Who doesn’t love a hearty helping of disappointment to go with their turkey and potatoes?
Fifteen years ago, many of us experienced the gut punch that was Quantum of Solace, the underwhelming and disjointed follow-up to one of the greatest James Bond films ever produced, Casino Royale. That film, directed by Martin Campbell, breathed new life into the long-running franchise. It ditched the invisible cars and secret volcano lairs for a character-focused drama with more minor, personal stakes and a captivating, even flawed hero capable of making mistakes.
Casino Royale also ended on a cliffhanger, leaving audiences eager to see how Bond would exact his revenge on Mr. White and the people responsible for killing his beloved Vesper (Eva Green). The trailer for QoS promised as much, showing Daniel Craig slowly walking over a hill carrying a massive machine gun while M (Judi Dench) rattled off words like “revenge” and “inconsolable rage.” Were we getting a good old-fashioned revenge thriller starring James Bond — a la License To Kill?
I saw QoS on opening weekend with my brother. He saw it the night before and was thoroughly disgusted, noting that the action scenes were hard to follow and the plot veered away from the revenge angle and made little sense. His second viewing did little to dissuade him.
Me? I dug it. I thought it was raw, edgy, and violent. I didn’t much care for the confusing plot or anything involving Olga Kurylenko‘s character. Still, I appreciated Marc Forster‘s go-for-broke direction, the Bourne-like fight scenes, and the kinetic action. It was weird, trippy, but still entertaining. I mean, watch the opera scene — it’s bonkers!
We don’t get enough oddball big-budget releases, willing to throw a few curveballs now and again to keep us on the edge of our seats.
While Quantum of Solace may not be considered a great James Bond film, it is a decent sequel to Casino Royale, a movie that takes the franchise in some exciting new directions. However, since neither Skyfall nor Spectre pursued these ideas, QoS remains stranded on an island with Timothy Dalton’s movies and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – entries that dared to deviate from the formula, for better or worse.
My latest viewing only confirmed this belief.
QoS picks up immediately after Casino Royale, with Bond evading a crew of baddies in an energetic chase sequence that will make you cheer and vomit in equal measure. Cars explode, tumble off hills, and crash into bulldozers. All the while, Craig vigorously turns his steering wheel with all the rage of a cat who just realized its favorite toy is stuck under the fridge — a setting the actor maintains for 106 minutes.
Eventually, we discover a remarkably puke-free Mr. White in Bond’s trunk, leading to the opening credits. The song by Alicia Keys and Jack White doesn’t work for everyone. It perfectly sums up the film — chaotic, relentless, irreverent, off-key, and campy as hell.
While it mostly misses its mark (sometimes by a good mile or two), I appreciate its willingness to make viewers squirm in their seats. One does not sit back and enjoy QoS. Forster grabs you by the collar and drags you through the mud (and oil) for an hour and forty-five minutes, practically daring you to have fun.
Along the way, screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade do some nifty world-building. They establish the mysterious Quantum organization that seemingly has its hands in organizations worldwide. Rather than blow up the world with lasers, these modern-day baddies decide to follow No. 2’s plan and grow their evil empire through more covert means — environmental exploitation, political manipulation, and arms dealing. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) plans to monopolize Bolivia’s water supply, giving Quantum immense power and influence.
Not as cinematic as a laser, sure, but at least it’s semi-realistic. More importantly, Quantum makes Vesper’s death in Casino Royale more significant. Her actions led Bond to uncover the evil enterprise, leaving 007 to execute his mission ruthlessly. He fights harder, runs faster, and pushes himself to extremes in his rage over her loss.
We can debate whether Bond needed to rip off Bond-knock off Bourne another time. For now, just enjoy the chaos:
And this goofy, oddly CGI’d parachute sequence: <iframe title=”YouTube video player” src=” allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″> Like I said, QoS doesn’t play around. The pic goes hits the gas and doesn’t stop until that insane hotel sequence: <iframe title=”YouTube video player” src=” allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″> Clever nods to past Bond films are sprinkled throughout, including this juicy bit ripped straight out of Goldfinger: <iframe title=”YouTube video player” src=” allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″> Bond’s loyalties are pushed to the limit. Is he merely a brute with a gun or a loyal operative with his sights set on the Queen and country? Watch this last scene and decide for yourself: <iframe title=”YouTube video player” src=” allowfullscreen=”allowfullscreen” width=”560″ height=”315″ frameborder=”0″> Bond undergoes a critical transformation here. M pointed out his lust for violence and lack of compassion in Casino Royale. Here, 007 goes hard into blunt instrument territory but regains his humanity after witnessing the actions and sacrifices of those around him — namely Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), the awkwardly named Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), and Camille (Kurylenko). So, while the mission may not be the most exciting, QoS plays a significant role in shaping Bond’s character.
Embrace the weird, and you may get a kick out of Quantum of Solace. At the very least, Forster’s film provides some nice closure to Casino Royale and lets Bond off the leash for a spell. What’s not to love about that?
Casino Royale, Skyfall, Spectre, and No Time to Die are undoubtedly superior films. Yet, Quantum of Solace is like that weird brother-in-law who gets plastered and shoots off firecrackers in the backyard on Thanksgiving. You don’t want to spend too much time with him, but he’s a welcome diversion from the usual holiday festivities.