Quantum of Solace
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Own it on Blu-ray and DVD
Director: Marc Forster
Writers: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Stars: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright
MPAA Rating: PG-13
“If you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated.”
– M, Quantum of Solace
Quantum of Solace is the sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale (which makes it the 22nd Bond film overall). The film begins where Casino Royale left off, meaning that James Bond is still upset over the death of Vesper Lynd and is looking for revenge on the people who turned her against him. Unfortunately, he can’t seem to do it without killing every possible lead.
Bond begins looking into the secret organization named Quantum that Casino Royale’s villain, Le Chiffre, was working for, which leads him to the beautiful Camille (played by Olga Kurylenko) and the evil Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric). Greene is aiding a military leader in Bolivia named General Medrano, who is seeking to overthrow the Bolivian government. Greene promises General Medrano that he can help him rise to power in exchange for land in the desert that is seemingly worthless. Camille, who like Bond is motivated by revenge, wants to kill General Medrano and is using Greene to get close to him. Bond also crosses paths with Strawberry Fields (played by Gemma Arterton), who works at the British consulate in Bolivia and is tasked with bringing Bond back in from the field.
In addition to the new characters, there are also several familiar faces from Casino Royale. Judi Dench is back as M (and is given a more substantial role this time around), Giancarlo Giannini returns as René Mathis (who helps Bond in this film even though Bond accused him of being a traitor in Casino Royale) and Jeffrey Wright is back as CIA Agent Felix Leiter (who is put in a tough spot in this film, since the CIA is morally-ambiguous about Greene’s actions and is willing to look the other way while Greene attempts to overthrow the Bolivian government if the arrangement is beneficial to America).
Being a Bond film, the four most important elements are the action scenes, the Bond girls, the villain and the gadgets, so let’s take briefly a look at each of these elements in Quantum of Solace.
The action scenes in the film are all top notch. The movie includes an opening car chance sequence (Bond is driving a beautiful Aston Martin DBS V12), a boat chase and an airplane dogfight. Probably the best scene of the three is the boat chase, but all three sequences are well done and enjoyable to watch. I could tell they probably played great on the big screen, but even on DVD the scenes still held up well.
The Bond girls in the film are certainly lovely, but neither one is overly memorable. Olga Kurylenko does a very convincing job in all of her action sequences, but I never felt invested in her character. There is something about Camille that just falls flat. I wanted to root for her to get her revenge, but I found myself not really caring about her backstory or her presence in the film. Gemma Arterton is incredibly charming as Strawberry Fields (which is a great name, even if it’s no Pussy Galore), but she was woefully underused and wasn’t really given enough scenes to make an impact on the film. More Fields and less Camille probably would have worked better, since smaller doses of Camille might have hidden the character’s flaws and more screentime for Arterton would have given Fields a chance to shine. As it stands, neither character comes close to the great job Eva Green did playing Vesper in Casino Royale.
The movie’s villain is perhaps the most disappointing element of the film. Unlike previous Bond villains, there is nothing grotesque or odd about Greene’s appearance, which could have worked, except there is also nothing interesting about his character. His plan to help overthrow Bolivia isn’t very exciting and even his secret use for the stretch of desert he wants, while evil, is incredibly boring. There is absolutely nothing memorable or exciting about Greene. And General Medrano is such a generic military dictator that he ends up being quite forgettable as well.
Like Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is light on gadgets (since the makers of these films have decided to make Daniel Craig’s James Bond a more grounded and realistic version of the character). However, there are still a few interesting bits of spy gear, including Bond’s digital camera with facial recognition software and the fancy touchscreen computer used by MI6. While these devices certainly aren’t as exciting as some of the devices seen in previous Bond films, they work in this film.
In fact, fancy gadgets would have definitely seemed out of place in Quantum of Solace. The film goes out of its way to avoid the flashiness and slick look of previous Bond incarnations. While Bond does drive a beautiful Aston Martin in the opening car chase, throughout the rest of the film he travels in a rusty boat, a beat up VW bug and a low-tech vintage DC-3 airplane. Bond also spends a large chunk of his time in the same dirty, bloodstained shirt and travels through grimy street scenes and a vast desert, which definitely gives the movie a gritty feel. It’s not exactly what you expect from a Bond flick, but I liked the grungy, low-tech look of the movie. Since Bond was brooding over the loss of Vesper, the look of the film seemed to reflect his dark mood.
Unfortunately, I can’t say that I completely loved Quantum of Solace. While I enjoyed the action sequences, the look of the film and parts of the overall story, the blandness of Camille, Greene and General Medrano kept me from truly enjoying this Bond movie. I won’t try to compare it to previous incarnations of Bond, which I feel would be unfair, but I do feel like it’s fair to compare it against its predecessor, Casino Royale, which was a much better film. Vesper and Le Chiffre made Casino Royale better and overall I was definitely more emotionally-invested in that story.
The two-disc special edition comes with a variety of extras, including the “Another Way to Die” music video featuring Alicia Keys and Jack White, a series of “Crew Files” behind-the-scene clips (which were originally produced as webisodes for the Quantum of Solace website) and a variety of featurettes. The most interesting bonus feature is a half-hour featurette called “Bond on Location,” which gives a nice behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the movie. There are also a series of two to three minute featurettes including “Start of Shooting,” “Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase” and “Director Marc Forster,” but these short clips cover a lot of the same areas that “Bond on Location” does (and often use the exact same footage), so they really feel like a waste of time.
Overall, I’m fairly ambivalent about Quantum of Solace. It had quite a few great elements in it and it was by no means a terrible film, but it wasn’t a particularly great one either. Including a host of great features on the special edition might have made it worth the asking price, but the special features are fairly cookie-cutter and not terribly exciting. If you enjoyed Casino Royale, then I definitely recommend at least renting Quantum of Solace to see the next chapter in the life of Daniel Craig’s James Bond, but I can’t really recommend purchasing the DVD unless you are a diehard Bond fan who is looking to complete your collection.
Written by Joel Murphy. Quantum of Solace is available Blu-ray and DVD now.