As a stand-alone James Bond film, Quantum of Solace falls short of its superior predecessor, Casino Royale. Looked upon as an addition to Casino Royale, the next chapter directly after it, Quantum of Solace succeeds.
Many viewers of Quantum of Solace will sum up the film thusly: it’s not as good as Casino Royale, period. This is an unfair comparison. Casino Royale was the rebirth of James Bond, the creation of a realistic Bond the world hadn’t seen before, a Bond more closely related to Ian Fleming’s original creation. In Casino Royale, audiences were introduced to Bond’s background, the woman that first captured his heart, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and who crushed it with her betrayal. Some viewers’ expectations for Quantum of Solace were too high, thanks in part to the film’s first excellent trailer depicting Quantum of Solace as another character study of Bond as well as a revenge film fueled by Bond’s indomitable rage over Vesper’s death.
This wasn’t exactly the case in Quantum of Solace and even if it were, how did viewers think this film could possibly top the plot/emotion combo from Casino Royale? The only Bond film that even approaches being as good as Casino Royale is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Rabbits rarely come out of a hat as fulfilling the second time around. So what the producers of Quantum of Solace did was to continue the already established storyline from Casino Royale an hour or so after that film ended at Lake Garda, Italy. Bond is mourning Vesper’s passing. His heart still loves her, his mind hates her. Bond doesn’t want to sleep. Vesper is waiting for him when he closes his eyes yet even while awake, he continuously orders a drink he named after her in Casino Royale.
It’s scenes like that which sporadically bring Quantum of Solace up to the quality of Casino Royale. Another such intermittent instance is when a certain character is shot and is dying in a street. Bond holds this character close while they die. It’s a touching, cleanly written, pithy scene with great acting and emotional undercurrents. Its also one of the only times in Quantum of Solace when the viewer may actually feel something for a character in the film.
For all of its pluses, including its heart pounding intro as Bond drives toward Siena, Italy from Lake Garda with a special package in the trunk, there are numerous minuses not found in the franchise’s previous installment. There are multiple slow moments involving deserts, indigenous people and walking in Quantum of Solace. The slow moments in Casino Royale consisted of a No Limit Texas Hold’em (poker) tournament in Casino Royale in Montenegro. During Quantum’s slow scenes there is nothing to watch and there is no build up or anticipation. To spice things up, there are multiple scenes of intrigue, including one consisting of a meeting at a high-end production performance of Giacomo Puccini’s play Tosca by the shadowy organization behind Vesper’s death. This organization, known as Quantum, is headed by Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who is also chairman of the ecological organization Greene Plant. Aside from the meeting, the viewer may also enjoy how the intense scenes from Puccini’s play are intermixed with violence when Greene’s men try to kill Bond.
Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), a Russain-Bolivian agent, is the main Bond girl in Quantum of Solace but since he does not actually sleep with her, is she still classified as a Bond girl? One noteworthy aspect of Camille is that she can actually hold her own in a fight against a man and take care of business herself. I would have liked to have said she doesn’t need a man to save her either but that point is explained through her back story. Because of this, the viewer understands her resultant condition during a certain scene. Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson (Halle Berry) was able to take care of herself, as were Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) and Countess Tracy di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) in their respective Bond films as well but they were not in the same emotional situation as Camille. Camille was created as a double of Bond, a damaged individual out for revenge whose history is as much written on her body as it is in her motivations and actions.
Though Bond doesn’t have sex with Camille, he does with Agent Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), who works at the British Consulate in Bolivia for MI6. Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Joshua Zetumer dropped the ball with this aspect of Quantum of Solace’s screenplay. They had the opportunity to do something that Bond has never done before to my knowledge: have him refuse the physical advances of a beautiful woman. Bond is in mourning in Quantum of Solace, whether he wants to admit to anyone or not. There were two ways it could have been handled in Quantum of Solace: A.) Bond becomes cold, distant and distrustful of the opposite sex for a while or B.) He tries to counteract his feelings of depression, sorrow and sadness in some way. The screenwriting crew for Quantum of Solace took the road most traveled by Bond and chose B. It’s too bad for the viewer, Bond and the film itself. How much more interesting would the hotel room scene between Fields and Bond have been if Fields came on to Bond, put her arms around his neck and kissed him only to have Bond not close his eyes, not kiss her back, take her arms from around his neck, push her away, walk away and slam the door to his room behind him. That reaction would have been far more exciting (and realistic) to watch then just seeing Bond roll around in bed with another disposal beauty. That small insight into Bond’s now extremely distrustful nature (“You don’t trust anyone do you James?” “No.” “Then you’ve learnt your lesson.”) and detachment would have been wonderful to witness and would have improved the overall quality of Quantum of Solace to a small degree. Perhaps the screenwriters thought Bond had experienced enough growth for one incarnation, decided to tone it down and bring Bond back to what they assume makes a Bond film a Bond film: James banging a plethora of hot chicks.
With the tried and true in mind, viewers may by very surprised by the ferocity of the film’s antagonist during his physical confrontation with it’s protagonist in the final act of Quantum of Solace. Greene really puts up a good fight without the battle being plagued by lacings of fakeness or artifice. There are a few fleeting seconds when the viewer may suspend belief that Bond will actually win because of Greene’s adamant attempts at the latter but they cease to exist just as quickly.
Marc Forester’s Quantum of Solace is what Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not as great of a stand-alone film as it is an add-on film to the motion picture that preceded it. Quantum of Solace wraps up the emotional storyline and a few others from Casino Royale but what it introduces in its wake is not as strong or nearly as compelling. Hopefully this is the calm before the Bond storm as was the case with Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.