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Quantum of Solace (2008)

  • Review: *** (out of ****)
  • Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Joaquin Cosio, Fernando Guillen Curevo, Jesus Ochoa, Glenn Foster, Paul Ritter, Simon Kassianides, Stana Katic, Neil Jackson
  • Director: Marc Forster
  • Screenplay: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
  • Length: 106 min.
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content.

Creating a direct-in-line sequel to a Bond film is a very rare occurrence, yet Quantum of Solace takes up almost exactly where Casino Royale left off with James seeking vengeance for the death of his first love.

The first outing for Daniel Craig as the British superspy was an auspicious one, earning praise and celebration from critics and fans alike. While a few of the formula elements in Casino Royale were either revamped (darkness replaced glamour) or ejected (no more Q branch), the makers of Quantum of Solace have taken those aims a bit too far, blending the style of James Bond with that of Jason Bourne.

Bond isn't the womanizer he used to be. He didn't hop in bed with the first Bond girl he found, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who is seeking revenge for an atrocity visited upon her and her family. That abuse was perpetrated by a General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), an associate of the film's primary antagonist, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). He does land the film's second and only other Bond girl Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), whose name is more in line with past vixens such as Octopussy and Holly Goodhead.

The action is chaotic and only minimally tense as Bond participates in a high speed chase in the film's opening sequence, chases a rogue agent through the streets of Spain, and flees in a fishing boat. The scenes feel more tacked on than integral, and even the final action sequence in a long desert-based house, seems lacking in suspense.

The plot, which surrounds a faux environmentalist as he plays political national building while attempting to make his investors extremely rich through questionable practices and blackmail schemes, is fairly lightweight and while a decent attempt at bridging the gap to a modern era for Bond, it's hardly more impressive than the one involving a media magnate played by Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies. The key thrust of the plot is supposedly centered around Bond's desires to exact revenge on the secret organization that led to the death of Vesper Lynd, his paramour from Casino Royale. While it is the basis of the story, it seems almost secondary to the action around it. However, it is from this hunt that the film's title gains its true significance and provides the only intriguing element for the film.

Quantum of Solace has earned a lot of flack from non-fans as the title is rather unusual and a full understanding of its meaning is difficult when you first hear it. To make that confusion a little more bearable, the writers made the central organization of the film, a secret one that none of the world's spy outfits seem to know anything about, named Quantum. However, that tangential nomenclature has little to do with the meaning of the title, which is taken directly from a short story featuring James Bond by his creator Ian Fleming. A quantum is something very miniscule. Solace is another word for comfort. Thus, the title means a very miniscule amount of comfort, which is what Bond seeks in the film, hoping to avenge the past. It's a very clever name even if the film doesn't match it in terms of ingenuity.

Craig brings nothing new to the role than his first outing, but remains a charismatic and tough bond. Kurylenko and Arterton are as seemingly vacuous as their Bond girl forbears, though Kurylenko has a few more auspicious moments that border on great. Amalric, who is a tremendously talented actor in the French language, manages to deliver a toothless performance that pales in comparison to all that came before him, even many of the late Brosnan Bond villains.

Judi Dench continues to prove why she was a terrific choice to play the series' first female M. She has developed a strong character who isn't stiff or unreasonable all the time, but has fleeting moments of concern and compassion. Hers is the film's best performance. Another veteran thesp that delivers a solid performance is Giancarlo Giannini who hasn't had this kind of role in quite some time and creates a likeable, fatherly figure whose final scene is one of the few tender and heartfelt ones in the entire film. Jeffrey Wright makes his second appearance as U.S. agent Felix Leiter who has appeared in several previous Bond films, but seems to be moving towards a more central position within the film series. His performance isn't terribly memorable as he spends much of the film providing minimal aid to Bond.

I don't know where the series can go from here. If it further mimics the Jason Bourne series of films, then it will be successful with non-fans, but longtime Bond enthusiasts may slowly step away from the series despite Craig's character revitalization. One thing is clear. The utterly bland screenwriter Paul Haggis and the often-bland director Marc Forster should not be invited back to he series as they have neutered some of the greatest elements of the series in favor of a dark, gritty reality. Hopefully, fans will get a treat in Bond 23 by finally seeing Craig as Bond in his signature role as a playboy superspy who visits exotic locales and stops terrible, world re-shaping plots.