James Bond – Quantum Of Solace (2008) REVIEW
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli
Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Paul Haggis
Based on: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amairic, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffery Wright
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Who would’ve thought that after Die Another Day, highly successful at the box office but not with fans, was able to be followed up by a reboot and be as highly popular as it was. Casino Royale not only ignited a fire inside the belly of every old Bond fan, but managed to win over an entire new crowd. Something about Daniel Craig as James Bond and his fresh new take on the character left fans wanting more after his first outing. Bond had earned his theme song at the end of Casino Royale, and now producers were promising a direct follow-up with the next 007 film, Bond 22 (working title).
Gone was director Martin Campbell, he had no interest in sticking around, and in was Marc Forster. Best known for his small dramatic films, Marc was determined to show off more of the character of Bond since he felt Casino Royale very much humanised him. Not being a 007 fan before coming into the directors chair, Forster was surprised he was chosen, but credits his previous films for landing the role.
Producer, Michael G. Wilson came up with the original idea for the film changing the idea of terrorism (Casino Royale) to environmentalism here. Neal Purvis and Robert Wade wrote the script based on this idea and Paul Haggis was brought in to complete rewrites. He previously had experience on Casino Royale and eventually all three writers made a third pass on the script. The final script was completed mere hours before the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike. Something which continued to plague the film throughout filming. During the making of Quantum Of Solace, titled after an Ian Fleming short, Michael G. Wilson would often say that it picked up right after Casino Royale with Bond still reeling from the death of Vesper…
At the end of Casino Royale, we saw Bond earn his stripes, and theme song, by capturing Mr. White, face of the shady criminal organisation behind Le Chiffre. With Mr. White in the boot of his Aston Martin, Bond is pursued by goons who attempt to stop him, and possibly kill White(?)!
Bond arrives with White in tow, where the shady man is interrogated by M and others of MI6, however it’s here we learn the organisation has ‘people everywhere’ when an MI6 agent, and M’s bodyguard Mitchell, turns and fires on the room. In the confusion, M is hit and Mr. White escapes and Bond chases former MI6 agent Mitchell.
The double agent is killed by Bond before he can be questioned, with a money trail leading MI6 to Haiti. It’s here that Bond meets Camille and finds she was set up to be killed by her lover, Dominic Greene. An environmentalist with millions who is helping a Bolivian General in the hopes of obtaining a seemingly useless piece of land in the desert.
While all this is happening, the CIA is working with Dominic Greene and Bond continues to unravel the mystery of who and what Quantum is. Mr. White is next seen at a Tosca performance where Bond is able to identify key figures in the Quantum group but while escaping, a death is blamed on Bond who is then seemingly burned by MI6. He is ordered to return, but instead receives help from returning face, Mathis.
The pairing is short-lived when Mathis is killed, and Bond and Camille set off for the desert where they find Dominic is planning on obtaining all the water in Bolivia and selling it at a higher price. Camille gets her revenge on a General who raped and murdered her family, while Bond finally brings down Dominic Greene and allows him to go free in the desert with only a can of motor oil, in case he gets thirsty.
With Vesper’s death still weighing heavily on his shoulders, M locates the man whom Vesper was in love with previous to Bond, and finally he is able to put her memory to rest.
Having watched Quantum Of Solace multiple times for this review, and immediately before writing this review, something hit me. Could this be a more solid entry in the 007 franchise than originally given credit?
Let’s look back on it. Quantum Of Solace released to mixed reviews. Everyone compared it to Casino Royale and it didn’t stand up. That’s fair to say, however when the Writers Strike hit, it hit Quantum Of Solace hard. While a film may have the script rewritten during pre-production, Daniel Craig has mentioned entire scenes were rewritten by himself and Marc Forster (director). Both of whom aren’t writers by trade.
This still doesn’t hamper the excitement I get from watching this film. As a matter of fact, there is only ever one time I’m bored, and that involves the CIA scenes. It pains me to say because I’m a fan of this incarnation of Felix, yet his involvement in the film leaves me utterly baffled. I’ve tried to pay attention, yet my mind unfortunately wanders. Honestly, remove them and you’ve got me. These characters don’t add anything to the film nor does it help the viewers thoughts on Felix. I know it isn’t the case, but it appears he’s a man not to be trusted, which works against the character.
Which I guess brings me to my major gripe, the editing. I had heard people for years go on about the quick cuts during the action. The aimless sense of direction and pointless mistakes via editing to draw out a scene. Clearly Quantum Of Solace is a film hurt by editing decisions.
The opening pre-credit scene is let down by quick cuts and chopping edits which attempt to heighten the action, but is left with me feeling a little disappointed. The next moments have Bond chasing a Quantum agent through the streets of Siena, but a horse race is intercut with it. I’m still thinking there is a meaning behind this, because there honestly can’t be any normal reason for it. This editing issue lasts throughout Quantum Of Solace, but it’s mainly evident in the action scenes.
With all the problems Quantum Of Solace has, casting is not one of them. When you really hate a villain because he’s slimy and you just want him to meet a horrible fate, well that’s a well portrayed character right there. And Dominic Greene, although packing a strange look, is the type of villain you just want dead. I’m new to Mathieu Amairic, but I know he’s been around before, yet whenever I look at him, I picture him as a modern-day Blofeld. Small in frame, but big on bite. He commands from a distance yet isn’t shy about getting his hands dirty. This is the type of Blofeld-type we need in the Bond franchise, and I’m glad that Quantum Of Solace attempted to bring back the typical villain archetype here.
Mr. White makes a brief return, again played by Jesper Christensen, where he reveals the existence of Quantum to the audience and gives a chilling speech how they are everywhere. I’ve always found Mr. White underused in the franchise, and I’m looking at this with the knowledge of what the next two instalments hold. He was subtly used here, but pops up at just the right moments to let us know he is pulling the strings. I had heard that Jesper wasn’t a big fan of the Producers, even going so far as to talk negative of them in the press, but he doesn’t put in a bad performance here.
Daniel Craig as always gives his best as secret agent 007 and even doubles with partial writing duties. Uncredited of course. Picking up right where Casino Royale left off, you can see throughout the film that his Bond is still reeling from Vesper death and betrayal of him. Frankly, the film never lets you forget it, but beyond that, Craig handles it all with ease. Seeing him kill his way through the film and being on a ruthless pursuit for answers is a questionable yet admirable trait he brings to the character.
He knows who to trust and in desperation turns to Mathis, a man he washed his hands of previously. Their scenes together remind me perfectly of Casino Royale where I felt they had some of the best chemistry in the entire franchise. Still do, even though their time together here is greatly reduced. It’s enough to give Bond that extra bit of fuel needed to bring down Greene.
James Bond isn’t the only one on a revenge mission. In a welcoming move, Quantum Of Solace introduces us to Camille Montes, as played by the beautiful, Olga Kurylenko. Russian born Kurylenko brings so much life to Camille, that I’m honestly surprised her screen time was so little in comparison. For a chunk of the running time, Camille is out of the picture after being introduced, and then returns for the third act. But in all that time, her character is so fleshed out and believable, I was actively rooting for her to succeed in her mission.
A point of contention when it comes to Camille is that Bond and her never sleep with each other. Now read that back and then ask yourself the question if you agree with it. Because if you do, then I honestly don’t know what to say. Her character isn’t here for Bond to sleep with, that’s why we have the Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) character. As pointless as she is, I feel like she was only put in the film to raise Bond’s shag count. Not joking, it is how it plays. However with Camille, her and Bond have a connection, one based on revenge but it’s still there. Hell, he even tells her what it’s like to kill someone in preparation of pulling the trigger. The moment is powerful and for some mysterious reason, it works.
One point of the film I’m not sure about and hope someone is able to help me with is after Camille manages to kill the General. She’s in the room which is filling with fire and Bond is cradling her. There is no escape and Bond holds her close while holding his gun. He tells her to close her eyes and then raises the gun toward her head before an explosion rips open the wall and they’re able to escape. My question, was Bond about to kill Camille so she wouldn’t burn alive? Remember, she mentions how when younger, she was caught in a fire and has burns on her. Was this his way of putting her out of a slow, painful death? I guess we won’t ever know.
Another point of Quantum Of Solace I really love is the music. David Arnold does something really special with the Bond score here. He manages to outdo Casino Royale, which in comparison feels a little similar to Die Another Day. Quantum Of Solace is a superior score and one I can actively listen to away from the film. Not something I’ve been able to do since the GoldenEye soundtrack.
All in all, I’m impressed with Quantum Of Solace. Whatever the troubles with the Writers Strike, the films pulls through. If it hadn’t been brought to my attention, it never would’ve been noticed by me. Yeah, a few more passed on the script would’ve helped flesh out and tighten the film, but what we get is quite pleasing. It is amazing that even without the use of SPECTRE and Blofeld, we are introduced to a shady new organisation in the form of Quantum and Mr. White has just as much mystery to keep us wanting more.
The action and acting are all top-notch with plenty to keep you going. Bond getting to the bottom of Quantum is played perfectly alongside his revenge story. I know that Quantum Of Solace isn’t for everyone, and some will stand by the fact it isn’t as good as Casino Royale, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t need to be as good. It just needs to be a good film, and Quantum Of Solace is that.
James Bond will return in Skyfall