Quantum of Solace (2008)
★ / ★★★★
Not three minutes into Marc Forster’s “Quantum of Solace,” the twenty-second entry in the “James Bond” series, I noticed my facial features scrunching together in an attempt to make sense of the would-be thrilling car chase along the highways of Italy because the editing is so choppy, so manic, that it repels viewers from appreciating the beauty within the chaos. The shortcoming that is visual illiteracy is pervasive in this egregious follow-up to the terrific “Casino Royale,” a Bond picture so focused and assured of what it wants to be and what it wishes to accomplish that it ends up standing strong among the best of the series.
Here, Bond (Daniel Craig) is reduced to just another action hero on a quest to avenge the death of a woman whom he had fallen for in the previous entry. Although Craig retains the basic 007 charm he established in “Casino,” he is quite robotic here—a bore because the screenplay simply requires him to march from one action piece to another. When he does get a break, he trades repetitive dialogue with M (Judi Dench), head of the Secret Intelligence Service, about the importance of trust and Bond’s inability to keep persons of interest alive. The agency wishes to know more about a shadow organization called Quantum that appears to have connections so far-reaching it is able to plant spies within the MI6. What is their end goal?
We are presented a villain so banal that at times he comes across as a walking caricature. His name is Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric, a businessman who uses environmentalism as a platform to upend governments and take control of their leaders. While I liked the choice of Greene looking ordinary that he can easily blend into the background, the face of evil can be Ordinary Joe after all, screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade fail to convince us why this character is compelling other than the fact that he is a member of Quantum. He is not Bond’s equal in any way—in intellect, strength, or resourcefulness—and so why or how is he a threat other than he is well-connected?
Even the Bond girl this time around is a bore. Like 007, Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is on a journey of vengeance. Her goal is get close enough to a dictator (Joaquín Cosio), a client of Greene, who murdered her entire family when she was a child. Instead of finding small but telling moments between Bond and Camille—obvious foils—so that we discover what revenge means to them before and after exacting it, these two are thrown into one standard action scene after the other. At times these sequences are so CGI-heavy (like the plane crash scene) that it becomes near impossible to buy into whatever is going on and, perhaps more importantly, the stakes propelling the conflict. It does not help that Craig and Kurylenko share no chemistry. Their exchanges lack flow or poetry.
The only action piece somewhat worthy of the Bond franchise is the second one—there are five total and four are forgettable—which involves a rooftop chase in Siena, Italy between two MI6 agents. Having said that, even such a chase is done better—certainly framed with a keener eye for action and reaction—in much stronger films like Paul Greengrass’ “The Bourne Ultimatum.”