Quantum of Solace (2008)

Quantum leaps

So, that’s it then. With this movie review, Picturenose lays its cards on the table. Long live the new king – Daniel Craig, in just two portrayals, has wrested the ‘Best James Bond Ever’ title from one Sir Sean Connery (remember him?) and, in Quantum of Solace (2008), director Marc Forster and writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have delivered the first direct Bond sequel. Boy, have they delivered…

We’ll touch on the film’s prowess relative to its predecessor Casino Royale (2006) presently, but first some personal insights into your reviewer’s mindset, prior to sitting down with his Dad and sister, pulse rate suitably heightened, as it always is as the latest 007 adventure starts flickering on the wall. I was concerned – I had not read any reviews, but had heard word that the first critical analyses had been ‘lukewarm’. Plus, I had noted that, for the first time in the history of the films about Ian Fleming’s über spy, the running time was under two hours. Finally, I had already heard the Jack White-Alicia Keys theme tune, Another Way To Die and, while not appalled, had as yet failed to be energized as I was with Chris Cornell’s theme to Casino…, You Know My Name.

So, omens of doom, then? I needn’t have worried. I mean to say, how likely was it, really, that by-and-large the same team (only the director’s changed) that gave the world the marvellous first Daniel Craig turn as Bond (and the most successful film in the series) were going to let us down? It wasn’t. They haven’t.

James Bond, as far as M (Judi Dench) is concerned, has become a very loose cannon since the death of his love, Vesper Lynd, in Casino Royale. He’s convinced that Lynd betrayed him as much as she was in turn betrayed by her former boyfriend and the mysterious organization to which he answered, and Quantum of Solace opens (following a pell-mell, heart-in-mouth, well ‘ard car chase that superbly sets the tone for the action sequences to follow) with 007 and M preparing to question Mr White (Jesper Christensen), he who was shot by our man at the end of the previous film and who, as it later turns out, is a member of Quantum, a terrorist franchise with tentacles everywhere.

As Bond quickly discovers, when M’s right-hand man reveals himself to be a traitor, freeing White from the interrogation room before fleeing with 007 in hot pursuit. From here on in, M’s intelligence concerning Bond’s movements is based on information that’s sketchy at best – and she knows not whether he is motivated only by revenge or has a higher purpose. Bond’s quest leads him to friends and enemies old and new, with Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) back for encores, as well, of course, as beautiful, vengeful, femme fatale Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who is seeking retribution for the death of her family. And at the top of the tree, at least for this film, sits Dominic Greene (as predicted, an excellent Mathieu Amalric), an ‘environmental crusader’ with more than just oil on his hands…

Not sure where any of the ‘lukewarm’ movie reviews are coming from, really. The screenwriters have delivered a narrative that is nuanced, intelligent, elegant even, with none of the emotional excesses that were perhaps the only downside to Casino…, while Forster’s sure handling of the action sequences, evenly distributed throughout the film, ensures that the mood hits the right note at all the right times.

In addition, Alamric’s performance as Greene is perhaps the first Bond villain from which all traces of caricature have been removed (topping even Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre), which in lesser hands would have left a gap normally filled with Dr Evil-esque excess and silly one liners, but offers instead a genuinely credible amorality with which Bond must contend – and there is a surprising dénouement to the hero-villain relationship that’s far removed from the stereotype.

It was always going to be difficult for Quantum of Solace to top its predecessor and it doesn’t, but there can be no doubt that, with the combination of the two films, the franchise has been elevated to an all-time high. In addition, in as much as it is possible for the central character to ever be described as ‘realistic’, Daniel Craig has finally given the world a James Bond that is completely as Fleming first imagined him – ruthless, determined, scarred and haunted. Carry on, 007…

106 mins.

PS. Watch Picturenose and writer-comedian Chris Stokes kick The Mail On Sunday‘s arse – you read it here first, film fans… 🙂

37 thoughts on “Quantum of Solace (2008)”

  1. Happy to be of service, Duncs. See, you knew I wouldn’t let you down, right?

    By the way, you are entitled to disagree with my assessment, but then, of course, I’d have to kill you… 🙂

  2. Nice work, James. I have to wait a week to see it, as I promised to take my son, but I’m glad I’m not going to be wasting my money on a second-rate ‘sequel’. 🙂

  3. Good review.

    I was haunted by what I saw to be multiple references to earlier Bonds. For example, didn’t the bad CIA man look *so* much like Mr Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever (1971)? The clincher was *that* reference to Goldfinger (1964).

    I didn’t like it as much as you but, yes, more Craig please!

  4. Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the kind comment – do you know, I was also scratching my head as to who the treachorous CIA chap reminded me of, and you have definitely hit the nail on the head with Mr Kidd. And, as far as *that* reference goes, you are also spot on – yet, despite the fact they were numerous, didn’t all the nods work so much better than when they last tried it (with crass reference after crass reference) to celebrate 40 years of Bond, in Pierce Brosnan’s appalling final installment, Die Another Day (2002)?

    Was wondering whether to mention the Goldfinger set piece in my review, but decided against it – the image is so striking, in its rejuvenated form, that I wanted to leave it as a surprise for as many viewers as possible.

    Well, we have Craig for at least two more movies, as per his contractural agreement – hooray say I!

    Thanks again – nice hearing from you.

  5. Brilliant, absolutely my thoughts on the movie too. An accurate review and, I’m pleased – nay, ecstatic – to see that I am not alone in thinking the plot is not a mess, but a well-structured, almost exemplary example of story-telling in an action film. Muchos kudos.

  6. Our Father, Who Art In Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.

    Please forgive those who trespass against us and please, please, please let me like Question of Sport – sorry, Quantum of Solace – when I see it. And please let me ‘get’ it. Muchos kudos depends on it… 😉

  7. My Son Chris,

    Go-est thou in peace, and fretteth not thine pretty little head over that which concernest thou not. 🙂

    If thou gettest it not, thou art simply all that I presumethest thou to be – that is to say, a mere dullard who thinkest that The Bodyguard (1993) is not all that it is crackethed up to be. Or something.

    But, I feeleth sure that thou will liketh Quantum of Solace – having saideth that, there truly est no acounting for taste… 😀

  8. But soft, what manner of frippery is this, pray? Thou art verily a brace of mewling popinjays.

    I don’t have to ‘get’ Quantum of Solace – I’ll be taking my 10-year-old son, so he can fill me in with the plot details during the post-film pizza 🙂 I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ‘bewildering and badly-paced’ action sequences (I paraphrase) secure in the knowledge that I can get the full SP afterwards.

  9. Well, I HAD to read your ‘Quantity of Shoelace’ review, didn’t I? Going tomorrow night as it happens. Sure I’ll enjoy it. Almost tempted to watch Casino… prior to popping to the flicks. But no. Don’t want to spoil my ’00-heaven’. 🙂

  10. Tony,

    Honoured, I’m sure, that you finally deigned to visit our site. 🙂 Doubtless we’ll be hearing more from you, particularly if you don’t agree with my thoughts on ‘Quantum of Sholash’. I await your thoughts with breath that is, in a very real sense, baited…

  11. Just saw it myself.

    In the interest of maintaining a tasteful website, I’ll withold my Spinal Tap style two-word review.

    Just say no, kids.

  12. Certainly.

    The seemingly endless chases were repetitive and ultimately tedious (especially the bit in the plane – aeroplane chases in movies never work).

    The ‘is he or isn’t he in it for revenge’ subtext was highly unconvincing, especially as Daniel Craig (who I also think in many ways outshines Connery) gives a frustratingly uneven performance. Probably not his fault, as the film clearly suffered post-production interference.

    Lacks emotional weight.

    Can’t decide whether it wants to be a Bourne-style techno thriller or an old-fashioned action flick. It’s also quite right-wing.

  13. From back to front, then – I agree that it is quite right-wing, but I found that to be a refreshing, almost Dirty Harryesque development of the character.

    Emotional weight? Perhaps. Although I enjoyed the film, I also found it rather lacking in ‘soul’, so to speak.

    Don’t agree with you concerning Craig’s performance, however – and can you be more specific as to what you thought the ‘post-production interference’ might have been?

    Cheers.

  14. Can’t be too specific without giving things away, but more than one subplot was raised and then seemingly abandoned, meaning we just hopped from one chase to the next.

    Maybe the producers didn’t want to use up all their ideas in one film?

  15. Hi guys,

    OK, so I’m a day late. Saw it tonight instead.

    All in all, I’m with James on this one. Not as good as Casino…, but I doubt anyone expected it to be.

    Found Daniel Craig to be a bit more cluncky here as I think, as CD says, there were a good deal of interlocking subplots going on. For me they worked, though.

    Add in the non-stop action pieces and where was the time for the Bond character to develop much further than he did? It was Casino with bells on, really. A ruthless killer who, this time, is personally hacked off. That’s all we learned – piss him off and he’ll hit you even harder…

    The best dialogue bits were, again, involving Bond and M, althought there were a couple of good Bond one-liners (the handcuffs gag, for instance).

    To me it was essentially a straight sequel that didn’t really even attempt – by the time the final cut was made, at least – to move the character on. Bet the Director’s Cut was a good 20 mins longer.

    Overall, enjoyed it immensely, as my own review – which will be up tomorrow – will state.

  16. OK, going to chuck in my 2 euro cents’ worth here. I enjoyed it, and a lot more than I expected. For me, it was classic Bond – light on meaningful dialogue, action all the way, a few gags and the return of meaningless sex with smokin’ hot babes. Isn’t this why we watch Bond? Hell, there was even an evil organization to fight. Chuck in a geezer with metal teeth or a steel-rimmed bowler, and it’d be 100%.

    CD, I really don’t think you should have expected Proust…

  17. Tony,

    Really glad you enjoyed it – I did think that CD was being a little harsh but, in all fairness, it would appear to have split the critics down the middle.

    Look forward to reading your fuller take…

  18. Thanks, James. And about time too. Not quite there yet, but up and running at least. Meantime, meant to say: ‘Good luck with the, er, ‘new’ venture!’ We’ll doubtless chat about that elsewhere. 😉

  19. Cheers, Tony. I assume you are refering to mine and Colin’s part-ownership of Together – quite a step, but I have put too much work into it to allow it to slip through my fingers, and it’s excellent to be working with Colin in this way.

    I’ll speak to you soon, I am sure. J

  20. Before this gets too incestuous, let us return to the original point, which, I believe, was about the merits of some sort of film or other.

  21. With a record-breaking £50 million of its budget coming from product placement alone, ‘Bond Too’ offered a fascinating insight into where Bond shops but not much in the way of character or plot.

    It has a corporate advertising silver-blue sheen, where everyone remains beautiful no matter how much rough and tumble they endure. It’s a bit like trying to soften the edges of a grungy rock song by pairing up with an R’n’B singer. Now, I thought this was what the producers were moving away from, rather than towards. In Casino Royale (2006), the punches hurt and Bond was somewhat vulnerable because of his moral doubt over the violence in which he became complicit. I know that Casino Royale was about how Bond became Bond, and so now he is Bond, but since QofS begins only a few moments after CR, he has made a suprisingly large ‘quantum’ leap to über-Bond. He’s been ‘re-Bourne’ as a super hero who offs his victims with the merest pout.

    So, to Mr Craig. Daniel has two basic modes as far as I can tell – vulnerable and beef-cake. By slicing away vulnerable, the writers have halved his range. While M might be in some doubt as to whether he is just out for revenge, by the look on his gently protruding lips, the audience are never in any and so the ‘what motivates Bond?’ sub-plot never really takes off.

    But the most serious gripe is this – it was glum, James. My better half commented – perhaps unfairly – that Craig looks ugly when he smiles. But she does have a point, and I think the producers sympathize with that view, because I could swear that he doesn’t smile once. In my humble opinion, superheros can be mean, they can have a dark side, they can be bitter and twisted, heck, they can even be plain evil if you like … but glum? I’m sorry, but I just don’t think the ‘sulky superhero’ is a good look for Bond.

  22. Happy now, Cillian? 😀

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you for that. If I may be allowed (after all, I gave you time to formulate what is, I must concede, a cogent, trenchant argument), I will respond over the next few days. Give me the weekend to reflect, then you’ll know by Monday why it is you are so very wrong. Agreed? 🙂

  23. You would know, dear boy – you’re studying it, aren’t you? Or something else dead-clever sounding, whatever… 🙂 Anyway, I’ll see you Monday.

  24. Oh and, by the way, for the millions of people who have found Picturenose via the Google search terms (i) ‘evil organization in James Bond movies’ and (ii) ‘should my 10-year-old son see Quantum of Solace‘, the answers are, respectively (i) (previously) ‘SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) and (now) QUANTUM (doesn’t stand for anything, yet) and (ii) yes, absolutely. I thank you. 😀

  25. Dear Chris,

    And my response is as follows:

    “With a record-breaking £50 million of its budget coming from product placement alone, ‘Bond Too’ offered a fascinating insight into where Bond shops but not much by way of character or plot.”

    At the risk of being obvious, I don’t think you’re right with this point. Perhaps you were looking for ‘product placement’, as opposed to paying attention to the film? Doubtless, you will now be able to point out dozens of PP moments but, in all honesty, this aspect washed over me – I was too busy enjoying the film.

    “It has a corporate advertising silver-blue sheen, where everyone remains beautiful no matter how much rough and tumble they endure. It’s a bit like trying to soften the edges of a grungy rock song by pairing up with an R’n’B singer. Now, I thought this was what the producers were moving away from, rather than towards. In Casino Royale (2006), the punches hurt and Bond was somewhat vulnerable because of his moral doubt over the violence in which he became complicit. I know that Casino Royale was about how Bond became Bond, and so now he is Bond, but since QofS begins only a few moments after CR, he has made a suprisingly large ‘quantum’ leap to über-Bond. He’s been ‘re-Bourne’ as a super hero who offs his victims with the merest pout. So, to Mr Craig. Daniel has two basic modes as far as I can tell – vulnerable and beef-cake. By slicing away vulnerable, the writers have halved his range. While M might be in some doubt as to whether he is just out for revenge, by the look on his gently protruding lips, the audience are never in any and so the ‘what motivates Bond?’ sub-plot never really takes off.”

    Here, I am really not sure what you were expecting from Craig Part Two – while the character’s moral doubts and vulnerability were what made Casino Royale such an outstanding reboot to the franchise, never forget that the story, while updated, was essentially faithful to Ian Fleming’s original. Casino Royale the novel ends with the line ‘Yes, I said was – the bitch is dead’, indicating that the 007 has indeed completed a very swift character arc in terms of his attitude to women, after being betrayed by Vesper Lynd – an attitude that continues until he makes the mistake of falling in love in OHMSS, with all the tragedy that this brings. And so, my point? If you don’t like the fact that Bond is no longer vulnerable, I’m sorry, but his vulnerability was only one facet of his character, one that was quickly hardened by his life as a gun-for-hire – an aspect of the Bond persona that I believe QofS combines very well. Let’s face it, we can’t very well have Bond going to see his counsellor to help him deal with his grief issues, now can we?

    “But the most serious gripe is this – it was glum, James. My better half commented – perhaps unfairly – that Craig looks ugly when he smiles. But she does have a point, and I think the producers sympathize with that view, because I could swear that he doesn’t smile once. In my humble opinion, superheros can be mean, they can have a dark side, they can be bitter and twisted, heck, they can even be plain evil if you like … but glum? I’m sorry, but I just don’t think the ’sulky superhero’ is a good look for Bond.”

    Glum?
    It’s defined as:
    1. Moody and melancholy; dejected.
    2. Gloomy; dismal.

    Now, how are any of these reactions not appropriate to a man who is getting over the death of his love? Forgive me, but your criticism of this aspect of the film seems to be a direct contradiction of your point about Craig’s range being halved? So, is he vulnerable, or isn’t he, in your opinion?

    I await the continuation of this fascinating discussion.

  26. Hi James,

    The trouble is that, whether by accident or design, if the writers omit some kind of depth or vunerablility to Bond – whether that is authentic to Fleming’s vision or not – he just becomes an invincible superhero. The point concerns suspense as well as character. Invincibility is great to have, but dull to watch. Admittedly, that may be a flaw in the Bond franchise as a whole.

    With regards to the general gloominess of QofS, when Indy thinks Marion has been killed in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) it leads to interesting dialogue confrontations between him and his adversaries, it leads to a more reckless and foolhardy Dr. Jones. It leads Bond to a furrowed brow and a monosyllabic exchange with M. That’s about it. Here was a vulnerability that could have been exploited, but wasn’t. And that is my point. There is all sorts of talk about the death of Vesper but no behavioural evidence that it has had any tangible effect – it’s business as usual for Bond …so I see no contradiction.

    In any case, it’s great that you liked the movie. As you know, Bond isn’t normally my cup of tea anyway. In my defence, I wanted to like it, I went in with high expectations…

  27. Hey Chris,

    Point taken. It’s just a damn shame (not even with the franchise ‘reboot’) that the Broccoli empire seems unprepared to remake some (if not all?) of the original novels in a faithful fashion. For example, although I concede that Lazenby was a somewhat bland Bond when compared with Connery, I still feel that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is without doubt one of the top three Bond films of all time (From Russia With Love (1963) and Casino Royale being the other two), and the reason for that is very simple – it was near-enough absolutely faithful to Fleming’s original, and had the element of tragedy that every subsequent Bond (with the exception of Casino…) made reference to. The follow-on (in literary terms) was in fact You Only Live Twice, which went very deep into the agony that Bond was suffering in his bereavement which, I also concede, QofS does not, apart from showing him getting very drunk on Vesper martinis.

    My reasons still stand as to why I enjoyed it, but I am glad to have heard your take on why you felt it wasn’t up to snuff.

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