, which makes it all the more unfortunate, the a lot didn’t understand it. That is, Bond trying to find his Quantum of Solace. This is the real aim of the narrative, and the film tells it beautifully. We have Bond who is torn and angry over his loss, and using his mission against Quantum as a punching bag. Punching with him is Camille, a Bond girl who is “Bond’s equal” but also works, which is quite possibly the first time this has ever happened.
Camille represents Bond further down the path of revenge and thus, helps Bond through his stage of life. This is so perfect, as we don’t just have a Bond girl for the sake of a Bond girl, which is apparent in most of the Brosnan films. Here, like Casino Royale‘s Vesper, she means something. She pushes along Bond’s character arc and helps shape him for the future. And it’s in this character arc that enhances the entire Bond canon in its own little way. When we see Bond lose Vesper – the only woman he’s loved, then instantly go into a fit of rage, sadness, loneliness, we see a depressed man, whose only method of survival is to kill. Then he loses Agent Fields – his fault, because of his rage and inability to look out for anyone else. And finally, he sees what happens when revenge is taken (By Camille) which isn’t a happy sight, nor does it lead to any kind of solace. These three points represent three traits of Bond that is set in stone for the future: 1. He never gets too close to women anymore, or anyone for that matter, which leads to his sleeping around persona. 2. He does, however, care for others and keeps an eye out for those friendly with him, and doesn’t allow harm to come to them (or at least tries). And 3. He realizes revenge isn’t the answer.
The locations and atmosphere in Bond films have always been one of the most important elements, even in the books. Of course, many are quick to jump on Solace for its lack of aesthetic beauty, I can easily hold the atmosphere levels up with the likes of Dr. No, Thunderball, The Man with the Golden Gun, and Casino Royale. Each location looks stunning and the slightly unsaturated look, once again, backs up the realistic, but always stylized film. During moments of interest, Marc Forster, the film’s director, often cuts away from the action to a brief piece of the scenery to mostly irrelevant things, if only to suck us up into the atmosphere that bit more.
The action set pieces are enthralling, but are sometimes, one of the letdowns in the film. The car chase is brilliant by all accounts, and is an awesome way to throw audiences into the screen. The rooftop chase feels unnecessary coming off the car chase, with very, very little in the way of breathing room in between. It’s still thrilling, but this is the first time in the film the editing and shaky cam work against the moment. This also brings about another problem with the film. The first half is very top heavy on action, and can become disruptive by the Boat chase. It would have been wise to cut some of these out or down to let the pacing flow more. Not the Slate fight though – that was awesome. When we do get halfway through however, the film slows down, and this is really where Bond’s character is allowed to shine a tad more.
The film’s weaknesses are surprisingly small. By all rights, with a runtime of 106 minutes, one would expect little development for Camille, Greene, and maybe even Bond. There shouldn’t have been enough style or atmosphere, and if there was, enough time to soak in it all. The film should have felt rushed but it didn’t. None of this happened and the film felt like a complete, albeit very short and slick, addon to Casino Royale. It worked brilliantly.
Quantum of Solace, along with Casino Royale, has cranked Bond into the best position he’s been in 40 years. For future endeavors I would hope for a longer, broader, less rushed film, but always pushing Bond’s character and creating something new for him, otherwise, there is little reason for the film to be made. Solace has done this wonderfully, which is why I currently rank it as my second favorite Bond film, right behind Casino Royale. Daniel Craig has done an impeccable job with the character, and all those working on the past two installments have done well to truly reboot the series into something meaningful, real, stylish and breathtaking. Bond is cool once again.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… marktmurphy
It’s not very good. It feels like the producers had no idea where to take Bond; he learns less about revenge than in Licence to Kill. It’s incredibly short because there’s no plot; the villain is decent but his plan isn’t interesting at all: the whole film climaxes when Greene tells Bond where to find Vesper’s boyfriend (a plotline which had been mentioned once at the beginning but immediately dropped: even though this is supposed to be a sequel) so that we’re left thinking ‘the whole film was all for that? For Bond to get a guy’s address and arrest him?’. There’s no massive change for Bond; he’s not a significantly different character at the end than he was at the start. The whole thing feels like a waste because they couldn’t think of a good plot or emotional journey for Bond. He looks for revenge; finds the baddies; stops them, stops short of killing one of them because he learns ‘dead people don’t care about revenge’. Big wow. There’s just no meat here.
Even the action is uninspired (when it’s not completely insulting to the audience: this is supposed to be realistic and yet Bond’s hugely powerful sportscar can’t get away from a saloon car? We’re not supposed to be pissed off that we have no idea why the boat chase suddenly stops?), derivative and occasionally hard to see: the Bourne films handled shakey cam perfectly so we had enough to see what was happening – here’s it’s just not done well enough.
Casino Royale somehow still felt like a Bond film but with an added injection of life: this just doesn’t. There’s something missing, and there’s not as much drama in it as it tries to convince us of to make it something beyond a Bond film. It’s just a badly made Bond film: an attempt to retread Casino Royale but without the masterstroke. At no point was I given any impression other than they were just making it up as they went along.
Casino Royale used the Bournes as inspiration and took the feel somewhere different: made it Bond. Quantum is sadly just derivative of the Bourne films but lacks the imagination, verve, tension and emotional punch of Bourne.
Even the title doesn’t make sense: why does it reference the name of the bad guys? Fleming’s use of it makes sense; by calling the baddies Quantum it destroys the meaning.
A poorly thought-out film that just isn’t Bond.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… Otis Fairplay
This review is from November 2008.
“You needn’t worry. The second is…”
In more than one way, Quantum of Solace seemed pretty unsinkable during its production. For starters, Casino Royale turned out to be the best Bond film in some twenty years with Ian Fleming’s focused if slightly bizarre storyline at its heart, some much needed reintroduced grit and genuine attempts to allow screen-time for proper development of character. A direct follow-up presumably in the same vein sounded promising enough in itself. Having Mathieu Amalric to join Daniel Craig added further gravitas to the cast, and the peculiar choice of a Jack White and Alicia Keys duo for the main title song signalled an unorthodox, open-minded approach. But perhaps most of all, there was Marc Forster, an exciting, daring selection for the director’s chair who when announced seemed to be the oddball logical man to pick up the finer, character-spun threads tantalizingly left dangling at the end of Casino Royale. Even the title might be the best in many years; mysterious, elegant and evocative in equal measures.
And yet. There was the nagging knowledge that in more recent years noted directors like Michael Apted and Lee Tamahori – whose Once Were Warriors I found to one of the most violently gripping films of the 90’s – seemingly were crushed creatively under the weight of the Bond Franchise Machinery™, drowning in perceived script requisites and second-unit spectaculars or, quite frankly, going off the rails altogether. There was also the knowledge that Bond’s last Big Comeback in the public eye was followed by the action-dense, tide surfing but in retrospect quite overwhelmingly undistinguished Tomorrow Never Dies. And there was ‘Another Way To Die’, where the pooled creative talent involved ingloriously turned out to be decidedly less than the sum of its parts. If this was to be seen as a harbinger of things to come, the horizon was starting to betray troubling streaks indeed.
So when the end credits rolled, I was happy to find my darkest premonitions unfounded. Forster’s stated ambition to provide an art-house sensibility to an action film with the impact of a bullet does seem a bit lofty at times, but occasionally pays off handsomely. The juxtaposition of events like the aqueduct chase and the Palio di Siena or the performance of Tosca and the confrontation at the Opera House may not strictly spoken be a terribly original technique, but the likes of which have seldom been seen in the Bond series. There are also a good amount of jarring cuts and framings to show Forster was not chosen for his good name alone, and I find the retro, stylish location captions to be a tasty little treat as well. Admittedly there are also instances of symbolic, dripping taps and disembodied echoing sobs that seem rather misplaced if not slightly silly in the context of a Bond film, but I think Quantum of Solace in the details at least stands out as one of the series most distinct entries so far from a directional point of view.
Yet, the stylized aesthetics come with a price. This is most obvious in the action sequences. Whereas some scenes of Casino Royale – the stairwell fight and the killing of Dryden’s contact particularly leaps to mind – packed some gut-wrenching, gruelling physical realness hardly seen since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Forster’s approach takes a more disengaged stance. The viewer is offered the chance to enjoy the blows – and rest assured there are plentiful – on a visual rather than visceral level. To be a bit obvious, Quantum of Solace does not quite make you feel the violence and I can not help but think there is something lost in the trade.
In addition to this, the occasionally furious, rapid-fire editing often conveys the sense of action rather than the action itself, which to put it mildly is hardly unheard of in this day and age. Regrettably, this reinforces the cartoonish or, perhaps more aptly put, video game like quality that to a large degree has permeated the action sequences of the Bond series since its comeback in the mid 90’s. Though the eye candy may be spectacular, I think it harms any film’s ability to deliver a good bite in the long run. Since Quantum of Solace likely stands as the most action-packed Bond film so far, I do find this a matter of concern. The finale with wielded axes, attempted rapes, nasty stabbings with shards of glass, suggested murder-suicide pacts and explosions and yet more explosions aplenty still seems curiously detached, and I am sorry to note I fail to find it particularly more engaging than for example the final plane ride in Die Another Day.
While I think the direction and editing of the film is something of a mixed bag, I find the cast excellent for the most part. Though Dominic Greene seems unlikely to go down in Bond history as one of the more illustrious villains, Amalric’s gleeful sense of Sarkozy sleaze breathes some Blair-ish, lizard like life into the character. Likewise, there may be some corny aspects of Camille but I think Olga Kurylenko by large brings a fine, low-key intensity and it is nice to imagine a nod to Gala Brand at the end. Meanwhile, Judi Dench and Giancarlo Giannini are solid as always, though the latter’s talent seems rather underused in the film. Among the main actors only Gemma Arlington seems a bit out of her depth. On the other hand, her character is not particularly convincing to begin with, though the film wrings a nice Goldfinger homage out of it.
And there is of course Daniel Craig, who put an unmistakable mark on his Bond the first time around and is no less distinct in his second outing. Looking at his body of work, among the leading Bond men I think Timothy Dalton alone rivals him as an actor. Craig projects an arresting, coldly commanding presence in physical as well as more subdued moments like the sequence at the harbour of Port-au-Prince. There is a certain grace to Craig’s movements and he slowly seems to perfect his steely, blue-eyed stare. Granted, Quantum of Solace does not call for a terribly varied palette of emotions, but like in Casino Royale I think Craig’s performance stands as one of the film’s strongest points.
Still, I think the film’s portrayal of Bond leaves some question marks. At times the film seems anxious to underline a lack of sophistication in rather an obvious manner. The wish to distance Bond from the character’s earlier cinematic incarnations while slyly winking knowingly at them at the same time is apparent enough. However, contrary to the filmmakers’ supposed intentions I think a case could be made that the character seems increasingly distanced from verbal, sensual and refined figure of Fleming’s writings as well. This of course begs the question of just who Craig is supposed to portray. Quantum of Solace offers little in the way of clues, as Bond is largely kept quietly in the background. Craig evokes a cold blooded, ruthless efficiency as well as gloomy streaks but I find the script’s eagerness to have other characters reminding the audience of his motivations quite telling and a tad awkward. However imposing Craig’s performance may be, I find James Bond to be less nuanced and in due course a bit less interesting this time around.
And I think it would fair to say my biggest problem with Quantum of Solace lies in the script. It certainly calls for a more streamlined action film than its predecessor, which some may welcome. Personally though, I find that the pace needed to squeeze its action sequences in leaves minute time for more quiet moments, giving little opportunities to let characters, sceneries and locations sink in. More than a few times, the film’s pacing brings back memories of decidedly less appealing aspects of the latter day Bond franchise. I also think the basic storyline – a fair amount of smoke and mirrors notwithstanding – is rather trite and often seems mainly designed to string the set pieces together. The script’s preoccupation with shady dealings of intelligence agencies and flirts with conspiracy theories is a little explored alley in the Bond series. Unfortunately, the eager attempts to create a Bond against the World scenario comes across as rather laboured in the end and certainly does invite the very comparisons with that other film series starring an agent with the initials J.B. that many ardent Bond fans loathe to hear about.
On the whole, the script comes across as rather undercooked. To me, it does not seem totally comfortable with its status as a sequel. It repeatedly acknowledges the importance of the events of Casino Royale but fails to build on them in any significant manner. The numerous invocations of Vesper merely seem a bit lazy in the end. If Bond indeed was damaged goods at the end of the last film, Quantum of Solace offers little in the way of hints. For most parts, it seems to be hard-hitting business as usual with a few, rather obvious attempts to scratch below the surface like the final scene and the conversation in the bar. Regrettably, all in all I think Bond’s Big Emotional Journey comes across as a rather pedestrian charter tour and given the film’s director, I find this a bit disappointing.
On the other hand, while I do harbour more than a few reservations I will not deny it is for most parts an effective, well-crafted film. The narrative unsentimentally drops the excessive weight of Casino Royale and tells the story in a lean manner. The sparse cinematographic approach further underlines this route, and the action sequences pack plenty of punch to the senses. David Arnold also offers some of his strongest contributions to the series, particularly with some melancholic, pensive moments and the suspenseful build-up at the Bregenz Opera.
So: what to make of it all? While Forster does not really seem to be playing to his strengths, it is good to see he left his fingerprints in the film. Still, I would be highly surprised to see Quantum of Solace rank among his more distinguished efforts in the years to come, just as I hardly think the film will be looked back upon as a cornerstone in the Bond series. There is a fair share of outstanding moments, it certainly ranks among the better Bond films of the last twenty years and I think it will stand out as a memorable if rather deviant entry to the series. Still, to me the cast and the stronger aspects of the film itself seem to hint at possibilities beyond that. It would have been interesting to see how Forster could handle a slower, more reflective Bond film, but obviously that was not what he was going for and I think you will have to admire his courage.
There is also the dilemma that the series really has had joined to its hip since its very inception. Given the character of James Bond, his pleasures, his foes, his world and his adventures; just how seriously should the films be taking themselves? There have been times in the series’ history where its dalliance with self-deprecating, knowing blinks at its audience has taken rather unpleasantly farcical turns. But while I usually prefer the more serious entries, there is a balance that needs to be struck in any film. Where ambitions transcend the qualities of the story actually told, there inevitably lurks the danger of the downright pretentious. I do think Quantum of Solace occasionally treads these waters, particularly in Mathis’ last scene where Craig and Gianinni’s fine acting seems to starkly underline the rather banal lines of dialogue and the discrepancy comes off as rather uncomfortable to me. Mind you, as far as problems go this is quite an uplifting one that seldom if ever has popped up in the Bond series before and though I do not think it the film really pulls all its ambitions off I commend it for trying.
Still, one might wonder where the series will go after Quantum of Solace. By mainly picking up on the dark textures, action elements and the occasional stale, serious sense of Casino Royale and refining these aspects, I think the creative team has not really expanded on the premise of the reboot but rather narrowed it down. Though the eventual Box Office returns more than likely will play the deciding factor, I find it hard to believe the series will press on much further in this direction. Personally, I think it might be wise to broaden the creative horizon a bit. I do find Craig’s Bond less invigorating this time, and it would be a shame should he turn into a comic book character too swiftly. Of course, if the series pulls back from the frontline of Quantum of Solace, the question is where it will go. Will it fall back in old patterns or find alternative ways to move forward?
So ultimately, despite obvious virtues I think Quantum of Solace is somewhat brought down by its narration and pacing. Possibly, the crux of the matter is that the Bond films by and large have been struggling script-wise since the days of Richard Maibaum. In Casino Royale, the solid core of Fleming’s novel made the far sketchier narrative of the lead up and coda less of a problem. Stripped of such a foundation, familiar shadows of the not too distant past regrettably come looming in. There is, of course, also the possibility that the bottom line is more troubling than that. The thought that the Bond franchise these days does not quite seem to bring out the best in the talent involved has crossed my mind before, and while I think Marc Forster comes out of his Bond adventure in far better condition than Apted and Tamahori I do notice the reflection lingering in my mind as I try to pinpoint my thoughts on his film.
Either way: Quantum of Solace leaves little doubt that the Bond franchise has been rather radically reinvented since Die Another Day, had anyone missed the point. As for the question whether the series truly has seen any lasting creative rebirth as well, I think its 23rd film will have some answering to do.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… Harmsway
Quantum of Solace remains an oddity in the Bond canon, largely for its tonal and stylistic choices. Never before have we seen Bond try to be so terribly “arty” (though admittedly there’s no true artiness on display; even its artiest section – the Tosca sequence – plays like New Wave cinema as captured by a TV commercial director), and never before have we seen Bond played quite so grimly. Quantum of Solace isn’t so much the Bond of the films, or really the Bond of the books. This is Bond filtered through the lens of the early 1970s thrillers, with all the moral ambiguity and glumness those flicks brought to the table.
That approach offers a kind of novelty in a franchise that has, by and large, played by the same rules for most of its life. That said, the approach comes at a real cost: the flick isn’t much fun. Casino Royale was so popular because it mixed character with a great deal of humor and other sources of entertainment value. Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, is merely hard-edged and morose, save for a few moments here and there that are meant to remind us of the 1960s Bond hey-day, but only serve to remind us of how little of that 1960s-style fun is there.
Now, of course, Bond’s in a dark emotional place in this one after losing his great love in the last flick. But even then, the film strikes me as overly sullen. Ian Fleming dealt with dark material in his original books, too, but he also had a delightfully relaxed sensibility to his novels. Even at the books’ darkest hours, Fleming was good enough to keep the affair none too grim, playing up atmosphere, elegance, and exoticism whenever he was given the chance.
Forster, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much time for things like glamor and elegance. Sure, Quantum of Solace is the first film in a while to seriously devote itself to location shooting, but Forster glosses over scenes so quick that atmosphere rarely sinks in. He himself said he wanted the film to be like “a bullet,” and it’s a shame. So much of the wonderful travelogue element of the Bond franchise is lost in the process.
Now, this might be excused if the characterization and drama in place was really satisfying, but it isn’t. Most of the character scenes comprise of pompous dialogue exchanges that don’t have enough of the in-between “down time” to make them matter; Quantum of Solace is all skeleton, no tissue, expecting us to be moved and engaged just because the lines uttered are straining for significance. It’s a shame, too, since Quantum of Solace has one of the finest casts ever assembled for a Bond flick, and they’re clearly up for more than they’re given.
But surely the action delivers? Well, no, not quite. We get a few good sequences, but then the rest are of the mediocre sort that might have appeared in Mission: Impossible III or some other watchable but none too interesting blockbuster. Given that they’re the most-developed and dwelt-upon sequences in the flick (Forster never takes his time with anything else), it’s a severe problem.
But I’m probably seeming significantly more “down” on Quantum of Solace than I actually am. In a lot of ways, I really enjoy it, and I hardly think it’s deserves to be dragged through the mud. But Quantum of Solace is more of a curiosity than a success, and we can only hope that EON gets back on track for the next installment.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… byline
When I went to see Quantum of Solace in the theatre, on first viewing, I admit that I felt very underwhelmed (especially given my heightened expectations after Casino Royale). However, on second viewing, my opinion did a complete 180 and I was amazed at how much I loved it. It was as if I was seeing two different films, but I think the reality is that I just caught a lot more the second time around, and it all came together for me. Subsequent viewings have just given me a greater appreciation of the film. Daniel Craig is absolutely amazing.
My only complaint is with some of the flash-editing, and that some camera angles could’ve been held a beat or two longer to sustain the emotional resonance of a scene. But other than that, I enjoy Quantum of Solace and basically consider it an extension of Casino Royale; in my mind, they’re two acts of a single play.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… Tybre
Quantum of Solace begins somewhere almost immediately after the end of Casino Royale, the first film of Craig’s tenure as Bond. Exactly how long after Royale is not made explicitly clear. Some sources say five minutes, other say ten minutes, some say one hour. Regardless of how much time has passed, it isn’t a substantial amount. Already we run into an issue here. For someone who has not seen Casino Royale (my girlfriend was part of this crowd back in November), the film as a whole can get confusing, but especially at the beginning. Later into the film, you can sort of piece things together; but at this point, it’s just sort of ‘what the hell’? Why is Bond driving around like a madman dodging bullets?’
This leads into another problem with Quantum of Solace. The editing is, for the most part, horrendous. Director Mark Forster and his editing team seem obsessed with flash cutting and, at least for me personally, the first time I saw the opening chase, I had a hard time following which car was which until it was nearly over. The other problems are few and fairly minor.
In spite of it’s flaws, Solace is a great film. So much so that it makes my top ten of the twenty-two films to date. Okay, okay, a lot of criticism has been given to the action sequences for being…too action-y and generally unnecessary. But the action isn’t the point of Quantum of Solace.
One of people’s major complaints is that it sort of gives the finger to Casino Royale. The end of Casino Royale implies Bond has become the agent we know and love, and when we return in Solace, we find he still has a lot of growing up to do. A part of that growing up is a perceived “Bond started out as a rogue in Casino Royale, cleaned up his act, and then they were like ‘screw it, let’s make him go rogue again because we can’t think of anything else’ for Quantum of Solace“. But that’s not it at all. If one pays attention to Quantum of Solace, yes, we know Bond is acting outside orders, so he can be perceived as a “rogue agent” in that sense. We know Bond is struggling with personal vendetta against Quantum vs get the job done right.
Quite a few times Bond kills people M would rather have him leave alive for questioning. Most of these deaths are accidental, but the CIA manipulates the flow of information to make it seem as if Bond has gone rogue. They make M and everyone involved in the British Government believe Bond’s relapsed and he’s just a homicidal lunatic that needs to be shut down immediately.
And, going back to my earlier statement, note the words ‘pay attention’. That’s the key with Quantum of Solace. Solace forces you to pay absolute attention at every turn. Flicker out for even a moment, and you might miss something that is vital for giving you the proper mentality; you might miss the sort of thing that says “Hey, guess what, Bond hasn’t gone rogue”.
Another beautiful piece of the plot is the continuation of Bond’s character. At the end of Casino Royale, we see Vesper dead and Bond is quite visibly upset by this, but then when he goes to raid Mr White, it almost seems like he’s forgotten his vendetta. In Quantum of Solace, not only do we find Bond struggling with whether or not to finally get his revenge against Quantum or do the right thing from the standpoint of MI6 and bring agents of Quantum in for interrogation, but we see Bond’s heartache over the loss of Vesper grow beyond a few sad scenes on a boat in Venice. When Bond goes to meet Rene Mathis at his villa and Mathis tells Bond she loved him, his only response is “Right up until the moment she betrayed me”. When M mentions Vesper loved him, Bond shrugs it off. Bond doesn’t want to hear it. He doesn’t want to bring himself to think that the woman he fell in love with and wound up betraying him really did love him. To him, she’s “the bitch”. Her death awakens something in Bond, something that is more than likely responsible for a lot of his “senseless killing”. If Vesper, who seemingly loved him, betrayed him, doesn’t that mean everyone is capable of the same? Then what’s the point in living, if at any point what seems like the most beautiful experience of your life can be ruined, all because of the unpredictability of human nature?
Bond’s emotional response to the death of Vesper, however, I feel is no better portrayed than when Bond and Mathis are on the plane to Bolivia. Mathis wakes up in the middle of the night to find Bond drinking, unable to sleep. Bond is drinking his drink of choice, a vodka martini named after the woman he loved. When Mathis asks him what he’s drinking, there’s a very brief pause. Bond can’t bring himself to say the name “Vesper”. And so he turns to the barkeep and says “I don’t know, what am I drinking?” This leads into a quick dialogue between Mathis and Bond, one which I feel is one of the strongest scenes in the film.
The finale of the film, however, really is the crown jewel of this film. I know a lot of people have problems with it, but I think it works perfectly. Bond’s actions and his final line of dialogue confirm to M what we the audience have known all along; and it brings to an end his emotional turmoil over Vesper and his perceived darkness of the world.
Quantum of Solace is far from perfect, I will admit. But it is, all in all, still very beautiful. It does not, however, surpass it’s predecessor (which is admittedly a pretty hard feat, in my opinion).
I give it 3 stars out of 5.
Quantum of Solace reviewed by… 00Twelve
You know that feeling after you step off of a rollercoaster? Minus the inability to walk a straight line, I’m there right now. And I want another ride. Quantum of Solace is unapologetically intense and mature and I feel I’ve been rewarded for waiting to see if they could do it again after Casino Royale.
Much as I’d heard about how fast the pre-title sequence gets into gear, it still took me by surprise. And it’s furious. Tazmanian devil furious. But there’s method to this madness. Metaphor abounds in the film and it starts with the reflection of Bond’s state of mind in this chase. Oh, and it’s amazing how much better a car chase can be when there’s no stinger missiles behind the headlights.
The title sequence was delectable. The retro vibe may not be for everyone, but it sure works for me. Loved the title sequence. The song’s never sounded better (as always, the film edit works best) and there were visual homages to everything from the Robert Brownjohn days to Moore-era Maurice Binder to even Daniel Kleinman circa 2006. Seriously, when’s the last time we’ve seen Bond suspended in air, falling from nowhere to nowhere? Come to think of it, when’s the last time the font’s been something other than Arial? [Hint: not since the days that this movie hearkens back to.] The round 70s-ish typography was awesomely stylish and immediately told me that EON’s finally embracing a bit of the modern take on the 60s/70s aesthetic that I’ve fantasized they someday would.
A more beautifully shot spy movie may never have been made. Colors, cultures, textures, timbres… this film sets itself apart in a delicious way from the rest of the franchise and from all that’s come before it. From the first shots of Garda to Siena’s Palio straight to the “Bolivian” desert, I can’t think of a Bond film that displays a more unique and sensual aesthetic–not even You Only Live Twice. Marc Forster is the textbook definition of a director: a photographer capturing pictures in motion. I’m always in awe of people who have such an eye for angles and textures.
The script is, on one hand, economic; on the other hand, it’s more than enough. Any more and I’d have felt spoonfed. Any less and I’d have felt starved. In the hands of weaker actors, it would have been bad. BAD. In these actors’ hands, however, it was good. GOOD. Especially in the latter half, I really felt like I was seeing a Fleming novel. I found myself seeing everything that was happening and thinking about how I wouldn’t be surprised to have read about all of it in one Fleming novel or another. I feel justified—Quantum of Solace indeed carries some of the spirit of Live and Let Die and the other early SMERSH-led stories.
Allow me to make observations on the acting from my point of view as an actor [after your eyes have made a full arc]. Now, I wouldn’t pretend that I’m some kind of RADA grad or that I’ve been doing this for decades. I’m only a couple of years out of college and a fledgling in the professional world, but I will venture to say with confidence that I understand what I’ve studied and know how to create characters, and I know intention when I see it. Every choice that each actor in this movie made was 100% deliberate. Every moment in which we saw them had intent and thought behind it. In Bond, I saw a man who was hungry for satisfaction from the deaths of men who conspired with those that caused Vesper’s death. That hunger was there, but so was the emptiness that lingered after each kill, the growing realization that killing Quantum members one at a time wouldn’t offer a quantum of solace. Reading all this into it, am I? Not by a long shot. These are professionals, and I can promise that professionals consider every possible aspect of their characters that they can conceive of. No moment is neglected. One may not like some of these choices, but every nonverbal moment communicated something that was just as deliberate as every scripted word. I, for one, am very thankful not to have been treated as if I needed everything verbally spelled out for me. And it’s beyond denial—Daniel Craig is James Bond. No one’s taken the character on such a compelling journey and I can’t imagine anyone could do it as well as what I’ve seen in these last two movies.
Arnold has delivered a score that I can finally call “cool.” It’s something that ventures to sound like something more than a Barry homage—it’s his most original score to date. Sure, Barry’s in there [Night At The Opera recalls tip-top-form Barry], but so are sounds that Arnold can proudly call his own. The first transition to London is a great example. And for the first time, Arnold even pays homage to greats like Lalo Schifrin [Field Trip is as close to a Schifrin-inspired track as I’ve ever heard]. The eventual full Bond theme is satisfying as well—every bit as much as in Casino Royale.
Quantum of Solace takes Bond through the understandable turmoil after Vesper and brings him through to the other side with maturity and style. How does it rank with me? [Always the ultimate question for whatever reason.] It’s somewhere in my top 5, probably top 3 at least. I can’t say that it’s better than Casino Royale. But it’s not far off. I’m very much looking forward to seeing it again in hopes that I can give a more coherent and detailed reaction next time. My sympathies for those that disliked it; I fail to understand that, but that’s Bond for you. We all find different parts of him that we love.
I really hope that EON is confident about moving forward with this level of maturity and individuality. Bring on the new franchise, I’m waiting with arms open wide.
Keep turning to the CommanderBond.net main page—and our brand new Twitter feed—for continued Quantum of Solace coverage.