Quantum of Solace


Bond films have a long history. Like anything that’s been around for a while, everyone’s developed an opinion on what they are, in terms which qualities are characteristic to them. There’s nothing wrong with this. Science wouldn’t have gotten very far if we didn’t spot patterns amongst the things we observe. But there are differences between science and art. I’m unlikely to get into an argument with a biologist about a tiny six legged creature with antennae and a segmented body being an insect. However, I’m spoiling for a fight with all the people out there who seem to have decided that Quantum of Solace isn’t a Bond film.

There’s a temptation to view a Bond film as a checklist of elements tied together with a spot of action and wit. It’s especially tempting if you’re reviewing them. Bond must say “Bond, James Bond.” Bond must make suggestive double entendres. Bond must order a vodka martini, and this martini must on no account be stirred. Bond must meet Q and get his nifty gadgets. Bond must use all the demonstrated gadgets before the movie is over. At the end of the film, whichever girl has survived the film must be in bed with Bond. The list goes on, and on, and if you try to make a movie out of it, then you’ll probably end up with a waste of celluloid like Die Another Day. Meanwhile, in the red corner — the corner where we keep good films — we have Quantum of Solace. Like it’s predecessor, Quantum can’t be arsed with a lot of the usual Bond trimmings.1 And I like it.

The film continues from about ten minutes after the the last one finished. Bond’s grabbed Mr White and is intent on using his information to find the ones responsible for Vesper’s betrayal and death. From this simple premise, action and drama ensue, as Bond gets caught up in the machinations of Mr White’s organisation. But even though the plot continues on more closely from the previous film than any other Bond film has done before, Quantum is still its own beast.

For a start, it’s paced faster than most Bond films, and comes in as the shortest of them all, though you don’t feel cheated at the end. There’s nothing even remotely like Casino Royale‘s somewhat sagging romantic interlude this time round. You may have read their reviews saying that the film doesn’t make sense; in fact it does.2 It just makes sense very quickly, and usually finds time only for one plot point and one character moment between each major action sequence. On the more subtle level, it uses different fonts for each location-switching subtitle, and integrates them into the picture. If I were in charge, this would become a Bond tradition right away.

While things change, others remain the same. We’ve got to have a Bond song, and this time around it’s Jack White and Alicia Keys to the rescue. “Another Way to Die” has its moments, and some good ideas, but it’s frustratingly short of being an good Bond song, mostly because the two singers spend half their time shouting out the chorus in the same pitch and render each other almost inaudible. It’s a shame; perhaps Amy Winehouse’s manly voice could have balanced out White’s girly tones. Alongside the music, though, is the best and most involving title sequence the films have had since at least Tomorrow Never Dies. It’s certainly a step up from the timid playing-card animated violence from Casino Royale.

Another constant element is M, who is given yet more to do this time around, and Judi Dench, as always, makes the most of the opportunity.3 Indeed, if the core of Casino Royale was Bond’s relationship with Vesper, then the core of Quantum of Solace is his relationship with M. The moments when they both realise they can trust each other are oddly touching. Between M, Camille, Mathis and Felix, there’s quite a few spies running around the film, and at times you almost feel like there’s a vaguely realistic representation of the intelligence community going on. Well, more than your average Bond film does, anyhow. In a perhaps less realistic, but very appreciated touch, the mysterious Quantum organisation seems to have become SPECTRE for a new age of Bond films.

Bond’s partner4 this time round is Olga Kurylenko’s Camille: a good mix of vulnerable and cocky, with a troubled past, naturally.5 Daniel Craig continues to be a dab hand both at moody spy stuff and at selling the physicality of his action scenes. The rumours you’ve heard are true; he still doesn’t perform any of the checklist items I mentioned above. There is a scene where he could almost say “vodka martini, shaken not stirred,” but I reckon it would’ve just felt forced. And what would be the point? Quantum of Solace is a good Bond film. It doesn’t do everything you might want a Bond film to do; but the items it does choose from that big shopping list are done well.6

  1. This seems to have pissed more people off than it did in Casino Royale though. Perhaps everyone assumed that after Bond’s ‘origin story’, Q would be back with an invisible ejector-seat-equipped helicopter. Not a good idea, by the way.
  2. Well, as much as any Bond, in that some plot elements are a shade implausible.
  3. She’s also, perhaps unexpectedly, the funniest character in the film.
  4. I wanted to say ‘companion’.
  5. Camille has burns on her back as a souvenir of said troubled past which are often in shot; however I was delighted when no one actually said “so that’s how you got your scars” at any point during the film.
  6. Including quips. There’s a bit of whinging out there about the humourlessness of the film, too. There aren’t many jokes in Quantum of Solace, but they’re all funny. If it’s a choice between this attitude and the hail of second rate double entendres of previous films, then again, I know what I’m after.
When someone says that they have people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole. Lots of people say that. Florists use that expression. It doesn't mean that they have people in the bloody room. — M

2 Responses to “Quantum of Solace”

  1. First post 09!

    This may be picking a fight, but the West Australian newspaper claimed that Daniel Craig is the best Bond ever in its end of year review. Would you agree?

  2. The older I get, the less I can get into such things. I would have delighted in ranking all the Bonds and all the Doctors etc when I was sixteen. In fact, I’m pretty sure I did. But I find it now hard to compare Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.

    Comparisons also seem unfair since unlike any other Bond, Craig’s Bond is getting some kind of introduction story.