Quantum Of Solace


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Quantum Of Solace
"In the lead, the icy-eyed Daniel Craig is flawless again and is dangerously close to becoming my favourite James Bond (Sean and Roger, I’m sorry)."

After the surprising success of franchise re-booting Casino Royale, a new chapter in the Bond series was as close to a certainty as Hollywood can offer. With virtually no Ian Fleming material left to cherry-pick from, Quantum of Solace (which means the smallest possible amount of human comfort) is based on an original idea by producer Michael G. Wilson and is the first series 'sequel' as it picks up roughly 20 minutes after the last instalment.

Still angry over the death of his beloved Vesper, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is hell-bent on finding those responsible and getting revenge. In the process, he uncovers the existence of a powerfully-connected crime syndicate and comes up against one of its leading members, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who is trying to corner Bolivia's water supply. Going rogue after being ordered to stand down by M (Judi Dench), Bond teams up with the undercover Camille (Olga Kurylenko), gets help from old contact Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and learns that peace of mind is hard to come by.

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With fanboys - including myself - lining the streets in their rental-wear tuxedos, would it live up to the promise?

Quantum Of Solace is, predictably, not as good as Casino Royale. Though still superior to most flicks in the Bond dossier, it falls down in the inevitable comparison to its brilliant predecessor and you can't help but feel a tad disappointed. While I concede that it didn't have the 'surprise' factor that Casino Royale did, Quantum Of Solace, sadly, values action above Bond's inner-journey and lacks the personal angle that made the last outing so memorable. Indeed, for those of us that loved the personal angle last time, producer Barbara Broccoli’s promise of “twice as much action” here was nothing short of head-scratching.

Ultimately, by living up to this absurd idea, Quantum Of Solace spoils its potential. With the 100 mph-action overpowering everything else on screen for the first half, there is far too little time afforded to those commodities which I like to call character, plot and good, old-fashioned pithy dialogue. As soon as the lights dim, the movie roars frenetically into gear and rarely lets up with multiple chases, punch-ups and death defying acts all filmed in that now-familiar Bourne-style shaky cam (unsurprising given that second unit director Dan Bradley worked on both The Bourne Ultimatum and The Bourne Supremacy). Years ago, everyone copied the wire work from The Matrix, now every action movie looks like it was filmed by someone with Parkinson’s.

On the other hand, this does lead to some very impressive sequences. Bond's tiled-rooftop foot-chase has a few vertigo-inducing jumps, the subsequent broken scaffolding fight where he and his quarry are hanging by chains is nicely done (the camera work as they fall through is superb) and a brief apartment scrap packs a brutal punch. Unfortunately, while the numerous other action scenes offer bangs galore, they are just too long and end up being something that you are sitting through as opposed to being thrilled by. It says a lot that Daniel Craig felt Casino Royale was (physically) "a walk in the park" compared to this.

Frustratingly, when it does focus on Bond's broken emotional state, Quantum Of Solace is captivating. Complete with David Arnold’s haunting piano from Casino Royale, whenever the subject of Vesper arises we feel for our hero as his barely-contained rage and trying-to-fool-himself denial shows how hard loss can be on the soul. Given that director Marc Foster is know for emotional dramas such as Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner, it isn't surprising that he effectively pokes away at Bond's fractured psyche, it's just disappointing that there isn't more of it (the trailer shows many of the key moments). Stating before filming that the most interesting place for a Bond movie to go is inward (spot on), , Foster has shown himself to be a tease.

Though some critics have bemoaned that many series trademarks are still absent (ie Q, Miss Moneypenny, puns galore, bald cat-stroking villains), these facets aren’t needed to make a good James Bond motion picture as Martin Campbell proved last time. What will please 007-fans however is the amount of subtle hat-tips to previous pictures; death by skin suffocation for a Bond girl (Goldfinger), death by neck-tie (The Spy Who Loved Me), a rogue mission (Licence To Kill), a heroine out for revenge (For Your Eyes Only) and James sleeping with the agent sent to curtail him (too many to mention).As for the title, while it has been met with a general ‘what the huh?’ feeling, I think it’s perfect as it suits the plot and tone of the movie. I mean, does every one have to involve the words kill, die, live or gold?

In the lead, the icy-eyed Daniel Craig is flawless again and is dangerously close to becoming my favourite James Bond (Sean and Roger, I’m sorry). In support, while the bug-eyed Amalric, plummy Gemma Arterton and silver-fox Giannini are decent despite bare-bones development, Kurylenko makes the best impression as she serves as a useful mirror to Bond’s vengeance-lusting frame of mind. Blowing them all away though is the hotter-than-she-should-be Dench, who shows how to make moisturising look ominous.

Overall, the quality of Casino Royale is the biggest problem this movie faces. As it reminded me of Batman Begins in so many ways (re-booting a near-dead franchise with a darkly realistic grass roots approach), I badly wanted Quantum Of Solace to ‘do a Dark Knight’ (more of the same but arguably more epic). However, I’m sure it will improve with time as it’s still eons ahead of anything in the Brosnan-era and is up there with the better movies in the series. Though hard to be seen as anything other than a backwards step and Craig’s “we can have a submarine base in the next one” comments point to a worrying future, the 22nd Bond is still eons ahead of anything in the Brosnan-era and up there with the best in the series. Surely there’s more than a quantum of solace can be taken from that…

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2008
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Bond is back... and this time it's personal.
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Robyn Jankel ***

Director: Marc Forster

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis, based on characters by Ian Fleming

Starring: Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton, Olga Kurylenko, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Stana Katic

Year: 2008

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK, USA


London 2008

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