WARNING...THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
There are very few sequels in existence that are as good as, if not better than, the film that proceeded it. As much as I wanted Quantum of Solace to fall into this category, it just doesn’t. After months of buildup, spoiler avoidance, page creation and mixed reviews, it was tough to go into the movie with no expectations and an open mind, but I did my best. That said, Quantum of Solace is a good, but not great, addition to the James Bond series that succeeds more as an action movie than a Bond flick.
Quantum of Solace starts off ten minutes after the close of Casino Royale and immediately finds 007 in a car chase with no explanation as to who is chasing him and why. Sure, if you had seen the previous movie you would know that he had just shot Mr. White in the leg and was probably fleeing from his villa and being chased by White’s bodyguards, but, as is the case with most of the movie, you are left to figure things out on your own. The movie then slows down for a few minutes in order for M and Bond to interrogate Mr. White, but before any really useful information can be obtained, another chase scene ensues.
Here lies the problem with Quantum of Solace; it seems that all too often character development and exposition are tossed aside to cram in one more jumpy action scene. It’s tough enough to have a good balance between story and action in a normal-length Bond film, let alone in the shortest one of the series. As a result, the viewer never really gets to know or care about any of the new characters or their backgrounds.
Dominic Greene had potential to be one of the more memorable villains of the series and started out strong by ordering the murder of Camille: the woman he loves. However, with a few exceptions, the rest of his time on screen is spent acting as a corrupt businessman, hatching schemes and spelling out the plot for the audience instead of showing it to them. He never gets the chance to be truly nefarious.
Another misstep was Agent Fields, who despite being an allegory for Bond’s trail of destruction of innocence, was really only in the movie to give 007 a beauty to seduce. When she finally does become the sacrificial lamb, the audience is left wondering, “why should we care?”
Fortunately, enough time is spent on Camille’s character to make her one of the best Bond Girls in recent memory. She has her own agenda and does not need Bond, though she is happy to have him helping out. Much has been made about the fact that she does not sleep with Bond, but even more impressive is that he kisses her and she does not even reciprocate that. Solid back story and exposition allows the viewer to truly emphasize with her and makes her and her motivations extremely believable.
Pacing and character development issues aside, the movie does get a lot right. Daniel Craig continues to play the role of James Bond the way Ian Fleming wrote him and many loose ends from Casino Royale were cleaned. The film takes also begins to dig deeper into Quantum, which looks to be a modern-day SPECTRE and is one of the most exciting developments in the Bond world in decades. While I would have liked to see more revealed about the organization, the film provided just enough new information to satisfy the casual viewer and to make the more fanatical amongst us long for the day when the head of Quantum is revealed: hopefully in You Only Live Twice style.
Quantum of Solace Midnight Opening Ticket. Ziegfeld Theater, New York City
Sporting the largest budget of the series, Quantum of Solace fit in nearly every type of Bondian chase sequence including car, boat, plane, motorcycle, parachute and foot. If there had been a ski chase and a space battle it would have had them all. While some of these chases rank amongst the best of the series, they almost lose their effect when the audience is pummeled with them one after the other. It also didn’t help that the camera work and editing were very Bourne-esque: aka, jumpy with lots of quick cuts. In the end, none of the action sequences really stand out over the others.
One scene that does stand out is the Tosca opera sequence, which was as close to classic 007 as Quantum of Solace comes. The blue eye stage backdrop was stunning and reminiscent of a classic Ken Adams set while Bond actually had to rely on his skills as a spy instead of brute force. Even better was the chase scene out of the theatre during which the only sounds heard were the calming arias of Tosca and not the clamor of gunshots and ensuing calamity.
Keep in mind that this review was written after only one viewing and will probably change with each subsequent watching. That said, Quantum of Solace is a middle of the road James Bond movie that seems more like a 106 minute final action scene for Casino Royale than its own entity. The film is extremely uneven and often does not feel like a Bond movie. However, at other times it feels like classic 007 and for that alone I give it a...
Bond and Camille in Quantum of Solace
Things I Liked:
- The way the city names were displayed (a lot of people disliked this, I thought it was clever)
- Bond hands Greene’s goon a Universal Exports business card
- Felix Leiter’s character and growing relationship with Bond
- M had a huge and great role
- Mr. White’s interrogation scene
- The Tosca scene
- Greene’s fundraiser party
Things I Disliked:
- Dominic Greene’s character is wasted
- Confusing plot
- Gunbarrel sequence at the end of the movie
- No Bond, James Bond or shaken, not stirred
- With so many locations in such a short time, none really leave an impact
- The death of Mathis and the handling of his body