James Bond Retrospective: Review of QUANTUM OF SOLACE

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

I was one of the few people who really liked this movie when it was released 4 years ago.  I saw it 3 times in the theater.  Is it as good as CASINO ROYALE?  No.  While it’s a continuation of that film, the pacing is very much different.  Still, the tone is the same.  Since I still feel the same way about the movie now as I did then (I just finished re-watching it), this will be a reworked piece of my original review (making some minor changes to it) that I wrote for Sin Magazine back in 2008.

CASINO ROYALE is my favorite Bond film. I have seen it over a dozen times and every time I watch it, I’m amazed. It’s perfectly shot and edited, and has several film geek moments. In that movie, I watched one of my favorite characters reborn right in front of my eyes. It’s not only the best Bond movie, but also one of the best action films ever made. So going into this new one, you can imagine how high my expectations were. Because CASINO ROYALE was so perfect, I decided to go into this new one without the expectation of it being better. It’s just impossible. I’m glad I did that, cause it allowed me to just enjoy myself.

If you haven’t seen CASINO ROYALE, don’t see this until you have. You WILL be confused! In fact, I recommend that you watch it again just to refresh yourself, especially if you’ve only seen it once… because this starts immediately after the last one. It’s an exhaustingly rousing car chase that ends with Bond opening the trunk of his car to reveal Mr. White , the man he shot in the last scene of CASINO ROYALE. We learn that he is working for an evil organization called Quantum (think SPECTRE). Information leads him to Haiti where he finds out about a man named Dominic Greene, also a member of Quantum. You see, Bond wants to take down this organization because of the death of Vesper (his girlfriend from the last one). He gets help from a Russian girl out for revenge as well. Her name is Camille and wants to kill General Medrano for the death of her parents and happens to be dealing with Greene, who has a plan about stealing the world’s water supply. Together, they team up to kill the both of them. Things get even more complicated when Bond kills an ally, and M decides to suspend him. He escapes and decides to pursue Greene on his own.

When it comes to a Bond movie, I tend to look at things differently than other action films. There are always things to expect: The pre-title sequence, the Gun-Barrel intro, the trippy title sequence, lots of action, gadgets, etc. Well, CASINO ROYALE already took out the gadgets which I’m fine with. As far as action… JESUS CHRIST!!! There’s a fucking ton of it! In the first 25 minutes, there’s at least four of them. This is 40 minutes shorter than ROYALE (which makes it the shortest Bond movie), and it has more than twice the amount of action. So the tone is very different. This actually feels more like a Bond movie than the last one. I love the new song “Another Way to Die”, but I imagine alot of people will hate it as it’s not very traditional sounding. I didn’t like it at first, but I can’t stop humming it, so now I like it. And the title sequence has half-naked women again, which was missing the last time out. When the movie started, I was very pissed off. There was no Gun Barrel intro!!! It bugged me through the whole movie, only to be relieved that it appeared at the end. Whew! That was a close one. It was great too because this is the first time Daniel Craig got to do the old school gun barrel scene. It was revamped in CASINO, which I thought was cool.

How is the actual movie? I really liked it. It wasn’t as good as the last one, and I knew it couldn’t be. I hope other people don’t go into this hoping that its going to top it. I don’t really think that was the filmmakers intention. They just wanted to make a fun action movie, and that’s exactly what this is. The opening car chase is fucking awesome! There’s a great Bond moment when he shoots another car and it side-flips off of a cliff. YES!!! Then, less than five minutes later a double agent tries to kill M, and Bond chases him down. They jump over rooftops and end up swinging around on ropes, kicking at each other. It’s a wildly chaotic scene that has it’s adrenaline pumping ferociously. Another great Bond moment is the closing of that scene. The finale is also great as it cross-cuts Camille’s confrontation with the General, and Bond’s fight with Greene. It was nice to see the Bond villain actually fight this time. He’s crazy, swinging an axe at Bond as he screams. Definitely a Bond villain!

Probably the best moment in the movie for me, was when Bond and Greene (backed by 4 men) run into each other in the lobby of a theater where an opera is taking place. They stare at each other for a moment, then Bond takes off as Greene’s henchmen follow. In the background, the opera can be heard. It’s a wonderful “film geek” moment when “hero” meets “villain”. I also liked the scene right before this. During the opera, Greene and his associates are having a meeting while watching it. They are all wearing ear pieces and talking to each other as they are sitting in different places. Bond takes pictures of all of them. I liked this because we actually get to see him do some intelligence work without killing anyone.

Besides car chases, there’s even a boat chase and an airplane chase. The airplane chase felt more like a Brosnan Bond movie, which isn’t bad. It’s heavy on special effects and a little silly, but still a lot of fun. If I have a complaint, it would be that it has a little too much action. What I liked about CASINO ROYALE, was that it slowed down once in a while for the viewer to digest the story a bit. You really don’t get to do that here, but it’s a small price to pay for a great action movie. The action scenes, even though exciting, aren’t quite as good as the ones in CASINO ROYALE. Those were just so well thought out and perfect. Here, they are filmed more loosely, but that also made them feel more dangerous, which fit the movie very well. It’s not as slick, but not crazy hand-held either. It’s a happy medium.

Daniel Craig is even more stoic this time, and it’s fitting. He just had his heart broke and now he’s just a cold killer. He does relate to Camille I think, but doesn’t let his feelings out this time. The only time Bond beds someone in this is when he’s trying to get out of being suspended. Olga Kurylenko is quite good in this as Camille. She’s out for revenge, and it’s a cool secondary story. She’s vulnerable, but tougher than most Bond girls. Mathieu Amalric brings the right amount of energy to villain Dominic Greene. He’s got a great look to him: Cross between a hunchback, and a toad. He’s awesome! Judi Dench is just as effective as ever playing M. Giancarlo Giannini reprises his role as Mathis, the guy Bond wrongfully imprisoned last time out. He’s solid. Jeffrey Wright is also back as Felix and has one cool moment when he drinks his beer calmly as a team of agents raid a bar. Gemma Wright is a little flat as Fields, but her exit is a great homage to GOLDFINGER. Jesper Christensen’s Mr. White is a very interesting character. He’s not in it that much, but they keep building him up, so maybe in the next one he’ll have more to do.

Director Marc Forster is very diverse. He made MONSTER’S BALL, FINDING NEVERLAND, STAY, STRANGER THAN FICTION, and THE KITE RUNNER. One wouldn’t expect him to direct an action movie. And not just any action movie, but the most expensive one ever made (reportedly this cost 225 million). He does a pretty good job. The action is exciting and occasionally confusing, but in the end I could tell what was happening. The story is a direct follow-up to CASINO ROYALE, making this the first official Bond sequel. This is pretty much the second half of the last one. But it ends in such a way that made me feel like this was just a bridge between the first and the upcoming third one. With all the non-stop action throughout the movie, the quiet ending comes as a surprise, but it fits and is by no means anti-climatic. David Arnold has been composing Bond films since TOMORROW NEVER DIES, and he just improves with every one. He keeps the essence of composer John Barry (he did the music for most of the earlier Bond films), and adds his own flavor.  Love it!

I think a few people are going to be disappointed with this one because its “not” CASINO ROYALE. It lacks the depth of that one, but makes up for it in the action department. Bond even gets to have a few one-liners again, like when he is carrying a passed out Camille off of a boat after a big chase, he hands her to someone and says, “She’s seasick”. Yup, Bond is back. I did miss that he doesn’t say “Bond, James Bond”, but I understand that they’re trying to make it different. This may not make my list of Top 5 Bond films, but it’s unfair to expect that every time. This is just a lot of fun! I do have a feeling that the next one will be better. Regardless, this is one hell of an action movie, and a “satisfying enough” Bond film.   ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content (not really any sexual content.  Maybe a sexual assault).

- Running time: 1hr 45min. (making this the shortest Bond film)

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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