Bond in Review: Quantum of Solace

This one’s going to be a bit shorter in scope-because that’s pretty much what Quantum Of Solace is-shorter (by about 45 minutes more than “Casino”) and limited in scope, which kind of stinks since Craig’s era had such a strong opening film.

Quantum pretty much picks off where Casino Royale left off-Bond has injured and captured Mr. White-but now, there’s people in pursuit, hoping to reclaim the mysterious villain. It’s here we pretty much have the film’s first weakness-the action scenes, which were easy to follow in “Casino Royale”, are more jumbled here, with too much quick-editing, “shaky cam”, shots where it’s hard to make out what’s going on etc. It’s almost like “The World Is Not Enough”‘s action, but somewhat worse.

After the chase, we of course get the opening credits and song. Another “Way to Die” is an OK song-a lot of people didn’t like it’s style (It’s the first duet Bond song as well), but it kind of fits with the rougher Craig and is somewhat similar in tone to You Know My Name. Both Skyfall and Spectre would return to more traditional ballads.

The opening is mainly a lot of desert imagery with Bond contiguously drawing and firing his gun. The girls also return after being absent from “Casino Royale”, mainly emerging from the desert dunes.

Bond arrives in in Italy with White in his trunk, where M and Bond start to grill him about what’s really going on, and the whereabouts of Vesper’s boyfriend. However, it turns out that one of M’s bodyguards is in fact a mole, who almost shoots M, allows White to escape and is then pursued by Bond across the Horse races and Rooftops of Siena, Italy. Once again, the edits are somewhat confusing, especially when it starts to focus back on the Horse race (and also an instant bystander who is either injured or killed by Mitchell).

The whole thing ends in a building under construction, the best part of the scene, and with a nifty shot of Bond ending Mitchell.

The action then comes to London, where we meet the new Tanner (Rory Kinear). Tanner is M’s chief of staff and has a large presence in the novels, but as Q and Moneypenny’s roles were expanded in earlier movies, he only appeared a few times over the course of the film series-In Man With The Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, and The World Is Not Enough. Rory’s Tanner will appear in the remaining Craig films though.

This also sort of functions as a semi-Q scene, as a scientist (Although it’s unknown if this is the same Quartermaster who is presumably killed in the next film and replaced by Ben Whishaw’s “Craigverse” Q) discovers a vital clue. Here we also see a sort of hi-tech touchscreen interface, one that was used in a great deal of the film’s marketing (including the blu-ray menu).

This detective work has a lead in Haiti, where Bond is sent.  It’s worth noting at this point there really isn’t much levity and character to Bond here-Craig’s performance is largely humorous. In Casino Royale, despite brutal action scenes, there were moments of levity and warmness, even earlier on at the Beach club. Here Craig is pretty much frowning most of the movie.

He accidentally botches finding out anything from Slate, who cut his neck on glass and bled out. However, he’s able to locate the woman Slate was sent to kill. Although she quickly realizes that he isn’t who he’s looking for.

Bond still follows her to a dock being used by the film’s villain, Dominic Greene, her “boyfriend”-but in fact she’s only using him. However, he’s on to her schemes, knowing she wants him to get close to General Madranno, who Greene is helping stage a coup in Bolivia (possibly so Greene/Quantum can get a monopoly on oil). Madranno killed Camille’s family.

Dominic Greene’s sort of an odd character. I can see what they were going for-a sort of creepy-looking European bad guy like Le Chiffre. But whereas Le Chiffre came off as mostly cold and cool, Dominic sort of comes off as petulant, nervous, and annoying. Having the worst Bond henchman ever- “Elvis” doesn’t help matters either. Elvis isn’t imposing at all, either in his state, fashion, or stature. The guy, later in the movie, gets injured by tripping down a flight of stairs, doesn’t fight Bond at all and gets vaporized in an explosion later on, that’s pretty much it.

As Camille is captured by Maddrano, Bond interferes by motorcycling onto their boat, saving her but also botching her attempt to get revenge at the same time. Once again, despite the impressive bike stunt that opens it, this isn’t a very well done scene.

From this point forward though, things start to get a little better. Bond follows Greene to a plane, which is going to Austria. On-board, Greene appears to make a deal with the CIA guy in charge of Latin America; accompanying him is Felix Leiter, who is highly skeptical of Greene and denies knowing Bond.

Bond eventually goes to Austria, and we have perhaps the most Bondish scene in the movie as 007 infiltrates the opera in Austria, stealing both a nice suit and an earpiece, which allows him to eavesdrop on those in the audience who are members of Quantum, the mysterious organization Greene and Mr. White are involved with. White’s even at the opera himself.

It’s kind of a neat scene, especially when Bond lets them knows he’s watching and is able to photograph several of them on his cellphone, sending them back to M. Turns out among Quantum’s number are several intelligence and political officials from Britain, something which alarms M and Tanner back at home.

However, during his escape, Bond runs into another British agent assinged to one of the officials. Bond throws him off the roof and he lands on Domonic’s car; Dominic then has the man shot. Unfortunately, to M and Tanner, this looks like Bond has killed another agent, and Bond is ordered back. However, Bond has no intention of returning, as he’s still trying to track down what Greene’s up to.

Bond instead goes to visit and get the help of Mathis, who Bond thought was the mole in “Casino Royale” and was mistaken, so MI6 compensated him with a nice villa. He and Bond then head to Bolivia.

There’s a nice quiet scene onboard a plane, where it’s revealed that Bond has had trouble sleeping since the events of Royale, with Mathis assuring them that Vesper probably really did love him despite her betrayal.

Upon arriving in Bolivia, Bond is confronted by fellow MI6 agent Fields who wants him to return to London on M’s orders. However, he’s able to win her over with his humor -one of the few times in the film Craig lightens up, and the two decide to head over to a party Greene is holding through his sham environmental company, Greene Planet.

Here he meets Camille again, and they both have a short confrontation with Greene. Bond is also introduced to a Bolivian police captain who apparently is a good friend of Mathis, but who is actually Madranno’s man, and he has Mathis beaten to near-death and Bond is framed for his murder. Further complicating things with M.

There’s a nice but sad scene where Mathis dies in Bond’s arms.

Bond and Camille try to figure out what Greene’s after in Bolivia. After nearly getting killed by jets, the two escape into a cave, where they find a reservoir. It’s not oil that Greene wants, but monopoly on water. Hence why he wants to help Madranno stage a coup. Not exactly the highest stakes in a Bond film.

There’s a bit of an artsy scene with thirsty villagers, which leads to an image often used in the film’s marketing-Bond and Camille walking in the desert.

Returning briefly to the city, Bond is confronted by M, and learns that Fields has been killed by being drowned in oil. M wants him arrested, but Bond is eventually able to convince her to let him follow his lead.

After he evades CIA sent to capture him (thanks to a timely warning by Felix) and also learns from Felix the location of where the deal to give Medranno control of Bolivia will go down-a hotel in the desert.

Here, Bond takes on the corrupt police captain and Greene (who is armed with an axe) while Camille takes her revenge on Madranno, although the fire and explosions nearly send her into shock, as it brings back traumatic memories of her family’s death (in which she suffered some burn scars). As with the other action scenes in the film it’s a bit of a mess, although a bit more coherent than some of the other chases.

After that, Bond leaves Greene in the desert with only motor oil to drink (we find out later he is shot by Quantum-this is the second main villain Craig’s Bond didn’t get to kill). After saying goodbye to Camille (Who he doesn’t have any romance scenes with beyond a kiss) he finally puts his demons to rest by confronting Vesper’s boyfriend, in fact a Quantum Agent-who is trying to put a female Canadian agent in a similar trap to Vesper’s.

This is actually a pretty well done scene that sort of brings an end to Bond’s Vesper arc, although the questions about Quantum still remain (and are answered in SPECTRE). M of course says that she needs Bond back, but he’s pretty much been doing the mission all along anyway, even though it appeared he went rogue for a bit. He leaves Vesper’s love knot in the snow, ending that chapter of his life and giving him a “Quantum of Solace”.

Weirdly, the film then Ends with the Bond gunbarrel, although one where Bond kind of walks way too fast and poses awkwardly (With the Gunbarrel becoming the “Q” in Quantum of Solace). It’s more traditional than Casino’s, but of at least that one was kind of cool and took place close to the beginning of the film!

One thing about this film it that it kind of tries to be a bit too artsy for it’s own good-every new location has some kind of fancy title card. Here we have sort of a Michael Apted/World Is Not Enough situation. Marc Foster is a decent enough director for dramatic and nice-looking works, such as Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball etc. but like Apted he doesn’t really have the eye for action, and that’s why I think the film suffers that way-and if there’s one thing a Bond film must always get right, it’s action.

He does better with the dramatic scenes, but it seems like he didn’t allow Craig to really emote that much, which is unfortunate as he was able to use all his acting strengths in Casino Royale.

Following Quantum’s release, there was some doubt about the series future due to MGM’s complicated right’s problems, similar in a few ways to the problems after Licence to Kill. Entertainment Weekly even ran a cover story about it.

Although “Skyfall” was delayed, it did eventually come out, with Craig and in time for the series 50th anniversary. Creatively it would also put Craig’s era back on track. But that’s for next time.

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