Quantum of Solace

Movie Information

The Story: In a direct sequel to Casino Royale, James Bond seeks revenge for the death of Vesper Lynd, while also bringing down a world-class villain and getting himself branded a rogue agent. The Lowdown: The shortest Bond film ever plays like the longest. Nice to look at -- and there is one standout sequence -- but otherwise, the film is too sober-minded to be fun and too action-obsessed to be as deep as the script thinks it is.
Score:

Genre: Spy Thriller
Director: Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arteton
Rated: PG-13

I can’t say that Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace is badly made. It’s not. In fact, it’s probably much better made than the screenplay by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade deserves. Unlike most Bond pictures, this one bears—at least in part—an actual directorial signature. Forster’s eye for striking visuals is often in evidence, and one sequence—set against and intercut with an avant-gardist staging of Puccini’s Tosca—is close to brilliant. The opera sequence served briefly to arouse my already flagging interest, but what followed plunged me into galloping ennui. Put bluntly, the movie bored the hell out of me.

That’s not to say that a lot doesn’t happen within the confines of Quantum of Solace. People run or drive or fly or helm watercraft all over the place. And punctuating this action overload, there are slugfests, explosions, Judi Dench looking worried and Daniel Craig looking glum. The problem was that I didn’t care about anyone or what happened to anyone. I suppose it’s meant to be—in popular parlance—a “reimagining” of James Bond. That mightn’t be a bad idea. After all, the series has been going on for 46 years. However, turning Bond into a vengeance-obsessed (not crazed, mind you; he’s too dull and dour for that) killer in a movie that plays too much like a Bourne wannabe mostly serves to rob Bond of any identity whatsoever.

I’m not a Bond scholar by any means. I didn’t even make it through the first Timothy Dalton entry. But I can’t think of a Bond picture that is so completely predicated on being a sequel as this one. It’s almost what you might have gotten had George Lazenby’s Bond stayed on after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) and gone on a killing spree for the sole purpose of revenging Tracy Di Vicenzo’s (Diana Rigg) death. That, however, might have had some emotional resonance. This—for me at least—doesn’t. Maybe if I’d been more jazzed about the previous film, Casino Royale (2006), I’d feel differently. I liked Casino Royale, but not to excess. Bear in mind, however, that my personal favorite Bond picture is the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale.

In fact, it probably was a mistake to have watched the ‘67 Royale the night before I saw Quantum of Solace—not because I like it better, but because it understands that James Bond is a larger-than-life iconic figure who inhabits a rarefied world, even while making fun of him. Compare Olga Kurylenko’s (Max Payne) Camille as the Bond girl in Solace (she doesn’t even have an interesting name) with the campy Vesper Lynd personified in 1967 by the original Bond girl from Dr. No (1962), Ursula Andress. Andress isn’t much of an actress, but part of her charm lies in her awkward dialogue delivery. Kurylenko gives a better performance in every respect, but has less presence, and isn’t likely to ever become one of the gallery of classic Bond girls. In essence, she and Bond and the whole tone of the series have been sacrificed on the altar of realism in Solace. It’s a bad trade off—not because it’s untraditional, but because it’s not much fun.

It’s also not very real realism. It’s just grubbier. The 2006 Casino Royale flirted with grubby. Solace embraces it. What happens is still pretty fantasticated. The chase scenes—which seem to comprise most of the film—owe little to realism and go on forever. In two instances—the opening and the speedboat scene—the sequences went on so long that my mind wandered away from the proceedings entirely. The plot is dull: The bad guy is stealing Bolivia’s water so he can sell it back at an inflated rate. And the bad guy himself, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), is so transparently creepy, sleazy and sketchy that scenes where people are buying his pose as a benefactor of humanity are laughable.

What we’re left with is a good-looking movie that sort of gets by on Daniel Craig’s screen presence and the goodwill generated by Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright—goodwill mostly generated by their previous performances, not by much that happens here. That may be enough for a lot of viewers. But it wasn’t enough for me. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

19 thoughts on “Quantum of Solace

  1. Chad Nesbitt

    I liked it. Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace basically tell the story of the beginning of James Bond.
    Past movies always gave a hint of a woman he loved in the past. Glad to see that in the story line.

    This Bond is rough around the edges and anxious. Unlike any Bond in the older movies.
    But I like it.

    Notice at the end of the movie they show the white dots they usually show at the beginning and Bond walks out and shoots? I think this is a foretelling of a more sophisticated and refined Bond we are used to.

    I liked the action sequences but never could figure out what the bad guy wanted to do with the desert property he bought. Didn’t get the water thing at all but I know it is all leading up to the terrorist and extortion group Specter. The plot is a bit confusing an what does the name of the movie have to do with the story anyway?

    Oh well, I’m going back again to see it. It’s a fun movie and I love the new Grand Theater.
    Can’t wait to see the new Star Trek on that big screen.

  2. Ken Hanke

    but never could figure out what the bad guy wanted to do with the desert property he bought. Didn’t get the water thing at all but I know it is all leading up to the terrorist and extortion group Specter. The plot is a bit confusing an what does the name of the movie have to do with the story anyway?

    The desert property seems to be where his reservoir is located and the idea — dull as it was — with the water was to sell it to the new government at an exorbitant rate. As for the title’s connection to the story, well, what does “quantum of solace” mean? That’s what he gets out of his search for revenge.

  3. Chad Nesbitt

    Got it. I remember the part where the people in the village could not get any water from the tap.
    But I kind of thought…. That’s dumb. Where is the battle for world domination or something.

    Don’t laugh at me Hanke. I did not know what “Quantum of Solace” ment. LOL.
    Thank you for explaining. Don’t use it against me in one of our political fights.
    Spelling? Ok but…..

    Great article. Keep it up.

    By the way. My new Star Trek movie poster came in the mail today. Can’t wait for May!

  4. Zigopolis

    Chad, in reference to the water supply thing, check out the trailer for this documentary. It semi-spells out what is going on in regards to water resources in the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1G1Kve3s20

    Also, just look locally at the battle over water that has been going on in WNC over different water sources.

  5. I thought that this new one was a step backwards from CASINO ROYALE, which is one of my favorite Bonds. They have probably the wimpiest villain in the series and I’m tired of quick cut action scenes. I hope that they have worked this out of their systems and bring back a wry smile and a little bit of class next time… Craig is too good to be wasted.

  6. Ken Hanke

    I hope that they have worked this out of their systems and bring back a wry smile and a little bit of class next time… Craig is too good to be wasted.

    You can see this creeping in around the edges in Casino Royale — this kind of lowering the classiness aspect. You can start with the cars and throw in playing Texas Hold ‘Em instead of baccarat and on down the line. I’m all for a return to an elitist Bond.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I guess we will be paying for the air we breath soon.

    An idea put forth nearly 20 years ago in Bruce Robinson’s How to Get Ahead in Advertising.

  8. “An idea put forth nearly 20 years ago in Bruce Robinson’s How to Get Ahead in Advertising.”

    Awesome flick. That’s one to show in the future Ken.

  9. Zigopolis

    Purchasable air also made an appearance in Spaceballs and heck the main plot was to steal air from a planet.

  10. Ken Hanke

    Awesome flick. That’s one to show in the future Ken.

    It could happen. Probably it will.

  11. brebro

    I believe the nefarious group is called “QUANTUM” in this revised Bond universe, not SPECTRE, hence the title refers to that.

    I do enjoy this grittier, less-late-Roger-Moore-silly-era version more than I did the similar attempts during the brief TImothy Dalton administration. I agree with Mr. Hanke, though, it can all get a bit dour with absolutely NO hint of humor. The criticism about nothing separating Bond now from Jason Bourne or the Transporter is an apt one.

    By all means, we don’t need to go back to “Moonraker” level camp, but a little Bondian dark humor would be welcome. We can leave off the ham, but don’t hold the wry.

  12. Ken Hanke

    I believe the nefarious group is called “QUANTUM” in this revised Bond universe, not SPECTRE, hence the title refers to that.

    True enough, but really the whole thing is grounded in an attempt to give the movie some kind of Ian Fleming legitimacy, which is why they latched onto the title of a completely unrelated Fleming short story from 1960. Rumor is that they’ll get their next title in the same way.

  13. Alina

    I’m disappointed by your disappointment. I love this temporary reinvention of the Bond franchise. It’s great to have a self-aware Bond again, though I’m sure it won’t last. After all, Timothy Dalton only did two Bond films.

    Visually, I loved everything; the typeset between chapters, the orange filters and the distressed textures, the desert lighting, the Tosca scene _was_ brilliant, and the buildings they chose, did you notice the architecture?

    No comment on the action sequences. But the music was good. And I quite liked the plot, which I thought was surprisingly relevant. Water shortages, a humanitarian crisis, oil and hybrid energy sources are all very current.

    So I guess it depends on what you’re looking for from a Bond film. Craig’s Bond does take himself too seriously, but it’s a Doctor Who-like role anyway, and I’m sure we’ll have a new more metro-sexual incarnation soon.

  14. Alina

    Oh, and the whole business of the film titles and their Flemming connection is interesting. I didn’t see any previews before going to the new Casino Royale and I couldn’t wait to see how they’d transform that crazy psychedelic storyline into something contemporary. Of course they didn’t even try, I don’t think anyone could do comedy like Sellers did anymore.

  15. Ken Hanke

    It’s great to have a self-aware Bond again, though I’m sure it won’t last. After all, Timothy Dalton only did two Bond films.

    It may be telling that the Dalton films are the two I have never sat all the way through.

    So I guess it depends on what you’re looking for from a Bond film.

    That’s certainly true. At this point, I think what I’m looking for is to either do the films in a period setting, or stop doing them altogether. I really don’t think the character updates well. I certainly don’t think he updates and remains the character. For me, the whole problem with it is perfectly summed up in John Boorman’s The Tailor of Panama in which the whole super-spy as good guy concept is completely demolished by no less than Pierce Brosnan himself. There’s an irony to all this in that Bond used to set the trend — without him, the likelihood of Harry Palmer and Matt Helm and Our Man Flint pictures is practically nil — and now he’s following the lead of other action franchises.

    Oh, and the whole business of the film titles and their Flemming connection is interesting. I didn’t see any previews before going to the new Casino Royale and I couldn’t wait to see how they’d transform that crazy psychedelic storyline into something contemporary.

    Well, you have to realize that the crazy psychedelic storyline of the 1967 film has nothing to do with Fleming’s novel. About the only things that are retained are character names and Bond’s card game with Le Chiffre (unless you count the in-joke of the carpet beater hanging from “that chair with the hole in it”). Turning it into a comedy is unique to the film.

  16. Sean Williams

    I’m all for a return to an elitist Bond.

    Why does that not surprise me? Interestingly enough, I have it on good authority from Ian Flemming fans that the novel character is quite crude.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Why does that not surprise me? Interestingly enough, I have it on good authority from Ian Flemming fans that the novel character is quite crude.

    It probably doesn’t surprise you because it should be obvious by now that I’m not keen on grubbiness for its own sake. As for the other, it’s years since I read any of the Bond novels, but I think crude overstates the case. Fleming’s Bond certainly hasn’t the matinee idol good looks of many of his screen incarnations, nor is he especially likeable, but there is at least a veneer of sophistication.

  18. It’s almost what you might have gotten had George Lazenby’s Bond stayed on after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
    Well, really, it’s like a entertainment-free variant on Timothy Dalton’s second outing ‘License to Kill’, except in that one Bond was seeking revenge for Felix Leiter being fed to a shark rather than the death of his girlfriend. That picture was helped innumerably by the excellent chemistry between Dalton and Desmond Llewellyn (who was given his largest chunk of screen time in any Bond picture).
    Outside of the opera sequence and some brief (very brief) moments (‘We are school teachers and have just won the lottery’), this picture was pretty damn boring.

    At this point, I think what I’m looking for is to either do the films in a period setting, or stop doing them altogether.
    I’m half with you. I don’t want the series to cease production, but I’d love to see a Bond set in the late 50s, ideally going back to one of the original novels. This goes for a lot of franchises actually – I think a Batman or Superman film set in the 40s would be marvelous.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.