If there’s one thing that can be said about any post-Dalton era 007 film, it’s that from that point on, the series proved itself to be a series of immense contrasts. For every truly great 007 film, there was a film that either downright sucked, was forgettable or good but not as good. With SPECTRE seeming to be the ultimate culmination of this (according to reviews, at the very least), I figured the best way to start off my 007 Days of 007 was the film that, until this year, seeemed to be destined to forever hold that title: Quantum of Solace. Quantum’s reputation throughout the years has definitely fluctuated through several points by 007 fans- some people think it’s great, some outright hate it, lots think it’s nothing special. Exactly how divisive it is is certainly interesting- especially when you consider the very film itself is one weirdly systematic clusterfuck of a film. That being said, Quantum of Solace is certainly not in any shape or form, a bad film. It’s entertaining enough and certianly does its job- to keep you entertained, and gives us just enough 007 to keep us entertained.
Going back to my previous comment about contrasts, the cause of “One movie is great, the next movie… well…” thing is the fact that the first movie is so bloody great that people let their expectations get too high, and that’s certainly what the case was with Quantum of Solace. If Casino Royale was that handsome, cleanly shaven, classy, stylish gent who showed up to the party in a cleanly tailored and dusted tux, Quantum of Solace is the rough, rugged, generally gruff looking hottie who got into a few fights along the way. That is definitely as good an analogy as I could come up with for the sheer difference between Quantum and Casino; Quantum is far more action-driven and generally a far more brutal and darker film. In keeping in tone with the more Flemingesque tones that the reboot brought into the series, Bond is a lot more violent and more of a brute. One thing that people criticize the Craig era for is Bond being too rough and almost sort of a punk, but that’s exactly how he was written by Fleming. And of course, here, it leads M to doubt his merits as a worthy agent. This was one of the things I liked most about the film and kind of wish Casino Royale explored more.
“Force me to sit through Tosca again!”
Ultimately the biggest flaw that can be detected all throughout Quantum of Solace is that the stench of trying to stay relevant is highly detectable. It was 2008 after all; the franchise was 46 years old and after becoming a joke in the early 2000s, the franchise had only just been made relevant again 2 years ago, and to keep the momentum injected into the franchise by Casino Royale certainly is no easy task. It’s definitely most evident in the film’s action-driven direction. With films like the Jason Bourne series having set high standards as far as action movies go, Bond seems to have taken a few cues from the Bourne films, and whether or not it’s successful is definitely something of a mixed bag. One of the best uses of the gritter, handheld and more frenetic direction happens in the first on-foot chase scene in Siena, Italy- it happens to make the chase a lot more urgent and frantic, and even a thrilling and playful bit with a crane and ropes winds down the scene well; on other occasions it just doesn’t work- in particular, the opening chase scene, and of course, the artisly-shot Tosca intercut action sequence. It does often get taken a bit too far- if the idea to have Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a rather plain looking Bond girl works to the film’s advantage, having Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a regular businessman as the villain certianly doesn’t. Greene is one of the blandest villains in the 007 series, and he doesn’t come off quite as scary as Marc Forster tries to make him. Mathieu Amalric tries as hard as he can with what very little he is given, but the failure of Greene as a villain is down to the bland characterization.
Elsewhere, one thing I can’t accuse this film of is being boring or uninteresting. I have seen the film multiple times and I never get bored by it. It whips along at a breakneck pace (running only 107 minutes certainly helps) and it’s ultimately my go-to 007 movie when I need a film that just cuts the bullshit and gets straight to the action. The balance between the action sequences and the story is certainly well done. And on the topic of the story, the story is certainly one of the most interesting stories in the series. Environmentalism and seedy business practices seem to be the main theme of the film, and there’s an undeniable current of cynical, black humour throughout the film. Dominic Greene is an environmentalist who runs a company called Greene Planet (I know, how subtle), a company that focuses on progressive snd sustainable methods of keeping the Earth more environmentally friendly (eliminating fossil fuels, better management of oil) for a price- Bolivia’s entire water supply. The Bolivian water angle is certainly one of the most interesting things about it- even if the film hyper-focuses a bit more on the other methods to depict him as a well-intentioned villain. Technicality wise, the cinematography of the film is certainly stunning- Forster’s use of exotic locales is deftly-handled and well utilized, and even his attention to the little things is certainly admirable- for instance, the sequence of the Bolivians all crowding around the water tap is a prime example of this.
And in all the usual aspects- Daniel Craig is predictably great as Bond, Judi Dench’s M is never NOT sassy and charming, David Arnold’s score is beautiful and the action sequences, including an explosive finale in an eco-hotel is beautifully well done. And despite most of the flaws, Quantum is an enjoyable 007 movie that should, for the most part, satisfy your want for more 007. Oh make no mistake, this film clearly isn’t destined to become the next Thunderball, but it’s entertaining enough to pass as a Bond film, even if it’s not likely to be one you’ll pull off the Blu-ray shelf a lot.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Movie Rank - 7/10
Despite its few shortcomings, Quantum of Solace manages to impress and entertain, even if it does suffer the pressures put upon it by its predecessor.