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Quantum of Solace Review


RATING:
(3 STARS)

When James Bond returned in 2006’s “Casino Royale,” the franchise was given new life. The film was a smashing success both critically and financially. Daniel Craig had made everyone forget about Pierce Brosnan. So production began almost immediately on a sequel. And in 2008, with the highest of expectations, “Quantum of Solace” debuted. Is it as good as “Casino Royale?” No way. But I don’t think it’s as big a letdown as most others do.

“Quantum” is the first true sequel in the James Bond canon (although the pre-credits sequence of “Diamonds Are Forever” picks up where “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service leaves off, the main plot doesn’t follow in its footsteps whatsoever). After the death of his lover, Vesper, Bond questions Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who he captures at the end of “Casino Royale.” White tells Bond and M (Judi Dench) a bit about his organization, Quantum, which has people everywhere, including in that very room. A British double agent allows White to escape, but the bit of information they got out of him leads Bond to Haiti. There, he meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who is involved with Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Greene is the CEO of an environmental organization and is looking to buy some land in Bolivia which may or may not have oil beneath it. And when Bond learns that Greene is a person of extreme interest for the CIA, he follows him from Haiti to Vienna to Bolivia, killing anyone in his path.

One of the major complaints people had was that Bond wasn’t getting back to what they thought of as Bond. He doesn’t get the girl, he doesn’t quip one-liners every five minutes, there’s no Q, and he doesn’t utter any of his catchphrases. Taken as a true sequel, none of that would even make sense. He’s still devastated by Vesper’s death, and this film takes him to some dark places. M comments that he’s “blinded by inconsolable rage,” and it’s true. He kills not because he has to, but because he wants to. Does that sound like the jokey Roger Moore version of Bond to you?

The biggest complaint by most, including me, is the poor handling of the action sequences. Marc Forster is a very capable director (“Finding Neverland” was one of my favorite films of 2004), but he is lost with action. The editing is awful, with cuts so rapid you’ll completely lose track of what’s going on. And often, the shots are of nothing in particular. During the opening chase, there a one-second shot of a tire cuts to a one-second shot of the gear shift. It’s a crazy notion, but perhaps a lasting shot of the cars involved in the chase would’ve been more coherent and exciting.

What I liked best about the film, besides the dark places Bond goes to, is actually the locations Bond goes to. Every 007 film takes us to exotic places, but I actually thought it helped elevate this film. The juxtaposition between slick, modern Europe (the scenes in Italy, Vienna, and London) and gritty, grimy Latin America (Haiti, Bolivia) is stark, but does a great job representing the two sides to Bond – the classy side we know and expect and the dark, messy side that this film brings out.

The acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Daniel Craig is just as good as he was in “Casino Royale.” In only two films, he has made more of an impact on the 007 legend than anyone other than Connery. Olga Kurylenko is a solid Bond girl, not as good as Eva Green in the previous film, but she isn’t as bad as Halle Berry before her in “Die Another Day.” Judi Dench is her usual reliable self as M. Gemma Arterton has a small role as a fellow MI6 agent, and Giancarl Giannini reprises his role of Mathis, who Bond wrongly accused of being a double agent in “Casino Royale.” The weak link in the cast is Mathieu Amalric. As the film’s chief villain, he needed to be more menacing and ruthless. All he does here is bulge his eyes.

On the whole, I enjoyed “Quantum of Solace” the first time I saw it and again when I revisited it for this review. I thought it had some flaws, but there were quite a few really good things about it. The dark aspects of the plot were really interesting, and the overall story was engaging. Daniel Craig does another great job, and I was very impressed by the location work. I understand why many people didn’t feel like this was a real Bond film, but I appreciate that the filmmakers didn’t follow the 40-year-old formula to a T. James Bond is on hiatus for a while, but I hope he returns soon. Whether it’s for another sequel or a stand-alone film, I’m very curious to see what those behind this series come up with.

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