Definitive Bond Marathon: Quantum of Solace (2008)
(directed by Marc Forster)
In the aftermath of 007’s (Daniel Craig) mission to trap Le Chiffre, Her
Majesty’s Secret Service received a rude awakening concerning the
existence of a new terrorist organization: Quantum. How was it that this
seemingly sophisticated, well funded and fully operational group could
come to be without our knowing was baffling to say the least, but
reality hit home when, upon interrogating one of its high ranking
associates Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in Siena Italy, an MI6 traitor
attempted to assassinate M (Judi Dench). 007 chased down and liquidated
the thug, but the event created new clues to the whereabouts and goals
of the terrorists.
Haiti was Bond’s next destination where
curious discoveries were made. First, almost all the leads on hand at
the time led 007 to a certain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a
successful business, philanthropist and environmentalist who was shaking
hands with the devil: exiled Bolivian general Medrano (Joaquin Cosio).
The reason behind this alliance remained a mystery for a while, but
things grew ever more interesting when a renegade Bolivian agent, the
stunning and headstrong Camille (Olga Kurylenko) not only made her
presence known but demonstrated her own vested interests in getting
close to Greene. She was, at first glance, the entrepreneur’s current
lover, but Bond’s association with her helped reveal some of the truth
behind Greene and General Medrano. Camille in fact wanted Greene dead
for some very personal reasons, and 007 needed to stop him before
controlling one of the world’s most precious resources...
Following the titanic success of Casino Royale in 2006, the
producers felt it smart to directly continue Bond’s mission from that
very film. After all, he had not been entirely successful. The
organization behind Le Chiffre was still at large and the mystery behind
Vesper’s betrayal remained unsolved. For the first time ever,
therefore, the James Bond franchise would be venturing into direct
sequel territory. It was a bold move considering that part of the
series’ strength was its continued ability to deliver fresh, stand alone
adventures for over 40 years. Nonetheless, the fans wanted more, so it
was decided to acquiesce.
The fruit of their efforts produced
mixed reactions among the fans, general movie goers and critics. It
certainly was interesting to see a direct sequel to a Bond film, but it
felt vastly different from its immediate predecessor. The tone, the
adventure, the visual style, it felt like there was a disconnect between
the two films rather than a strong connection, the latter being what
one would come to expect from a sequel. Yours truly had a similar
immediate reaction when seeing the film back in the fall of ’08. Indeed,
it was somewhat puzzling to witness a movie that supposedly picked up
where the previous one left off and yet feel as if it might have
belonged in a different franchise. But that was the gut reaction and, if
I am to be honest with myself and the readers, it was result of a wave
of negativity that washed over me. I went with the flow and thought,
like the majority of people, that the film was not very good, or at the
very least a major letdown. As is so often the case, time is the best
judge of how good or bad a film really is. This is a Bond movie, meaning
I’ve watched multiple times even though it’s only a few years old. I
certainly have not seen it as many times as the other instalments, but a
good handful of times.
Now, I think we still a long way from realizing that QOS is another OHMSS,
which was not so well received back in 1969 yet today is regarded as
one of the best episodes in the series. There are, let’s say, some
aspects to the film that go against some of my own cinematic principles,
but underneath it all I now understand that QOS is actually...not bad. Three principle reasons are the source of QOS’s ability to redeem itself despite its flaws.
first and second reasons go hand in hand. They are Daniel Craig and the
journey James Bond goes on. The actor at the center of it all is just
as good in QOS as he was in CR, even though he gives a decidedly different performance. It is a shame that we’ll have waited 4 years for SkyFall
(I love that I can actually write the title of that movie. No more Bond
23!) because Craig has an incredible presence as the famous secret
agent. More adventures with his type of Bond are a must. That magnetic
look of his is back this time, as is his undeniable physical presence.
Some might argue that he is a bit too one-note, not demonstrating too
much emotion, but I beg to differ. His interpretation of the character
is more serious, but also more humane than many previous versions of the
character, and to see him work with a script that thrusts Bond into
very dark, ambiguous emotional territory is really quite interesting.
Which brings us to the story, and by story I’m not referring to the
villain’s plot, which we shall discuss a bit later on, but rather the
personal journey of James Bond. It is reminiscent of LTK in
way, with Bond going rogue, somewhat, in a personal attempt to learn
what truly guided his now deceased lover Vesper Lynd to betray him at
the end of CR. It is darker territory than usual, thus giving the
protagonist fewer moments of wit and charm than he normally gets. There
is a little bit of that (like the scene where he pretends to be a
teacher to get the nice hotel room in Bolivia), so all is not lost, but
overall, one should realize that QOS is not the kind of Bond adventure in which a lot of jokes and wit is required. This isn’t TSWLM or YOLT.
This adventure sends Bond on dangerous ground, and not just because of
the hordes of villains he encounters. He operates directly against some
of M’s orders, killing people left and right, even potential informants.
That recklessness we saw in CR is back, but now it is driven by far
more personal reasons, which in a way makes 007 even more dangerous. In
that respect, even though the screenwriting trio of Wade, Purvis and
Hagis don’t deliver on the same level as they did in the previous film,
they nonetheless produce a good enough script in regards to Bond’s inner
The third reason that lifts Marc Forster’s film from
mediocrity is one that many people criticise, that is, the leading Bond
girl, Camille, played by relative newcomer at the time Olga Kurylenko. I
remember reading and listening to reviews of the movie and witnessing
people’s real disappointment with the character and the actress. I never
had a problem with either of those aspects. Is Kurylenko one of the
best actresses to play a Bond girl, No, I don’t think so. That being
said, she puts on a solid performance as an especially dangerous women
living the same situation as Bond is. There is some grit to her
performance and one can tell that the emotional baggage has created an
unmatched determination, discounting Bond himself of course. While it
might have satisfied the masses if Camille and Bond had shared a vintage
moment of 007 lovin’, it would never have felt right for the picture.
Forster wisely understands this and refuses to give into tradition.
There that single moment near the end when they share a quick kiss, but
the moment passes as quickly as it arrived. Given their near-identical
journeys, both characters work well with one another. Seeing Camille go
rogue to punish general Medrano is like Bond seeing himself in action.
At that point he has to wonder which of the two, the mission or the
vendetta, means more.
Now that the film has received its fair
share of praise, the time comes to study what does not work as well.
Well, for one, those title cards whenever Bond visits a new location.
Just kidding! I actually kind of like those. In all seriousness, there
are some incredibly important aspects of QOS which
unfortunately don’t jell well together. There is a saying, I believe,
which states that a hero is only as good as his villain. While Bond can
afford to be the exception because of his iconic personality and style,
that does not excuse the existence of a villain as boring as Dominic
Greene. Let us be clear, Mathieu Amalric is a fine, fine actor, maybe
one of the best actors working today. Suffice to say, he does not really
work as a Bond villain. It feels as though Forster was trying to
replicate the success of Le Chiffre, who was physically strange, very
smart and conniving. One might be led to believe that Amalric fits the
bill, but the performance simply never feels as convincing as it should.
He has a good stare, true, but that is essentially the end of it. Him
going toe to toe with Bond at the end is completely ridiculous. In all
honesty, Craig should be totally crushing this little man. His plot is
equally disappointing, what with Quantum desiring to control Bolivia’s
water resources. Sure, water is precious and in our day and age of
environmental sensibility, its worth has taken on an entirely greater
meaning, but that’s a rather paltry goal, is it not? Zzzz....
other miscue, or miscues, is the erratic editing chosen by Forster and
his team to show off what could have been outstanding action sequences. I
distinctively recall watching the video diaries during all of ’08 in
anticipation of the film’s release and seeing all the remarkable
preparation that went into the stunts. Co-producer Michael G. Wilson was
excited about using an old cargo plane for a dog fight in the sky,
there was going to be an insane boat chase, a hotel was going to blow up
in the middle of the desert, Bond would chase someone on rooftops in
Siena, Marc Forster was thrilled to be directing an action film for the
first time, etc. This was supposed to have better action than CR
and on paper, it does. The variety of crazy things Bond performs in the
film is impressive on paper. On film, much of it is an incomprehensible
mess. For the number of times I’ve watched this movie, I could not tell
you what happens, beat for beat, in that opening car chase. A gun is
fired, Bond swirls his car, his driver side door is ripped off at some
point by something, maybe, I don’t know. It really is a massive letdown
to witness such dedicated preparation not pay off on film because of the
editors and director. There are moments of hope, glimmers of
brilliance, but on the whole QOS is terribly below par when it comes to the action.
the time all is said and done after 110, my general feelings are that
some critical opportunities were missed, ones that just might have made
the best Bond film ever. A strong character piece mixed with some
stunning stunt work. Plus, there was a female version of Bond living the
same turmoil as him, thus offering our hero with a mirror view onto
himself. It is strange that one of the aspects that drag the film down
happens to be something the series has always prided itself on:
incredible action to thrill audiences. That is the single biggest
disappointment. Bond films have offered subpar villains before, but
never has the action been as poorly showcased as it is in QOS. And yet, despite what holds the film back, I believe there is a fair bit of merit to be found here.