It’s the shortest Bond film with the weirdest name! Yep, this was a real head-scratcher and probably the hardest wrap to write, as it’s taken me a couple of days from my first viewing to chew over what I can actually write about it.
The action picks up from the conclusion of Casino Royale with Bond managing to deliver Mr White to M in a boot, after having to fend off a bunch of goons in Alfa Romeos when it was apparent the Alfas weren’t going to break down like usual.
During the interrogation in Siena, Mr White (Jesper Christensen) is amused to find M knows nothing about “Quantum”, especially the fact M’s bodyguard Mitchell is working for them, who promptly turns and takes out some of the other staff and then makes off. Bond pursues Mitchell over the rooftop of Siena like it’s an Assassin’s Creed game. As seems to be Bond’s habit, when he catches up with his quarry he kills him before he can get any usable information.
Some new crowd called “MK12” were called into the job in the first break from or Kleinmann since Dr. No‘s spots and as such they did an OK job, in effect pulling the traditional tableau style into a third dimension, and incorporating more, shall we say, dynamic typography for the actual text. Whether it was too much of a departure – it was certainly interesting, but it adds to “not quite Bond” feeling of the whole film.
Jack White and Alicia Keys did the opening song, “Another Way To Die”, which sounds like what you’d expect from Jack White, a bit skronky for a 007 theme, but the lyrics are on point. It seems to have dated PDQ, though. The main soundtrack is once again crafted by David Arnold, who keeps to his style, thumping away as required, and calling in Four Tet for the end credits.
All over the damned place again, naturally, as if you could miss the title cards. Siena, Italy; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Bregenz, Austria. The bulk of the action takes place in Bolivia.
Even though Bond kills the guy before he can talk, enough evidence is gleaned to get a bead on Mitchell’s contact and where Bond should go next, which happens to be Haiti. Once there he kills the contact, Slate, before getting any meaningful evidence, but then he figures out Slate was meant to kill Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) when he gets into Camille’s car.
Montes is ostensibly a mining engineer or something, working under Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is also her lover. Greene looks like some local spiv hanging out in a dock warehouse for some reason but it turns out that he’s an entrepreneur at the head of course – and also a member of this “Quantum”, who are arranging for General Medrano (Joaquín Cosío) installed as the leader of Bolivia after a coup arranged by Quantum.
Medrano’s also happens to have killed Montes’ family several years prior, so she has a revenge motive to go with Bond’s vendetta over the death of Vesper Lynn. At Greene’s behest, Montes gets on Medrano’s boat with the idea of garotting him later, I guess. Bond watches this arrangement from the sidelines then sweeps in and spoils the party, “rescuing” Montes and making off in a boat.
A Night At The Opera
At the beginning of the film, Bond and MI6 know jack-shit about Quantum, but Bond goes a fair way to rectifying when a whole bunch of their members, include Greene, turn up to an opera in Bregenz, Austria. Having their little meeting over earpieces, of which Bond has managed to nab one. When he calls them out and they decide to leave for the exits, he takes their pictures for reference.
In the ensuing chaos, Bond escapes the scene, but somehow in the fracas the wrong guy dies – the bodyguard of one of the Quantum board who also has the ear of the British PM. It’s not actually Bond’s fault this time, but M has his passports and credit cards cancelled anyway. Rude.
Somewhat curtailed, Bond returns to Italy to pay a visit to his old mate René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) who been erroneously fingered as the leak back at the Casino Royale. Mathis is a bit pissed off, but when it’s pointed out that he got his lovely villa as compensation, he agrees to help.
They turn up in La Paz, where Bond is immediately doorstopped at the airport by local MI6 attaché Miss Fields (Gemma Arterton), who insists he return to the UK straight away. Well, except the next plane back isn’t until the next day, so Bond and Fields bunk up at Bond’s choice of accomodation, having that decided Fields’ idea of staying at a backpackers’ was ridiculous. Separate rooms? Well, Mathis gets a separate room, at least.
At The Circus
They all turn up at a fundraising shindig hosted by Greene, where Montes turns up as well. Montes is again at Greene’s throat, Bond again gets her out of trouble and they leave the party, but the pair get pulled up down the road by the local cops where Mathis gets pulled out of the boot. (This time it wasn’t Bond who put him there.)
Mathis gets killed in the struggle, but Bond and Montes skip town and find a old plane, which after a bit of a spin gets shot down by the air force and Bond and Montes bail into a sinkhole to find that Greene has been stockpiling all the water, causing the local drought.
The pair return to town, where Fields has been found murdered, drenched in oil. M arrives on the scene and is pissed off, although Bond seems to get across that he knows something the Yanquis don’t, as they’re just letting the upcoming coup happen so they can access the (non-existent) oil and are kind of annoyed about Bond spoiling that shit. Nevertheless Bond meets up with his friend from the CIA, Felix (Jeffrey Wright) who tips off that the final deal between Greene and Medrano will occur at a hotel out in the desert the next day – and also that they want to crack Bond’s arse, so Bond hightails it out of there.
The Big Store
Greene and Medrano conclude the agreement to conclude the coup putting the General in charge. With Greene’s organisation having locked up most of the country’s water supply in storage under the desert that Medrano has signed over to Quantum, he now tells tell Medrano that he has to sign over the water supply contract as well.
Bond and Montes turn up, and after the hotel starts blowing up (fuel cells don’t work that way!), after a prolonged struggle, Montes kills Medrano, while Bond drags Greene out into the desert and gives a him a can of oil for the hell of it, before abandoning him to the elements.
Because we’ve completely forgotten the arc, it comes almost as a shock when Bond pops up in Kazan to bring it to a head. He arrives at the apartment of Yusef Kabira, who had been Lynd’s former lover, in fact a member of Quantum whose thing is seducing women of interest, his latest squeeze being Corinne, who works for the Canadian secret service. Bond tells Corinne what Kabira’s deal is, and then arrests Kabira. Managing not to kill one of his marks for a change.
There are some particularly bothersome aspects about Marc Forster’s direction; from the start, the rapid-cut treatments of a lot of the action scenes. Sure, this kind of editing can be effective if done well (see Dark City which popularised the technique), but particularly in the case of the Siena sequences, the action is disjointed and potentially seizure inducing. The confusion also infects other areas, as the exposition why Bond is going to Haiti turns into a outbreak of infographic diarrhoea, sort of like Geordi LaForge on Star Trek going nuts with Powerpoint.
Freom the sheer bulk of the damn things, the Bond subgenre can be boiled down to a firm but flexible set of rules and tropes. longevity of the series owes a lot to this formula being flexible enough to be adapted as needed due to the changing world as well as cinematic sensibilities and technologies, because we also need the surprises to go along with the spectacle. Nevertheless, Quantum of Solace feels like it shakes too many of the bars at the same time.
Bizarrely, I reckon it was too short; any emotional heft to the film is basically carried over from Casino Royale, where the dialogue was the best in the series. The lack thereof might have something to with the screenwriter’s strike, limiting rewriting duties to Forster and Craig, though I can only speculate.
Essentially the arc that was set up and continues promisingly in the opening, but is put to the side as an afterthought until the end, bringing in a main plot that has certain echoes of License to Kill.
Yep. Daniel Craig’s difficult second 007 film isn’t entirely like Timothy Dalton’s difficult second 007 film, but there are parallels. Bond goes on the lam from MI6 to engage on a revenge mission against an entrepreneur who compromises a Latin American despot, culminating in that entrepreneur’s compound going up in flames. I guess Felix Leiter should be thanking the stars that his limbs are kept intact this time.
This is not to say that it’s a terrible Bond film, but it’s definitely an odd one. There’s been a few of these oddball films in the sequence that nevertheless have their own particular charms, such as the aforementioned License to Kill. But while Casino Royale was indeed a hard act to follow, one might’ve expected better from this turn.
One thing that’s not a letdown is Craig’s portrayal and his interaction with Judi Dench as M, which is the strength of Quantum of Solace. Fortunately, the rest of the package is brought back on track with the next instalment, even though that has a few issues as well.
This baby, I’m giving it an entirely arbitrary 14 giant eyeballs out of 20.