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Quantum of Solace: The Review

Director: Marc Forster

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Gemma Arterton, Jesper Christensen, Rory Kinnear, Joaquin Cosio and Judi Dench as M

Plot: In the aftermath of Casino Royale, MI6 discover a top secret criminal organisation, Quantum. M (Dench) employs James Bond (Craig) to uncover who and what they are.

Quantum of Solace is frowned upon quite often by critics. Perhaps this is mainly due to the massive success of Casino Royale, the producers struggling to match its power and grandeur. Daniel Craig’s arrival as Bond shepherded in a new era and one that surpassed expectations dramatically. In many ways, Quantum of Solace is just as tricky a movie to get right as the very first sequel. We want exactly what we had with Casino Royale, but we want to be even more impressed. In retrospect, is it that surprisingly Quantum of Solace is largely met with slight disdain from audiences? Therefore, let’s start this review with the bad. Yes, Quantum of Solace is messier. The writers get a little lost in the globe-trotting and conspiracy plotting, making the story rather difficult to keep up with. The set-pieces are cool, the movie opening with a stunning car chase in Italy and following it up with a terrific punch-up with a treacherous MI6 agent. However, it takes a few watches to figure out the hows and whys of the various action sequences. It asks you to go along for the ride, which will impress those turning up for a standard Bond outing, but might dissuade those wanting to be thrown into another captivating story. The fight scenes are also a little too tightly edited for my liking. On one hand, they are glorious, really getting across the frantic race for survival that every punch-up is. Daniel Craig’s eyes flashes with the look of someone expecting to be killed at any moment, which gets across the vulnerable side of the spy without ever damaging the legacy of the hero. There is also something brutally satisfying about how the fighting builds up like a rapid crescendo and then comes to a sudden halt. It keeps the fight gripping up until that final bullet. At the same time, like the plot, it is sometimes too fast to keep up with. It is fun on a superficial level and when you try to follow the scene closer on a second watch, it can be frustratingly hard to do so. Other bad points: the plane scene is a little silly. Some of the dialogue doesn’t work. Alicia Keys deserves the death penalty…

But is this enough to make it as hated as it is? Quantum of Solace occasionally hits a note, where I think to myself ‘ah, they could have done that a little better’, but never am I severely disappointed in anything the film does. It still delivers everything I want from a Bond movie. In fact, it delivers on every note that I want from a Daniel Craig movie. Sure, Quantum of Solace doesn’t quite have the same ‘need-to-see’ reputation that Casino Royale and Skyfall does, but it has layers of drama that we wouldn’t have had from an earlier Bond. Craig is still hurting from Vesper’s betrayal. He is still finding his feet as a spy. The drama might take a back seat this time around, but it still does its job well, making Bond feel more relevant and prominent than it ever has. This time, it just has a bit more time dedicated to being a stereotypical Bond film as well. The villains are nastier than they have been in a while. Mathieu Amalric is skin-crawling and weasely, Joaquin Cosio’s Bolivian dictator hits close to home with both his revolution master plan and his womanising ways. There is a nice sub-message where Bond and M are unable to do their job properly, because MI6 and the CIA are facing the reality that the only way to keep their countries in control is to do business with the bad guys. As Giancarlo’s returning Matthias mentions ‘the heroes and the villains are getting all muddled up.’ Yes, Bond wants to be more than ‘007 meets gorgeous girl and takes on the bad guy’, but at the same time, deliver the 007 experience we all want. I think Quantum of Solace finds the balance terrifically, especially with a surprisingly good turn from Kurylenko’s vengeful mystery woman.

But then there are the finer beats that make Quantum of Solace a good movie. There are moments dropped into the film that just stay with you. While the writing is rushed in areas (a pesky writer’s strike became this movie’s curse), other moments have iconic dialogue. “You are motivated by revenge!” snaps M. “I am motivated by my duty.” Bond quips back. A shudder goes down my spine every time. Bond’s farewell to Matthias lays out the character brilliantly and exposes the man behind the spy without retreading old ground from Casino Royale. I also like Bond’s motivation in this movie. While on a first watch, it appears he is simply being fuelled by a desire to take down the organisation that turned Vesper, his one true love, against him, a second watch offers an alternative reading. Quantum got into MI6 and shot M, arguably the one woman he respects without the sexual tension. Certain moments show Craig glistening with a rage that these bad guys got close, too close! It puts that strained yet touching relationship between Bond and M into the spotlight and despite their difference, it is clear they would do anything for each other. Skyfall shoves this down our throats, Quantum of Solace quietly celebrates it. It is up to the viewer to decide which is more powerful. Then there is an excellent moment where Bond offs a lead in Haiti. After he has killed the bad guy, there is a quick montage of him cleaning himself up, before leaving the crime scene. It harshly reminds you that he might be a British national treasure, but to everyone else, he is a dangerous assassin, little more than a cold-blooded killer. Suddenly 007 is more than that charming man who always gets the girl. It puts everything back into perspective nicely and shows that with 22 movies under his belt already, the character still has a lot more development to get through. James Bond will return.

Final Verdict: Slightly inconsistent, yet it is still a truly incredible Bond film. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench shine, the action hits the majority of its targets.

Four Stars