Quantum of Solace is fancy James Bond title-speak for “a little peace of mind.”
This is what propels Agent 007’s drive for vengeance. Seeking answers about why he was deceived by Vesper, his now-dead love interest from Casino Royale, Bond turns to violence to quench his pain. It’s a moral variation of movies that promote bloodlust, by showing killing’s impact on the soul of a man we all know. And frankly, this gutting of the Bond persona is the best thing that’s happened to the series in years.
Where Quantum of Solace misses out is in not recognizing that the best action film of the past few years is Casino Royale, not The Bourne Ultimatum. The proficient, skilled excitement that director Martin Campbell brought to Casino Royale is tossed aside for a filmmaker who has instead studied the Bourne sequels (the preferred action movies amongst people who don’t like action movies.)
Quantum filmmaker Marc Forster adapts a jerky shooting-and-cutting style for the film’s car chase, rooftop foot chase and fistfights. This combat-in-a-blender hasn’t the clean, sophisticated choreography and compositions that made the last film exciting. Forster can’t handle action (he directed Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, for god’s sake) so he uses close-ups and quick edits to simulate energy. An espionage scene in an opera house should be a standout Bond showpiece, but it’s over before it really begins. Forster cuts between the stage violence and Bond fighting henchmen. It looks like a throwback to the climax of The Godfather Part III, but Forster never leaves his theatre images on long enough for them to register. They’re only disorienting.
If Quantum of Solace suffers bad filmmaking (it’s the most flatly lit Bond since License to Kill), it’s redeemed by its character drama. Forster and his screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade work best in the quieter scenes. Bond’s conflicted nature hits full force as he stays by a dying man’s side before tossing his corpse in a dumpster. Daniel Craig’s brute imperfection gives Bond dimension. He’s not the suave playboy that made the character feel irrelevant in the Pierce Brosnan era. Up against the high-tech surveillance age, Bond’s anger makes things look possible but never easy.
The stakes have never been higher, but the series’ first true sequel is too constricted in scope and execution. Now is not the time for the character to settle for a middling James Bond film.
Mark Palermo’s top five Bond movies:1.From Russia With Love2. Casino Royale3. Goldfinger4. The Spy Who Loved Me5. Thunderball