quantum_of_solace_ver4Quantum of Solace

  • Year:  2008
  • Director:  Marc Forster
  • Series Rank:  #7
  • Year Rank:  #25
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Editing
  • Bond Girl:  Olga Kurylenko (Camille Montes), Gemma Arterton (Fields)
  • Bond Villain:  Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene), Joaquín Cosío (General Medrano), Jesper Christensen (Mr. White)
  • Bond Support:  Judi Dench (M), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Giancarlo Giannini (René Mathis), Rory Kinnear (Bill Tanner)

By the time I got a chance to see this film (I didn’t get to see it in theaters), I had already seen many of the reviews that didn’t care for it.  Most emblematic is perhaps the Roger Ebert review, in which he tries to maintain that James Bond is not an action hero.  This is just a time when I shake my head.  Ebert got used to Roger Moore’s Bond and couldn’t adapt to what Bond was supposed to be like.  Other reviews tried to claim the plot was a mess, but the plot is actually fairly easy to follow – as Bond seeks out the organization that lead to Vesper Lynd’s death, he uncovers some of their other machinations and tries to stop them.  I simply think that most reviewers missed the boat on this one.  Is it Casino Royale?  No.  Is it still a very good action film and one of the better Bond films?  Absolutely.

More than any other Bond film, this film is a sequel.  Yes, Diamonds are Forever began with Bond seeking out Blofeld and wanting vengeance for the death of his wife, but that soon morphed into something else and was already complicated by the presence of a different actor playing Bond than in the previous film.  This film continues directly from the end of Casino Royale, beginning with one of the best car chases in any Bond film and then an unexpected scene where it turns out one of their own is a traitor (“When someone says ‘We’ve got people everywhere’, you expect it to be hyperbole!” M complains afterwards, “Lots of people say that. Florists use that expression. It doesn’t mean that they’ve got somebody working for them inside the bloody room!”).

Olga-in-Quantum-of-Solace-olga-kurylenko-6821930-600-900Bond follows the trail to Haiti where he encounters Camille Montes, a woman who is trying to kill the man who murdered her family and has ended up involved in the same organization Bond is hunting.  She turns out to be a solid Bond girl because she is also an agent (although, one who has never killed anyone before), she is smart and she is resourceful.  She is also pretty much unique in the Bond annals in that she is the primary Bond girl for the film and she doesn’t sleep with him.  They don’t even seem to have an interest in each other.  Perhaps that is what people couldn’t get into – that Bond would find a common ally and that sex would have nothing to do with it.  They share a common interest – not just in tracking the organization, but in trying to make up for what they feel are their own failings and to kill the ones who have killed their loved ones.

quantum-of-solace-2008-007-james-bond-daniel-craig-olga-kurylenko-movie-review-2015-spectreIn their conversation we understand part of what makes the Craig films so much better.  “He tried to kill a friend of mine,” Bond tells Camille.  When Bond is asked if it was his mother, he replies “She likes to think so.”  The relationship between Bond and M was made into something much more special in Casino Royale and that is built upon here.  When Bond escapes from his handlers, he goes back to talk to M and it’s clear that the two of them trust each other and don’t really place much trust in anyone else.  The events of the last third of Skyfall work so well because the seeds are really getting planted here.  If Craig really does walk away from Bond after SPECTRE, I suspect part of it is because Dench is no longer around.  They clearly had great chemistry and enjoyed working together.  Look at the 13:45 mark of this video and watch Craig’s reaction.  Their relationship, both on and off screen, is just magnificent.

amalricThis film also brings in three actors, one of whom I was familiar with already, one of whom I barely remembered from this film but has recently developed into one of my favorite actors, and one of whom I had never seen before and who hit like a lightning bolt.  The first is Mathieu Amalric, like Mads Mikkelsen in the previous film, a foreign actor you should know from more than just being a Bond villain.  I had already seen him in Munich, A Christmas Tale and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly before this film.  Since then you can see him in small roles in Wolf Hall and The Grand Budapest Hotel or in a large role in an under-appreciated film like Chicken with Plums.  He’s a talented actor, and if he’s not a physical match for Bond, when they do fight, Amalric is so insane with rage that he’s like a little kid with a stick (except he has an axe).

008QOS_Rory_Kinnear_001The second is Rory Kinnear.  Now, it wasn’t just this film where Kinnear kind of went by me in a blur.  I also didn’t appreciate him enough when I first watched Skyfall.  But clearly Sam Mendes likes him as much as I do, because since directing him in Skyfall, Kinnear has had key roles in two Mendes produced works on television: as Bolingbroke in Richard II (part of the brilliant The Hollow Crown) and as the Monster in the fantastic Penny Dreadful (which also has a former Bond and a former Bond girl).  He was also a star in The Casual Vacancy and we’ve seen clips of him on stage in Othello thanks to Shakespeare Revisited and he’s been a supporting player in fun films like Cuban Fury, so Veronica and I have become big fans.  Kinnear plays Bill Tanner, M’s chief of staff that had been in the Moore era films and he’s solid as Bond’s main support back in London.

quantum-of-solace2_2776143cThe third is Gemma Arterton.  I had never even heard of her before seeing the film, but when she greets Bond in the trenchcoat and boots (and, from the look of it, nothing else), then allows herself to be seduced by him, and even gives a little helping foot, only to harken back to Goldfinger, as she lies dead on the bed covered in oil, I was blown away.  Before too long she would become the go-to girl for mediocre fantasy films (Clash of the Titans, Prince of Persia, Hansel and Gretel), but she’s a delight to watch on film.  Veronica looked at me and said “You can’t rank her high on the list, she does nothing but trip one guy” and I replied “Oh, she’s not high on the Bond girl list, but she is on the sexiest Bond girl list”.

So, you know what, forget what you’ve read elsewhere.  This film has some great action sequences (it has a car chase, a foot chase, a boat chase and an airplane chase), it has a solid villain, it has a sexy Bond girl without the plot contriving a way for Bond to have sex with her, has an even sexier Bond girl that he does sleep with, great support (Jeffrey Wright again proves that he’s by far the best Felix Leiter the series has ever had) and it continues to develop the most important relationship in Bond’s life: the one with M.