For more Quantum of Solace thoughts, check out this week’s That Bond Show.
My That Bond Show co-host might have my favorite description of Quantum of Solace: it’s simply a lesser Licence to Kill.
If you like Licence to Kill, and you should, it’s very good, then great. This is a worse but still fine version of that. If Licence isn’t your cup of tea, then I doubt you’ll click with Quantum. Both movies are of course all-in on the idea of a dark, brooding, grief-stricken Bond brutally going through the world and anyone in his way as he pursues some measure of vengeance.
What holds Quantum of Solace back, aside from its absurd name, is its frantic and all-over-the-place direction and editing, which is then weakened further by a script that was partially finished by director Marc Forster and star Daniel Craig due to the Writers strike.
The whole movie has this scattershot and go-go-go energy to it. At just an hour and 46 minutes, Quantum is the shortest movie in the entire series’ history and they scarcely give you a single second to linger on anything. The movie solves some of its Writers strike issues by filling this thing up with so many action set pieces and Bourne-inspired fights, yet none are particularly standout or exciting to watch save one. And by the time credits roll and you reflect back on everything, they can’t help but feel like padding to add to the mostly shallow story at the heart of the movie.
The movie has an intriguing premise with the idea that water, and not oil, is the world’s most valuable resource, even more so because the bad guys realize this far before the heroes do. Yet, it is such a meandering path to get there that, by the time that comes into focus, the movie is lost in three or four other subplots.
Which is where we are tasked with dealing with main villain Dominic Greene, a bond villain of such utterly un-memorable nature that any time he isn’t on screen you quickly start to wonder who the main antagonistic force in the film will be. It doesn’t help that Bond girl Camille has her own big bad to contend with, thus minimizing some of Greene’s menace and screen time.
The general who Camille is after is such a generic baddie that I won’t spend any other time on him, but Greene is given these flickers of a way more interesting character. But it’s only in fits and starts. In some ways, he is the right villain; just in the wrong movie. More suited to a mid 2000’s character drama than to a Bond film, Greene’s best moment comes when the character finally goes utterly mad in his fire-filled, ax-welding fight with James at the movie’s end. Otherwise he is largely forgettable and fine.
Speaking of Daniel Craig’s James, he is given such force by Craig in a good performance when we are allowed to just spend time with James and his grief. The problem is that Quantum of Solace is constantly pulling in so many directions that we don’t get enough of James just dealing or thinking about things and instead we must have poorly shot car, boat, foot, and air chase scenes to get to.
Still, while not Craig’s best performance as 007, I found myself enjoying it more than in prior viewings: a testament to Craig’s ability despite what he is given to work with.
The same is largely true of Camille: a great subversion of the Bond girl trope who is so in and out of the movie. Honestly, where does she come from at the end? Still, in the few personal moments they give her, she shines. And I love the idea that the film rightfully didn’t make the realtionship between Bond and Camille too romantic at the end. Theirs is a strong intimacy but not because of a physical relationship between the two. Also, shoutout to Camille for getting a few moments to shine in fight scenes.
Bond and M’s familial relationship continues to grow and get better here and I love this loving antagonism between them. Particular praise to their scene together right after Bond blink-and-you-miss-it escaped from MI6 agents in an elevator.
And that’s Quantum of Solace: a movie plagued by poor writing, editing, and direction, lifted by some fine performances – with Giancarlo Giannini as René Mathis one of the strongest among them – that keeps it away from the bad end of the spectrum but still among the weakest of post-Roger Moore era Bond movies.
The fight between Bond and the contact he is going after is quick, brutal, and expertly staged. A flash-in-the-pan moment that is so obviously inspired by Jason Bourne. It’s the best action scene in the whole movie.
All of Bond and Mathis together is beautiful and sad with this melancholic tinge to it that would increasingly come to define Craig’s 007. The image of Mathis slowly dying in James’ arms, just begging James to forgive himself and Vesper, is a film standout sequence, capped with the shocking image of James then dumping the body in a dumpster.
Dominic Greene is straight up the weakest villain since the largely mediocre run of Moore stiffs. While he is not the worst, he’s mostly fine and forgettable, sans that hilarious and amazing final fight with James. 6/10
Lol, just kidding, we still hate gadgets.
Jeffrey Wright isn’t in a ton of this movie but everything he is in is great and he is such a criminally underused Felix honestly. More of him please. 9/10.
Quantum of Solace is the weakest of the post-Roger Moore era films we’ve reviewed so far. Yet, it is still leagues better than so much of the dreck of Roger Moore’s tenure as James Bond. Quantum is an intense and frantic film that leaves you with little moments to linger on and some poorly-edited chases and action scenes to look at. In the end, it is a fine, if unspectacular, film with a couple great moments that shines the most when it doesn’t take itself so seriously. 6.5 / 10