QUANTUM OF SOLACE
(director: Marc Forster; screenwriter: Neal Purvis/Robert Wade/Paul Haggis/based on characters created by Ian Fleming; cinematographer: Roberto Schaefer; editors: Matt Chessé/Richard Pearson; music: David Arnold; cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Olga Kurylenko (Camille), Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene), Judi Dench (M), Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis), Gemma Arterton (Agent Fields), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White), Anatole Taubman (Elvis), Rory Kinnear (Tanner), Joaquín Cosio (General Medrano), David Harbour (Gregg Beam, CIA), Glenn Foster (Mitchell); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Michael G. Wilson/Barbara Broccoli; Columbia Pictures; 2008)
“The 22nd film in the James Bond series is a passable Bond thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 22nd film in the James Bond series is a passable Bond thriller. It delivers more than the usual requisite implausible action sequences. It never slows down, but is a bit short in length and the action shots seem clumsily brutal and mechanical. It also leaves too much anger on the table to make the usual sexist romances that much fun, with too few of those famous Bond glib one-liners to please the fan base, and a plot that’s too murky and overloaded to fully cover a government conspiracy plot it more than hints at. Even the usual flirtations with high-tech never amounts to much (too many other flicks feature a smart phone for these M16 phones to have any props). The film’s best asset is the lean and mean brooding killing machine of Daniel Craig as 007, the second best Bond to Sean Connery and the one with the most affecting emotions. The second best film asset is the travelogue scenery, as before we can settle into one place we hop around the globe to places as diverse as Italy, Haiti, Austria, Bolivia and Russia. Marc Forster (“The Kite Runner”/”Monster’s Ball”/”Finding Neverland”), not known as an action director, dishes out an action-packed but cold revenge tale with bullets flying all over the place (If you want to know how cold, in one scene Bond leaves onetime colleague (Giancarlo Giannini), who went the extra mile to help him, dead in a garbage can in a foreign country). The screenplay by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is all over the map trying to touch base with current events but failing to leave any lasting impression that it hit on anything special but the usual chases and daredevil stunts.
It begins just after “Casino Royale,” the much superior film of the two, and it has Bond in mourning for the death of his lover and betrayer Vesper. The opening shot has Bond being chased across northern Italy’s Lake Garda in his Aston Martin. The wild adrenaline rush chase ends in Siena with the interrogation in a medieval dungeon with Bond and M (Judi Dench) of a Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), captured in “Casino Royale,” and quickly we learn of a security breach in M16 as a defector (Glenn Foster), M’s personal bodyguard, a mole infiltrator from a secret group, who is shooting up the joint. He’s chased by the athletic Bond through the medieval underground labyrinth and through the crowded Siena square where every summer there’s the Palio, a horse race that takes place in the Tuscany town square. It leads to Bond, in a fight-to-death with the defector while hanging onto a rope on a scaffolding. Afterwards it’s onto the slums of Haiti to follow a dead lead left by the defector; but it’s where Bond gets on the scent of a local beauty named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), with her own agenda of revenge, who leads him to the film’s bug-eyed main villain–a smarty-pants crazed French businessman named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). He’s a ruthless thug behind a secret organization who poses as both a philanthropist and environmentalist (dig the name Greene!) in order to take control of the water supply in Bolivia, a country run by a ruthless dictator who took over by a coup arranged by Greene. The bad-guy tree-hugger also has the blessings of the cynical CIA because he promised their country oil. But Greene has diabolical plans once he gets a strip of desert from the Bolivians, and it’s up to loner Bond, spurned by his country and America, to stop the deal from going down between Greene and the thuggish corrupt dictator, General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio). He’s the sadistic dude that the pouting Camille is scheming to get revenge on for the brutality he did to her family when she was a child.
What the title phrase “Quantum of Solace” means is never explained during the course of the half-baked plotted film (a slight slip-up, I guess, since plot barely counts in such films), but it was lifted from Fleming’s 1960 collection of short stories in a story called “For Your Eyes Only,” in which Bond and the Governor of Nassau have an after dinner talk about the amount of comfort/love (“Quantum of Solace”) needed to keep any relationship alive, and how when the quantum stands at zero, it’s time to let go of the relationship.
The acting by the supporting cast of Bond regulars includes Dench, giving off bad vibes as an overbearing mom and good vibes as a nurturing one; and Jeffrey Wright, as CIA operative Felix Leiter, who is on too briefly to make an impact; while Amalric, a dead ringer for Roman Polanski, is forgettable as the heavy; and all the Bond girls are uninteresting–with Olga Kurylenko only giving a lackluster performance and the redheaded Gemma Arterton, a Brit agent, is not around long enough to make a lasting impression.
The crazily arranged theme song, “Another Way to Die,” is by Jack White and Alicia Keys, and makes the jazzed-up credits roll by either as a good or bad watch–depending on one’s musical taste. The same can be said of the film, if you have a love for Bond and can accept the good, the bad and the ugly, this one has enough of the Bond iconic aura and dash to prevent Bond from being a cipher in his own franchise and looking like all the other recent superheroes doing over-the-top heroics.
REVIEWED ON 11/14/2008 GRADE: B-