Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Almaric, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton
Director: Marc Forster
Blistering action just trumps meandering plot. Bond is back and he's rather cross.
Jeffrey Wright is the first actor to play Felix Leiter in successive movies in the franchise.
Casino Royale (2006)
Craig's first mission as 007.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
Bond clone becomes Bond model.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Brooding hero batters everything in his way. Sound familiar?
Quantum Of Solace - 07/10
With 2002's bloated and nonsensical Die Another Day, it was clear that the James Bond franchise needed a reboot. Ironically, incumbent Bond, Pierce Brosnan, had done that himself seven years earlier with the cracking, back-to-basics, Goldeneye. After that the series became complacent and devolved into virtual self-parody. That bloody invisible car was almost the final nail in the coffin. But much like the (rightly) even more maligned Batman & Robin, DAD's faliure would lead to a phoenix-like revival for it's central character. So 2006 saw Bond return, this time in the guise of Daniel Craig, with a new start and a new outlook. Casino Royale brought grit and realism to a series suffering from superhero delusions. It was a huge success and 007 was hot property once more.
Buoyed by their success, Bond producers, Michael G Wilson & Barbara Broccoli, sought to keep riding this wave of realism. So in came Bourne Ultimatum choreographer Dan Bradley and, crucially, serious film-maker Marc Foster. A quick look at Forster's resumé (The Kite Runner, Monster's Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) would show that this was a left-field choice. More on that later.
So to Question Of Spor.. Quantum Of Solace. The action picks up minutes after the final scene from CR so we are thrust straight into the story. This is the first time a straight sequel has been produced in Bond history, and it leaves one a little disorientated at first. You almost wish for a Lost-style "Previously on Bondů" montage. The opening car chase we're treated to gives a fine taste of the action to come.
The wildly creative credit sequence would do Maurice Binder proud and serves to render the bizarre pairing of Jack White and Alicia Keys, almost listenable. ("Another ringer with the slick trigger finger for Her Majesty" - Seriously?)
Bond then sets about finding those who doomed his poor Vesper and stops at nothing. Literally. It seems 007 has been recast as a kind of human wrecking ball, shooting first and asking questions later. Finesse is not his thing. Nor, for that matter, is authority.
Craig's 007 vintage is as far from that of Roger Moore as it is possible to be. If anything, the Bond he has more in common with is Timothy Dalton. Both bring a brutality to the role one would think vital for a professional killer. Craig, having come from the realms of independent cinema - Tomb Raider apart - brings an influence of realism that the producers seem to wish to harness. Originally in the shower scene with Bond and Vesper in CR, Eva Green was supposed to be in her underwear. It was Craig who asked why, if she was so upset anyway, would she remove her dress? Fair comment. The intention seems to be that things should happen more organically for 007. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but we need to keep that connection with the past, that air of fantasy, so we remember why we loved it so much in the first place. And, er I would have quite liked to have seen Eva Green in her underwear. Ahem.
Olga Kurylenko brings an inner toughness to what would usually be a fairly two-dimensional role, but can't live up to the new standard set previously by Green. Gemma Arterton gets the more playful part and provides the film with its most memorable image - a throwback to Bonds past. Jeffrey Wright returns as CIA goodguy Felix Leiter. Even he is treated to a little character development. Seriously, where are the sharks guys?
Frenchman Mathieu Almaric, last seen waving his eyelid about in the excellent The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, makes for a suitably loathsome villain, but lacks the charisma usually identified with 007's nemeses. He works for the shadowy group Quantum (Oh, Quantum of Solace! See what they did there?) who are planning to...um do something fiendish. Something to do with water or oil, I think. Here lies the film's major flaw: As Bond crisscrosses across the globe (Does he collect airmiles? What about his carbon footprint?) the plot seems to get lost among the moments of violence and alarm.
The impression is that Forster is working outside of his comfort zone. This is commendable and his willingness to take risks with a sacred cow such as 007 is most courageous. At times however it's a case of: how is Bond not Bond? Forster even treats us to one almost avant-garde action sequence intercut with a lively performance of Tosca. I don't think we'd have seen that in Moonraker. In eschewing the elements that make Bond so recognisable, he loses some of the heart of the character. We want to identify with Bond, not fear him. The vulnerability from CR seems to have been replaced with a singular bloody-mindedness. In trying to dilute some of the silliness from some previous films in the series they have edged slightly too far the other way.
In terms of character development, it lays heavy groundwork and if the series rediscovers its enjoyment, this film could be seen as vital in the structure of the franchise.
It is also on record that when Forster signed on there was no working script or title. I find it hard to believe that it is not possible to prep these films earlier. Surely they don't have to wait and see how that film will do to see whether they'll do another. This is a franchise which is approaching 50 years! Have a word Babs! I want to see that "James Bond Will Return Inů" back. We all do - not least Craig and the next director.
So why 7 out of ten? Apart from the licence to mark a film as 007? Well, firstly as an admittedly huge, geeky fan of the series, Bond will always get and extra mark with me. Hey, it is MY website! Also, Forster is a very talented director and it shows. He makes a genuine effort to legitimise this agent. Craig again shows his qualities as an action hero and a serious actor, something that few of his predecessors managed, and there are no weak links in his supporting cast.
And the action seriously kicks ARSE.
Just, please next time, let Bond, and us, have a little more fun.