reviewed by Marc Glassman
Quantum of Solace. Marc Forster, director. Paul Haggis, Michael G. Wilson, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade & Joshua Zetumer, script. Starring: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene), Olga Kurylenko (Camille Montes), Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields), Judi Dench (M), Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter), Anatole Taubman (Elvis), Giancarlo Giannini (Rene Mathis)
The new James Bond movie roars in with a car chase in the bright sunshine of the Italian Alps and ends with a confrontation in the darkness of snowy Kazan, Russia. Rarely pausing, this mega-million-dollar thriller races through Panama, Austria and Chile in less than two hours, with only occasional nods towards plot and character development. You’d think that after 45 years the Bond producers would be sure of their franchise but Quantum of Solace feels more like an uber-video game than a feature film.
The first Bond sequel, the film literally starts an hour after Casino Royale ends. That initial chase sequence occurs because Bond is carrying Mr. White, the main villain of the previous movie, into Siena to be interrogated by British Intelligence — including his boss, M. Naturally, more bloodshed ensues before the questioning can begin, because British Secret Service has been infiltrated by a spy working for White’s organization, Quantum.
So the “quantum” referred to in the film’s highly literary title is both a nefarious secret syndicate bent on exploiting the world and the “measure of understanding” that Bond needs after losing his love, Vesper Lynd, in the denouement of Casino Royale. If the movie has any dramatic propulsion, it’s captured in Bond’s angry refusal to deal with Vesper’s death, which he channels into a series of murderous encounters with Quantum, the organization that caused her demise.
In a nice twist, the main villain, Dominic Greene, is a Quantum man who spouts the new ecological line favoured by bigwigs worldwide since Al Gore won the Nobel Prize. Yep, his name is Greene and his cover is that he’s an environmentalist working for a “Greene Planet.” He’s not, of course; what he’s after is water, which Bolivia, the site for most of the movie (with Chile as a stand-in filmed to represent the real country) has in plentitude.
Oil gets trotted out as a planetary concern that Quantum can use, too. In the most resonant shot in the movie, one of Bond’s lovers, the aptly named Ms. Strawberry Fields, is found dead on their bed, her body covered from head to toe in oil. The gold covering the equally dead body of a Bond lover in the iconic ‘60s film Goldfinger has been reclaimed — temporarily — as oil. But as docs as varied as Flow and Blue Gold and books like the current Coach House hit HTO have shown, it’s water that will replace oil and gold as the most precious object while the scarcity-based 21st century unfolds.
Woops! What about the film? Though scriptwriter Paul Haggis has included intriguing political content about water and oil, he’s been less successful in creating a plot. The film lurches through endless improbable but dramatic scenes that seem to have been assembled like interchangeable Lego parts. No discernible relationship is created between Bond and his ostensible “girl” Camille, apart from the fact that both are fixated on revenge — in the woman’s case, on the murder and rape of her family by a Quantum ally, General Medrano, who wants to conquer Bolivia.
Lots of big scenes of destruction take place throughout the film. If you go to Quantum of Solace, you won’t be bored. As the public used to say, these producers know how to “blow stuff up real good.” But apart from one amazing scene where Tosca is staged in post-modernist style with a huge video monitor showing an immense eye as the dramatic conclusion is sung — and more Bond shenanigans ensue — nothing in this film is truly exceptional.
Wait for the next Bond: Daniel Craig is brilliant. But give him a story!