RETRO REVIEW: Quantum of Solace (2008)

Daniel Craig as James Bond and Judi Dench as M in QUANTUM OF SOLACE — Photo: Sony Pictures Releasing / Eon Productions.

Directed by Marc Forster — Screenplay by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade.

Although Quantum of Solace is often disregarded as nothing more than the nadir of Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond, which it is, I don’t think this film is as disastrous as others may. I have previously described this film as a misstep or a disappointment, but, in reality, Quantum of Solace feels like it is a film that was stuck in the mud already in pre-production due to the late 2000s WGA screenwriters’ strike. Quantum of Solace probably should have had its production delayed, but instead the producers opted to fast-track it, and, to me, that resulted in the follow-up to Casino Royale not being able to reach its potential. The most interesting thing about Quantum of Solace, though, is the fact that it brought the continuity and ongoing story arc, which would come to be indicative of Craig’s tenure, to the franchise.

Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace takes place almost immediately after the events of Casino Royale. James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) has Mr. White (played by Jesper Christensen) locked in the trunk of his car, but, during their interrogation of him, he manages to cause a distraction and get away unscathed before MI6 have a chance to find out anything of note about the shadow organization that he is associated with. On his subsequent mission, Bond starts to figure out that his trail may lead to environmentalist entrepreneur Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric), who has made a deal with a Bolivian general in exchange for land in a desert, which may hold oil. While looking into Greene and the organization that he, too, may be associated with, Bond is also seeking to avenge Vesper Lynd by chasing down the people who made her turn on him.

I will probably always associate Quantum of Solace with the aforementioned screenwriters’ strike. The strike, at least to a certain extent, brought select productions to their knees, and, in this case, it certainly hindered Quantum of Solace significantly. Though they aren’t officially credited with writing the film, I think it is generally known that Daniel Craig and director Marc Forster had to rewrite scenes and come up with new scenes as they went along. It must’ve been a tumultuous production, and I definitely think you can feel that in the final product. Quantum of Solace feels overly edited, short but perhaps too short, and it doesn’t tell a particularly memorable story.

I actually quite like that it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale — and that it introduced continuity and serialization to the franchise — since I think the overarching story benefits from actually letting Bond sit with the loss of Vesper Lynd a little bit more. This is essentially a film about repressed grief and seeking closure, and I actually think that part of the film works. My favorite scene in the entire film is the one on an airplane, where Bond finds himself drinking his sorrows at the bar. He is drinking the ‘Vesper’ cocktail again and again, but he doesn’t call it by its name. It hurts to see Bond like that, and I think the film is all the better fo showing him like that. The blunt instrument is hurting and he is on a rampage because he is more emotionally attached than he ever thought he would be.

Unfortunately, I just think that the external narrative is not as interesting as Bond’s internal struggles. I don’t hate the characterization of Dominic Greene, the film’s primary antagonist, but, in spite of the environmentalist angle, I think he is ill fitting in the Craig-era. I don’t have a problem with the actor. Mathieu Amalric is decent enough in the strangely milquetoast role that he is asked to play. I think he would’ve been a perfectly fine villain in a more campy Bond film, but I just don’t think he is a compelling enough foil for this Agent 007. I think it is interesting that the CIA is essentially intentionally looking in the other direction, but I also think that Jeffrey Wright is underused.

It is also quite strange that even though it is a relatively short Bond film with a runtime of 106 minutes, the movie feels longer than it is. And yet, I don’t think the talky scenes get enough time to breathe and sink in, whereas the action-heavy scenes are uninvolving and made disorienting by an overabundance of frenetic cutting.

Marc Forster’s Quantum of Solace is a mixed bag that may have been much, much better or much more memorable were it not for the fact that the screenwriters’ strike seriously impeded production. Frankly, this film is at its best when it tries to be more of an epilogue to Casino Royale than its own story. It is disappointingly uninvolving when it tries to be its own thing.

5.5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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