Killing with license
OO7 and company inject heart in somewhat disjointed narrative
Quantum of Solace: What exactly does that mean? Quantum is a quantity that can be massive or miniscule; solace is comfort, either from consolation or relaxation. Both words are ambiguous with internal contradictions—which, ironically, makes them perfectly appropriate for the movie that pairs them.
Ian Fleming came up with that cool-sounding nonsense for one of his short stories. In it, superspy James Bond attends a dinner party and … well, actually, that’s it. There’s no other insight to gain on the title; producers of the film franchise took it because it’s the best one left, and they found a way to work it into the trilogy they’ve constructed.
See, this is the first true sequel in the film franchise. Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale (the 2006 series reboot) leaves off, with the mysterious Mr. White—culpable in the death of Bond’s beloved Vesper Lynd—still bleeding from the bullets fired by the avenging agent. 007 brings him in for interrogation, but a double agent interrupts the proceedings before any secrets get spilled.
Blood gets spilled—plenty of it. Bond puts his license to kill to good use, leaving a series of stiffs in his wake as he races around Europe, the Caribbean and South America to figure out who is behind the organization that blackmailed Vesper and what that organization is really up to. The plot aligns with the times: Principal baddie Dominic Greene is anything but eco-friendly in the way he exploits resource scarcity.
There’s a lot to like in Quantum of Solace. “Blond Bond” Daniel Craig builds off the smoldering stoicism he introduced in Casino Royale. The grittiness and action sequences, too, continue the series’ reinvention, as does Judi Dench’s vulnerability as M. Plus, Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are two of the most breathtaking Bond girls in any of the 22 films (and not just for their aesthetic blessings).
And yet … there are those internal contradictions.
The script, again co-written by Paul Haggis (Oscar winner for Crash and Million Dollar Baby), avoids the lull that hit the middle of Casino Royale, but the brisk pace that propels the film so energetically also makes for some head-scratching moments and implausibilities that are huge even by 007 standards.
Some of that may be due to the editing, done in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style that ups the adrenaline but also robs some chase and fight sequences of key bits of visual information. (The previous film struck a better balance.)
Some of that may also be due to the direction. Before taking the reins here, Mark Forster’s closest brush with Bondness was Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball. It’s quite a leap—quantum, if you will—to go from directing art-house films to the world’s biggest action franchise. Perhaps this upsize is why certain characters (Bond, M and Kurylenko’s Camille) are so much deeper than others (Mathieu Amalric’s Green and Arterton’s Strawberry Fields).
Quibbles aside, Quantum offers 105 minutes of great entertainment. It ranks in the middle of the Bond pantheon, somewhere between From Russia With Love and For Your Eyes Only. Considering how the second part of a trilogy tends to be the weakest, that bodes well for part three … whatever it’s called.