Blog 023: Quantum of Solace (2008)

It’s almost unfair to evaluate Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008) as its own film, given that it represents more of an epilogue to Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006). Because Casino Royale was such a creatively successful reboot of the James Bond film franchise, it would’ve been hard for any follow-up to reach the same heights. However, Quantum of Solace isn’t even that good of a follow-up.

Quantum of Solace was the first 007 movie I had left the theater with a bad taste in my mouth (somehow I had liked even the dreadful Die Another Day [Lee Tamahori, 2002] enough to see it in theaters three times). There was just something off with the movie, and I was hoping that this rewatch would help me to pinpoint what that something is.

I’ve realized that the story is one of the major issues. The ending of Casino Royale, a film that had been designed as an origin story, suggests that Bond (Daniel Craig) has become the character known to audiences. Not only did that film end with his catchphrase “Bond, James Bond,” but the “James Bond Theme” played in full for the first time after having been largely absent from the score. It seemed that Quantum of Solace would begin with the franchise’s signature gunbarrel sequence, but I was surprised at first to see the film pick up immediately from where Casino Royale had left off, with Bond having captured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) and engaged in a high-speed car chase in Italy. That the film begins directly after the events of Casino Royale makes me question the ending of that latter film; that is, why end Casino Royale with “Bond, James Bond” and the “James Bond Theme” if the character will be no different for much of the follow-up?

Bond’s character arc isn’t completed until the end of this film, after he has come to terms with Vesper Lynd’s (Eva Green, not featured here) betrayal from Casino Royale. The other characters here are, with the exception of Camille (Olga Kurylenko), unmemorable. There are some very good actors here, including Mathieu Amalric as the villain Dominic Greene, but they’re not given enough to do to make an impression.

Following the thrilling car chase in the pre-title sequence, we hear what I consider to be (tied with Madonna’s “Die Another Day”) the worst theme song in the franchise: “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keyes. The idea of a duet (especially between the usually great White and Keyes) should have worked for this film – since the film is really a team-up between Bond and Camille – but the song is just a mess. At least David Arnold’s score (his last to date) is excellent, even if the “James Bond Theme” (despite its prominent appearance at the end of Casino Royale) is used so sparingly here.

The action scenes are as unmemorable as the characters. In addition to the opening car chase, though, the opera scene (much like that in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation [Christopher McQuarrie, 2015]) is very skillfully composed. However, action scenes take up a majority of the film’s already short running time (the shortest in the series, in fact), and this might due to the effects of the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike.

To my surprise, my girlfriend – who had liked Casino Royale so much – couldn’t stand this movie. Between the incomprehensible editing, the ear-grating theme song, and the uninteresting plot, she just didn’t want to have any part of it.

This post contains a lot of reference to Casino Royale, which underscores the main issue with Quantum of Solace: it’s little more than an afterword to the previous film. I would recommend it only as a continuation of Casino Royale (preferably watched directly after), but it’s certainly not a film that’s easy to enjoy on its own.

This blog will return with… Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012).

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