Quantum of Solace (2008)

Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: Quantum of Solace. We are still hot on the trail of Mr. White and the secret organization to which he belongs. We had him, but their inside man not only let Mr. White escape, but also posed a threat directly to M. Your mission 007 is to follow the leads, and hopefully keep them alive long enough to learn something new about this organization. It looks like environmentalist Dominic Greene may be connected some how.

The Beginning

The opening of the film really sets the tone for what the rest of the film is going to be like. We open shortly after the conclusion of the previous film,Casino Royale, and Bond is involved in a really well constructed and exciting car chase. What we see here is pure brute force and action, which is an indicator of things to come. What is even more is there is only one line to dialogue in the entire scene, and not only is it a great line which builds on the aura of Bond which was created by Daniel Craig’s first effort in the series, but it also puts an endcap on what was one of the more high intensity opening sequences in the series, even if it was much more simple than many others. But what I like about the sequence is how it rolls directly into the rest of the film. After the credit sequence we go right back to where we were, which doesn’t happen too much, if at all, in the series. This choice makes the film much more chronologically sound and makes it flow very nicely.

And after that line we are trust right into the credit sequence which, in and of itself, is not notable other than the theme song this go around, which I would argue is the best theme song in the entire series. The song is “Another Way to Die” by Jack White & Alicia Keys. I can accept that not everybody will probably say it is the best in the series, but from my perspective it is. True I am a fan of both artists, but Jack White was the perfect choice for this installment. Given the gritty tone of the film, Jack White fits that bill musically, and his composition here is awesome, allowing for the beautiful voice of Alicia Keys to compliment the bluesy voice of White. This dynamic is not even dissimilar to the relationship of Bond and the main Bond girl Camille either. I loved it and thought it was perfect for what was going on.

Location

Italy, London, Haiti, Austria, Bolivia (the use of the location prompts was brilliant btw)

Allies

M

We continue to see more involvement on the part of M ever since Judi Dench took over the role in the first Pierce Brosnan film, which makes sense given the ability of Dench. She is very hands on this go around, being on sight to help question Mr. White during the short time they actually have him in custody. And not only that, she is still as human as ever, reacting just the right way to the news that the organization has men on the inside of MI6, as close as her personal assistant. She expresses genuine worry and concern while maintaining her edge as the head of MI6. Her relationship with Bond is really well set up. She obviously has worries about Bond’s methods, but still cannot deny his ability as an agent to complete the mission. At the same time, Bond reciprocates this by almost taking the mission on as a sort of redemption for M being threatened by the organization. Their relationship is one far more interesting than it has ever been before.

Rene Mathis

Our friend Mathis turns back up, even after Bond not trusting him last go around, but ti is clear her is an ally, which says a lot about Mathis to be able to forgive Bond for what he did to him before. Bond goes to him after M puts a stop to his credit cards and the two travel to Austria to hunt down Dominic Greene. Mathis is steadfast in his relationship with Bond, taking a personal interest in his well being and his mission against Greene. His time in the Bond films comes to an unfortunate end, but Bond’s dealing with the situation is quite telling.

Felix Leiter

Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter is back this time, and working in the same area in which Bond in operating: Bolivia. He is shown as working under a sleazy superior, but what I like about this version of Leiter is his ability to say true to his values. His boss tells him that if they only worked with good people they wouldn’t work with anyone, but Leiter is still skeptical of Greene, and always willing to lend Bond a helping hand for him to do his mission and take down the bad guy. I think Felix would do the job if he could, but working in the American CIA system, he sees that Bond has the freedom and ability to do what he himself cannot do at this time, which is fight the bad guys.

Enemies

Dominic Greene

Once again we see another fairly weak villain at least in terms of physical stature. Played by Mathieu Amalric, Greene is short and has no real firepower other than his money and his hired hands, who aren’t even really all that intimidating. But he is part of the larger organization, which means he has their support and backing, and as we have seen previously, they can be the intimidating, driving force to make a real threat to Bond and to England. He is very smart and very rich, which makes his political moves threatening, especially when it comes to the prospect of basically holding the natural resources of an entire country for ransom.

General Medrano

Medrano is not so much connected to Bond as he is to the threat of another military dictator in a South American country, and to Camille. He is being helped by Greene to take over Bolivia, and at the same time is being hunted by Camille for revenge on her family, whom Medrano killed.

Mr. White

Mr. White bears mentioning once again here because he is one little pesky devil. Finally captured, he escapes the clutches of MI6 and appears again hiding just enough for Bond not to notice. He is quietly intimidating in what he knows and what he can do. He comes in and out of the picture with just enough snare and bravado to make you hate him, but because of that, I actually love him. Mr. White is one of the better creations by the franchise for basically embodying an entire secret organization that threatens the entire world. Jesper Christiansen is fantastic in the role as well.

The Girls

Camille

Camille is an interesting character because I can see a lot of Bond in her. We eventually learn that she is a Bolivian equivalent to Bond much like Agent XXX was in The Spy Who Loved Me, but she is even more so like Bond in her motives. She is after revenge for what Medrano did to her family where Bond is after revenge for what they did to M, or what situation they put her in, as well as revenge for what had happened to Vesper of course. She is a beautiful woman, but also one tough cookie, which I really like about her character. She is not developed very deeply, and does not have a mystery surrounding her to make her one of the better Bond girls, but she is a nice addition to the series. I cannot say that Olga Kurylenko was a disappointment in the role.

Strawberry Fields

While in the film she is only ever referred to as “Fields”, not wanting to reveal her first name, I find it interesting that the character is credited as being named Strawberry Fields, which is a really fun name when you think about it, and it makes perfect sense why she didn’t want to tell them her full name. But not revealing this fact in the film is perfect, almost like an Easter Egg in the credits. She is one of those Bond girls who is underqualified for what Bond puts her through, and even more sad when one considers her fate. I think M put it best. She had perhaps what was the time of her life with the charming, sexy, and careless Bond just to lead to her death. She was collateral damage that Bond may have felt sorry for, but if he did, not for longer than perhaps a minute before moving on with his mission. Also, this is the start of my crush on Gemma Arterton. It helped that she was a redhead here.

Q Branch

Once again we have no Q Branch in this film, which has me wondering when it will pop back up in the series, since it has been one of the best parts of the long franchise. I assume they are waiting for the right time/actor/situation to bring Q back, which is fine because these last two efforts have worked fine without him. The only really neat thing here has to be all of the tough screen technology at the MI6 offices. They have a table that is basically the worlds smartest computer, and M has an office wall that does the same thing. If only I could have a wall like that.

The Car & the Chase

There are a number of chase scenes in this action packed film, starting right off the bat with the car chase which opens the film. Bond is driving the Aston Martin DBS and really tears it apart getting away first from the bad guys then from the cops. There is a lot of damage inflicted on the town, the cars, and the people involved. It is a really fun romp. Then we are quickly shown another nice foot chase when Bond pursues Mitchell, the MI6 agent who was the organization’s inside man. The chase takes place on rooftops in Italy and is a really fun chase as well, but let this be the first place where the name of the Bourne franchise be uttered because there is certainly an influence or a Bourne feeling there.

Then there comes the boat chase when Bond saves Camille from General Medrano, or better saves Medrano from Camille. This is a fairly average scene for the franchise. It has some cool stunts and nice touches but does not really do anything to make it particularly memorable. And the last chase is the plane chase, which like the boat chase, is fairly common for the franchise, which is not to say it is bad because like everything else it is actually quite fun, it just does not rank with the opening car chase or some of the other memorable moments in Bond history.

Mission Debriefing

When Quantum of Solace was originally released after the smashing success of Casino Royale, it received very lukewarm reviews and a rather cold reception from Bond fans who thought it was one of the lesser Bonds ever created. From the first time I ever saw the film I always found that criticism to be way off base. I can agree with the multitudes of fans who find Casino Royale to be one of the best, if not the best, Bond ever made, but I feel like that simply made the reaction to Quantum overblown. It is not as good as CR, I can admit that, and easily. It is made differently, in a different style, evoking different things. It is not meant to be the next CR, even if it does follow the narrative and the timeline of it. Quantum of Solace is a different Bond, just like CR was, but this time it is only different to those who have only seen Casino Royale, if that makes sense. In my opinion, this film sort of goes back to the basics of the franchise, even if it does leave out the gun barrel shot and Q Branch. Quantum of Solace takes the character of Bond, played brilliantly once again by Daniel Craig, and sends him on a mission to get a bad guy and on the way so serious action happens. That is Bond, that is what Bond is about. Just because it is not as grand in scope or character as Casino Royale should not make this film a disappointment, just different. There is a lot of good things going on in this film.

Another main criticism, and the one I would like to tackle first, is that this was a direct response to the success of the Jason Bourne series. I have to totally agree with that assessment as the editing and the sheer volume of action in the film indicate a direct response to Matt Damon’s Bourne. But that being said, I do not think it is entirely a bad thing. With how the franchise set up this new Bond in Craig’s first outing, doesn’t it makes sense that the brutish Bond who goes around beating people up and taking care of business would be better suited for this type of film? If anything, Casino Royale is the exception to this version of Bond. We saw his aggression and reckless abandon, so that is what happens here. Setting up the character that way in the first is more of a copy of Bourne than this being a simple extension of that really. And like I said, the action is good, especially the rooftop chase which is so reminiscent of Bourne. Surely that makes it a little less original, but it takes nothing away from the entertainment value, which is fairly high.

And to further the discussion of how different this film is from Casino Royale, let me talk about the technical aspects of the film. First I want to talk about the use of CGI, which I applauded the first film from refraining to use. Well here it is used, and quite a bit, but it really works within the framework of the story and how director Marc Forster is trying to tell the story. In that regard I cannot really complain about its use. And working off Forster, I think it is clear that he is much more stylish with the camera than Martin Campbell was. Campbell is solid as a rock with the camera and really delivers a nicely directed film, but I think Forster has more stylish shots here than in Casino Royale, but that comes down from having a film that is better suited for it, being a stylized action film to begin with. That is not a slight on Campbell of Forster, in fact it is a compliment to both. And what really capped this film off nicely was the sound. All around the sound and the use of sound really made this a cool film. They way it was cut in and out, especially in the films opening really caught my attention and I really dug it throughout.

And once again I feel like I have hardly talked about the film that much and I am already three paragraphs in to the review. Narratively I think the film is kind of weak, which is probably why many people point to it as being a weaker Bond film. The continuation of the mystery organization is a great touch and I think handled quite well. We finally get a reveal to the society in a brilliant outdoor opera scene. I love this scene through and through with one exception: the fact that when Bond reveals he has been listening in and their cover is now blown, they all decide to get up, walk out, and essentially reveal themselves to Bond. And of course, Mr. White is the one who does not do this. It seems implausible that the men behind this super secretive organization, who have been so careful keeping it a secret for as long as they have, would be so careless in this case. But while that does not make sense, the name of the organization, Quantum, and the title of the film are really great. The name fits with the organization and works as a really great phrase to describe the film. Bond is seeking revenge for M and more especially for Vesper and he finds the minimal amount in his work against the organization named Quantum. One of the better titles in the series in my opinion.

The end of the film, while not a let down, is not the strongest in the film either, which comes off the fairly weak main plot with Dominic Greene to begin with. It certainly hits a current note by making the film about oil and water. Oil is obviously a big time political topic all around the world, but water is quickly becoming a highly sought after resource. But I just never felt anything from the character of Greene, even if I like Amalric. The writers just failed to pen a very interesting villain in this case. Because of this the ending showdown, while having some nice action, didn’t carry the stakes it maybe should have. Setting it in the desert hotel was  nice touch however. It was like a house of cards falling down around both Medrano and Greene. I also feel it is necessary to mention the Goldfinger reference, with Fields covered in oil. I like that touch personally, even if others didn’t. It is a Bond moment copied for effect and it is applicable to the plot at hand.

Daniel Craig returns with another great performance but with perhaps a little bit less in terms of character to work with. However, the film ends in an interesting way as Bond sort of turns a page in letting Vesper’s old boyfriend go, who it is revealed is a bad guy wooing government employees, like Vesper and the Canadian agent he is with, into bad situations where they will do anything to “save” him from the bad guys. Bond shows a sort of mercy he has not shown before, at least not in the Craig films. It is hard to tell if this is him showing mercy to the guy, or if instead it is showing a side that he has gotten over Vesper and does not care to kill him because he longer cares for Vesper and what happened to her. It is definitely an interesting ending, a sort of cliffhanger as we lead into the next Bond film, Skyfall. I am really interested to see what direction the series takes under new director Sam Mendes, but I am excited nonetheless. Quantum of Solace has some issues with it, certainly, but it is not one of the worst in the franchise. In fact, it has a number of things I really really liked and will keep bringing me back to this particular film.

James Bond will return in…

Skyfall

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