Quantum of Solace reviewed  - by Jake


Quantum of Solace is the 22nd James Bond and the second to feature Daniel Craig in the lead role. Although Ian Fleming never wrote a direct continuation novel to Casino Royale, Eon productions decided to have a crack themselves of sorts, and the film follows straight on from the events of 2006's Casino Royale. In fact, some sort of knowledge of that film is a distinct help when viewing this film for the purposes of character motivation and the ability to recognise characters who return. I struggled myself to remember who was who or what exactly was going on at times in Quantum Of Solace and that wasn't helped by the almost plotless nature of this film.

Quantum Of Solace sees Bond tangle with villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a spurious environmentalist who wants to stage a coup in Bolivia to gain control of the water supplies. No, he's not exactly Auric Goldfinger but there you go. Greene is a member of the 'Quantum Organisation', a mysterious new group that MI6 and Bond are eager to find out more about. I won't surprise too many people by stressing that the 'Quantum Organisation' is a very tacked-on invention by the writers not a Fleming creation, the name presumably chosen to make some sort of connection between the title (taken from a Fleming short story) and the film. I don't actually mind the title myself but I can understand non Fleming fans being somewhat perplexed by it. It takes a bit of getting used to I suppose. It's really an attempt to go back to a SPECTRE type group, SPECTRE being unavailable to Eon through the combined efforts of Kevin McClory and Mike Myers, although the group is vague to the extreme in Quantum Of Solace. You wouldn't have missed them if they hadn't bothered.

Very early in the film Mr White (Jesper Christensen), the man shot and captured by Bond at the end of Casino Royale, mocks both M and Bond in an interrogation scene about how little they know, hinting that Quantum has people in high places. As they were implicated in the death of Vesper Lynd, it prompts Bond to investigate them for himself, leading to a tremendous body-count Michael Myers would be proud of and an endless barrage of rapidly edited action sequences.

Quantum Of Solace has no gunbarrel sequence at the beginning of the film. The iconic staple that puts the audience in the Bond mood is sadly absent again. It turns up elsewhere and isn't done very well. Why do Eon keep moving it? Don't ask me! We then move into an ear-splitting car chase in Italy with Bond being pursued in his Aston Martin by countless other cars. It is reminiscent of the chase at the end of the second Bourne film with the speeded up comic book style of The Transporter films but is far too rapidly cut and confusing, ending up on some sort of quarry. The beginning of the film also has sweeping vistas of sea and mountains intercut a bit like the opening sequence to The Big Blue. This will be Marc Forster, the film's arty Swiss director trying to make himself heard over the second-unit stunt crew who have taken over the film.

The title sequence for Quantum Of Solace is a great disappointment. The song 'Another Way To Die' by Jack White is just absolutely awful and charmless and Daniel Kleinman, who, in the absence of such names as Ken Adam, John Barry, Maurice Binder and Derek Meddings, was the most talented person left on the Eon payroll, has been elbowed by director Marc Forster in favour of design company MK12. Their title sequence is bland and unmemorable with dull desert shots and crude cartoon images. The film proper wastes no time in cutting to the mayhem with locations including Haiti, Austria and the desert, all given to us onscreen with a pointlessly arty font.

In 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, script problems resulted in large portions of the film being written or rewritten as they entered production. The result was a surfeit of action sequences that meant the film became mechanical. It seems that similar problems have affected Quantum Of Solace which had a similar situation in that its original script was dumped prior to production. The film doesn't have much of a plot and, without an Ian Fleming book to work from, Eon clearly struggled with the film clocking in a whopping forty minutes shorter than Casino Royale. Given this it's astonishing that such a short film is packed with so many hollow action sequences. A bit of plot and coherence in place of the weaker set-pieces would have clearly helped.

Another weakness is that just when most of the (older) Bond films are setting up a big ending this one abruptly begins to end. There certainly isn't enough scope to spin this Quantum/revenge story out into a third film in my opinion.

The Bourne influence in Quantum Of Solace is very apparent. Indeed, there are three or four sequences that could have been lifted straight out that that rival spy series. A fight in a hotel room which, while striving to bring a brutal air into Bond, plays like a carbon copy of a scene in The Bourne Identity. A rooftop chase which is again cut in a very eccentric fashion and reminds one of The Bourne Ultimatum. I should point out as well that I was confused by parts of the film. Bond seemed to be constantly chasing or killing somebody and half the time I had no idea why.

Even shots of Craig on a motorbike (going comically slowly) remind you of the (former) amnesiac, American spy. It's a matter of personal tastes but I find this rebooted Bond series is sliding into generic territory. The absurd decision not to use the famous James Bond music, apart from a few bars here and there, doesn't help the film either. It's not just Q and Moneypenny and the staples. It's the whole Bond experience and a modicum more wit, fun and charm. There are not enough witty lines in the film for any of the characters as the action continues to pile up.

There is a speedboat chase that doesn't really work and a section set at a performance of Tosca at Lake Constance with shots of Bond shooting countless people in some sort of arty slo-mo John Woo impersonation, intercut with the opera a la The Godfather III. This will be Forster trying to speak again and I found the whole thing pretentious. I'm not sure that Forster was the best choice for Bond.

Incredibly, there is more mayhem to come, including Bond avoiding a SWAT team who shoot up a bar and an aeroplane sequence which was done better in The Living Daylights. This section is marred by an implausible parachute drop which actually begins begins to approach the giddy lows of the para-surfing CGI in Die Another Day. That is one of my other problems with this film. It strives to be gritty, even grainy at times (Bond even meets M in a London sink estate tower block) but Daniel Craig, who was hired for his acting, is made to appear the most superhumanly invulnerable Bond ever at times in some of the more improbable and many action sequences that are sent his way.

Halfway through one of these endless bursts of action I suddenly realised the film was wrapping up. I didn't even realise that we were approaching some sort of resolution!

What of the cast in Quantum Of Solace? Well Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene hardly registers and is about as threatening as Russell Harty. I was never quite sure what he was doing and it seems we've barely been introduced to him before he's tackling Bond in the climax. Olga Kurylenko's South American agent Camille Montes hooks up with Bond for much of the film as they both seek revenge on Quantum. Kurylenko doesn't have much acting range or chemistry with Daniel Craig but she throws herself into the action as best she can. Gemma Arterton, a capable actress, is wasted as MI6 agent Fields. Saddled with the worst Bond girl haircut since Teri Hatcher in Tomorrow Never Dies, she has precious little screen time and a ludicrous character to play. Why would M send a young woman to bring back Bond? He kills half the planet in this film! I'm not a big fan of Judi Dench as M but I must confess her expanded role here is very welcome. This is a very incoherent film and she brings a brief air of calmness and authority whenever she appears. Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter is another plus although his nice line in jovial dryness is at odds with this helter-skelter and sometimes grim nature of this film.

Overall, Quantum Of Solace is a strangely uninvolving film, rattling along with endless second-unit action. You sense that a better film was lost in a London editing room over the summer. Bits it of look good but it hardly delivers on the promise to evoke the look and feel of the great Ken Adam. The new space age MI6 headquarters with touch screen computers smacks more of a way-out Pierce Brosnan entry and doesn't really fit the tone of Quantum Of Solace.

The film is also not shy of a homage/ripp-off or too, like the much maligned Die Another Day, with Moonraker, Goldfinger, and The Man With The Golden Gun, all providing 'inspiration' here in one form or another.

David Arnold's score is also deeply unmemorable and oddly restrained and I'm not a big fan of Paul Haggis' very dry and straight ahead reading of Bond. I sense a shake-up of the writers may be on the horizon. Quantum Of Solace also fails to put its budget up on the screen.

And so to Bond himself, here again in the form of Daniel Craig looking like a has-been boxer who got punched in the face too many times. Some people like this direction, and good luck to Eon if they are carving out a new demographic, but I feel that Bond is in serious danger of becoming a one-dimensional bruiser. There is a scene where he kills someone with a knife like Michael C Hall in Dexter and it's not my Bond. Quantum Of solace also has a hint of a rape scene and one or two crude lines. There is little of the panache of the Bond Fleming created here or the charm of the cinematic Bond. Fleming's Bond disliked killing and Fleming said Bond should never be drunk. Well, he's drunk in this film and it makes the character seem like just any other person. (This scene is also made incredibly annoying by a barman, for reasons which escape me, reading out the ingredients of the 'Vesper' martini.)

So overall, I wasn't greatly overwhelmed by Quantum Of Solace. Although it looks sleek at times, it's all surface slickness. It steams along with the earnest vacuity and hollow motivation of one of those Matrix sequels, all the while trying desperately to be Jason Bourne, with little or no story.

Very disappointing.

- Jake


c 2008 Alternative 007