Review: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on November 18, 2008.


'Quantum of Solace' hits the mark

It should be stated up front that I am not a James Bond fanatic. I have not seen all the films in their entirety. Neither am I familiar with the intricacies of Bond lore. All I know is that they’re usually enjoyable, and that if you’re a Bond fan, you’ll probably enjoy Quantum of Solace.  And even if you’re not, there’s enough substance amidst the explosions and car chases to separate it from the usual Bond routine.

For starters, there’s Daniel Craig. Once again, he shows why he’s the best Bond since Connery, walking the delicate line between being the “blunt instrument” of Casino Royale and the suave and sophisticated agent of the classics. This isn’t your grandma’s Bond –- this is a newer, edgier, more naïve Bond.  

The film picks up right where the last one left off, with our hero in possession of the mysterious Mr. White, whose manipulations have led to the death of his one true love. Olga Kurylenko provides support as Camille, a young woman fighting alongside Bond to get to another target. While her role is hardly as memorable as that of Eva Green in Casino Royale, she has an eerie Vesper-like quality which adds an interesting dimension to their relationship. Both are hungry for revenge, and only one of them will carry it out by the end of the movie.  

If Casino Royale was a film about finding hope and losing it, Quantum of Solace is about hitting rock bottom. This Bond won’t be dropping obvious double entendres and nursing a martini. He’s an insomniac, consumed with grief and driven by a lust for vengeance, even if he won’t admit it. If you’re looking for light-hearted quips and over-the-top gunfights, look elsewhere, because this is a Bond who doesn’t play by the rules. He’s a man on a mission, and if you stand in his way, he won’t stop to bargain. Gone are the days of camp and formula -– with the exception of a clever homage to Goldfinger, you won’t be seeing much that’s reminiscent of the Bond films of old.

This is how to reboot a series in the right way.  Director Marc Forster plays with familiar Bond character traits, and twists them to suit this new vision.  Instead of maniacal geniuses trying to take over the world, the bad guys here are more realistic and believable.  While the villain’s evil plan may feel slightly improbable, it can’t be denied that it’s more realistic than something like a killer sun ray.  The Bond action is here, but now it’s more rooted in reality over fantasy.  The characters feel more developed, the plot feels plausible, and the twists and turns make for a fun ride.

Even so, Quantum of Solace isn’t flawless. If you’re looking for a memorable villain, you probably won’t find it here. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), though he may be wealthy and powerful, hardly seems intimidating aside from being a shade too pale. Much more menacing is the mysterious organization he and Mr. White belong to, whose full power has yet to be revealed. The film flows best in the first half as Bond frantically tries to uncover any leads on who might be a member, then falters when Greene becomes the primary antagonist. One can only hope the Quantum storyline will be given more attention in the next chapter of the series.

While this new series of Bond films has drawn comparisons to the Bourne series, I personally can’t see any similarity except for one: the action sequences. Unfortunately, like the Bourne films, Quantum of Solace has some of the most jarring editing and disjointed action sequences of the year. They may be fast and exciting, but it’s hard to be on the edge of your seat when the cuts are so fast you can’t tell who is who. The introductory car chase lacks the continuity and flow of the parkour sequence in Casino Royale, and the result is a scene only saved by a small payoff at the end that starts off the actual story. Thankfully, a well-shot boat chase and the climactic confrontation make up for a lazy start.

At the end of the day, Quantum of Solace doesn’t live up to its predecessor, but it’s certainly one of the more enjoyable Bond movies to come out in recent history. If you can handle the occasional disorienting edit and don’t need to be spoon-fed the plot, then this should be just the right dose of spy action to satisfy you until the next one.