For the first time in the franchise’s long and colourful history has a James Bond film received a direct sequel. After the origin story of the excellent and hugely successful “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace” picks up right where its predecessor left off to explore not only the maturation of Bond himself and his desire for revenge but also the makings of the Quantum organisation which had been hinted at previously. With the super-cool ending of Royale still ringing in our ears, the possible development of such a storyline pleased even old-school Bond diehards that might have demanded the franchise to tell self-contained stories. The choice of Swiss director Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball” and “Finding Neverland”) to hold the reins too hinted at the possibility of intense and intimate dramatic moments as the returning Daniel Craig comes to terms with the loss of the only woman he’s ever loved.
After he shakes off his pursuers, James Bond (Craig) manages to bring his only lead on Vesper’s death in for questioning by M (Judy Dench). However it seems the Quantum organisation have infiltrated even MI6 and he too escapes. Connections lead to Haiti and a business mogul Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is involved in destabilising the Bolivian government for a rebel general. Also after said general is Greene’s ex-lover Camille Montes (Ukranian model turned actress Olga Kurylenko) who mirrors Bond’s quest for revenge. Globe-trotting with a trail of bodies and destruction is the inevitable result. Explosive action punctuates the pictures far more frequently than even previous Bonds have, Forster searching for a counterpoint to Bond’s quiet brooding. From the opening car trash-up through an exhilarating chase across the rooftops Siena to an a very well staged sequence at the Bregenz opera, the cinematography of the choreographed mayhem is of fine craft indeed and this permeates the entire picture. Ever more reminiscent of the Jason Bourne series, the action is gritty and brutal and fits well with the re-imagined image of Bond as an emotional wreck. On this second outing, Craig is secure and professional, assured of both the action and his character.
However, as viewers will realise after about a half hour, the best action in the world, even a fine performance from the lead can be turned to rubble in the absence of plot. Written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (007 regulars at this stage) and based on an original idea by producer Michael G. Wilson, “Quantum of Solace” is quite simply flat in the story (or rather the lack thereof) it wants to tell. What sparse information we actually receive about the Quantum organisation will simply not be enough to whet viewers mouthes. The villain is possibly one of the most boring in living memory. After the initial mystery, the plot hits a roadblock when it actually needs to explain what his evil plan is and thus falls completely on its face. As it meanders about, resurrecting supporting characters from the last film, Forster loses complete control of the picture and the last third becomes an unintelligible mess of half-realised ideas. Its simply covers no new ground and leaves Craig very little space for any development. Furthermore, there was a need to invent Bond after “Die Another Day” but no need whatsoever to do away with almost every Bond convention there is: The iconic gun-barrel opening (which was so well explained in “Casino Royale”) is dropped and Bond is so disorientated he even forgets to sleep with the Bond girl. There’s a short romantic interlude with Gemma Arterton’s (albeit excellently named) secretary but if 007 has lost his mojo there’s got to be something amiss, seriously.
In spite of everything, David Arnold returned once more to produce fine music for “Quantum of Solace.” Though the use of Monty Norman’s famous Bond theme is kept minimal, Arnold appropriately uses Vesper’s theme to give an identity to Bond as much as anything else. His action material meanwhile features more electronic elements than “Casino Royale” but is very well written. Top cues include the opening “Time to Get Out” and “Targeted Terminated” while “Bond in Haiti” and “Bolivian Taxi Ride” add an outlandish flavour which fits very well with the chosen locales. Overall not quite as engaging as his last score for the series but only marginally below, Arnold deserves recognition for carrying the identity of the franchise further musically when other parts of it have been dropped. The title song for the film “Another Way to Die” is performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White. If you thought Madonna’s rendition of “Die Another Day” was painful, get ready to experience the same again. Both are about equally terrible and compete together for the worst song on record. Listen to the score, but the song – run away, run away!
Visually impressive with stylised action but as a fully fledged Bond film, “Quantum of Solace” is absolute tosh. Far too little emotional payoff exists for what was promised. Disappointing that such a good premise was messed up so badly. A third entry will probably bring the Quantum story full circle but if it’s going to be as stale as this one, spare us. We expect better from Mr. Bond, James Bond.
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