It's 2:13 a.m., which means Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film, concluded just fourteen minutes ago. Used to going to sleep by 11 on weeknights, I am extremely tired, fearing my alarm in just a few hours and must warn of typos. My eyes certainly closed a few times throughout the movie, and whether that's a symptom of or a cause for, Quantum of Solace left me desiring more.
Quantum of Solace is not a bad movie. It has a good amount of action, some beautiful women, a car chase, a plane chase and some witty Bond humor. It's entertaining by every essence of the word, and those looking for a slick thrill ride should be entertained. New director Marc Forster has brought much of the same grittiness that Martin Campbell implemented in Casino Royale, and it's good he did, because Quantum of Solace is the first sequel in the James Bond franchise. In other words, this movie starts out minutes after the finale of Casino Royale, where Mr. White was, ahem, apprehended by Bond (Daniel Craig). James Bond. This go around, after Mr. White escapes, Bond sets out to recapture the man, though he has to go through a scheming CEO and a bombshell with a revenge plot of her own before getting to him.
Unfortunately, Quantum of Solace is the movie I feared it would be, a relatively poor continuation of the absolutely excellent Casino Royale. You bring in Marc Forster, whose claim to fame so far has been Finding Neverland, and what do you expect? Forster is not an action director, and never will be, though he tries his hardest here. The movie does have grit, some blood and some intense moments; there is plenty of action for Bond fans to feast their eyes on. Still, the action and everything else feels like a copycat of Casino Royale, only without the heart, soul and wisdom that that film had. Furthermore, while a decent action movie, it feels even less like a Bond film than Casino Royale did.
But with Casino Royale, we, as an audience, willingly relinquished a little bit of what Bond was about to bring him into the modern day, to make him a spy for the 21st century and to compete with much more intimidating action heroes like Jason Bourne. Campbell, who had already once rebooted the Bond franchise with Pierce Brosnan's Goldeneye (one of my favorites), did it again, this time going back to basics, making Bond more realistic and serious. The movie was long and not always action packed, but when the action was there, it was pretty explosive, and when it wasn't, it was interesting to listen to. We cared about the characters and we liked Vesper, even when she did betray the man she loved. Beyond that, there was a truly scary villain named Le Chiffre and an intriguing, smart plot to back him up.
Gone is most of that. There's more action, sure, but does that make an action movie better? The pieces in between, the elements that form the puzzle and make everything work, just don't. I'll even go so far as to say they're boring. There are a couple of Bond girls, but dull and uninteresting doesn't describe them enough. The first one, Agent Fields, isn't developed at all and is only there to look pretty - though Forster forgets that he's supposed to show her on-screen in something alluring, or nothing at all. Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is meant to be the main Bond girl, and while she can pack a punch, she still comes off as a damsel in distress, gets very little screen time, no character development and not much to do other than to get in Bond's way... and Bond doesn't even get to bed her in the end. Mathieu Amalric is a pathetically lame villain, and not even worthy of mention. Quantum of Solace sets the stage for a truly intriguing and complicated mess of politics, double crosses and betrayals, yet it appears as though the producers have this planned for the next Bond flick, as they sure as hell never follow through with any of that here. The uber-bad guy is never caught and very little is done; Quantum of Solace feels like the middle film of a trilogy that has no ending.
In other words, the plot sucks. And regardless of its quality, it isn't grand enough, at least visually, to qualify for a Bond flick, even a grittier, more realistic, 21st century Bond flick. There is no truly memorable action scene, no captivating Bond girl (oh, absolutely no sex or, really, even the allusion to sex) and so on and so forth. All we get is a bunch of quips from Bond and M (Judi Dench, who must have negotiated hard to get an unnecessary amount of screen time), quips that are at times quite funny but reminders of a Bond we thought we had altered just a few years back.
And that brings me to my next point. Quantum of Solace, while looking somewhat like Campbell's Casino Royale, does feel more like an old school Bond flick, as there is more humor and less intelligent plotting. If for some reason the studio decided to go back in this direction (I don't know why they would, as Casino Royale received the most money and the best reviews of any Bond film), fine, but go back with a vengeance. If you're going to make a classic Bond film, give us a little more of that James Bond music (still missing in its purest form), mannerisms and sexiness. And for God's sake, have more sex! Whether we're talking about old or new Bond, there needs to be more Bond girl and more sex. This isn't meant to be shallow, nor meant to imply that old or new Bond should treat sex in the same way, but Forster especially treats sex like it's completely taboo. I just don't get it.
Anyway, Quantum of Solace is action without plot, a sequel that does what sequels do best: fail to live up to their predecessors. It is entertaining, and like all Bond films I'm sure it will grow on me over future viewings, but it's disappointing. Why MGM didn't throw as much money as it needed to keep Campbell on as director is beyond me, and why they hired Forster is a question I'd love to ask. A better, more drawn out screenplay and a different director would have made a world of difference.
Still, because it's James Bond, go see it in theaters anyway.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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