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Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

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Most James Bond films are not all that great. I know, I know, that will be the first and the last sentence many a Bond fanboy will ever read of this review, but let’s be honest here.

You take a megalomaniac villain with world domination on the brain, add a couple of hot girls with variable intelligence levels and throw in a dash of the kind of cinematic cheese that only a phrase like “shaken, not stirred” can conjure up. There. You’ve got a Bond film.

That’s why 2006’s Casino Royale was such a success. The formula was finally turned on its head. When Bond replied, “Do I look like I give a damn?” to the shaken or stirred question, we knew we had a totally different Bond on our hands, and not just because he was blond. Daniel Craig was an inspired casting choice as James Bond, and despite some purists’ objections, a series reboot was exactly what this franchise needed.

Unfortunately, Quantum of Solace stumbles into the territory of generic action sequence land early, and it never really makes it out. Time will tell, but Solace will almost certainly be regarded as one of the weaker films in the Bond canon.

The film starts almost immediately after the events of Casino Royale. Bond is distraught over the death of Vesper, the woman he loved, but he’s not the type to get overly emotional about it. Instead, audiences are treated to nearly two hours of James Bond strictly in revenge mode, and while that robs the character of any nuance, it’s not the biggest problem of the film.

It’s clear from the opening scenes that wall-to-wall action is what’s in store for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, director Marc Forster (Stranger than Fiction, The Kite Runner) has never directed an action film in his life, and it shows.

The first 15 minutes are a flurry of headache-inducing quick edits that make Paul Greengrass’s work look restrained, and while Forster slows the pace down a little as the film progresses, he rarely settles down to deliver a coherent action sequence.

As for story, Quantum of Solace is underdeveloped, but interesting, as Bond attempts to track down the members of the mysterious organization Quantum. Along the way, he runs into an environmentalist, Dominic Greene, with plans to gain control of an entire country through one of its essential resources.

Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) excels as Greene, finding just the right balance between slimy and brilliant. Also in the picture for Bond is Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a Russian agent, driven by her own plans for revenge against Quantum.

Camille is one of those unusual Bond girls who doesn’t actually sleep with Bond, and indeed, the film is almost entirely devoid of love scenes – James Bond is heartbroken and out for revenge. He’s uninterested in dallying with the beauties that cross his path. (Okay, so not entirely.)

Craig plays Bond with the same steely-eyed coolness that defined his character in Casino Royale, but something’s missing this time around, and it’s really not his fault. Quantum of Solace is a gritty departure from the typical Bond film, and that’s fine. The problem lies in the lack of anything memorable to fill the gap left by missing Bond hallmarks – the vodka martinis, the sly and sarcastic remarks, the wanton sex romps. I’m no Bond purist – by all means, take that stuff out if it means creating a better film.

But Solace has no replacement in store. What we’re left with is a straight-up action film, and not a very well executed one. The future of the Bond franchise is in good hands with Daniel Craig in the starring role, and Quantum of Solace is not an utter failure by any means, but it’ll likely be remembered only as a stepping stone between Casino Royale and the better Bond that’s hopefully coming next time.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.
  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    If you were trying to write a spy thriller from scratch, you likely wouldn’t come up with a story like this one. It isn’t particularly succinct or even compelling.

    Bond fights like nobody’s business and in that capacity, Daniel Craig is very watchable. Too bad he suffers from what appears to be a permanent bad hair day throughout the film. There are no cool gadgets, but lots of action with doesn’t really help make this a film worthy of the Bond franchise.

    If you really must see this film, I’d suggest renting it instead of shelling out $10 or wait for it to appear in the cheap theatres.

  • http://www.kogmedia.com Patrick

    Quantum of Solace is entertaining at least… a lot of high quality visuals, but the movie as a whole could stand to lose six or seven fewer chase scenes