James Bond: The Daniel Craig Era (Part II: Quantum of Solace) (Spoilers)

2008’s Quantum of Solace was the long-awaited sequel to Daniel Craig’s excellent first outing. The film was directed by Marc Forester with a screenplay by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade. Quantum of Solace picks up immediately after the end of Casino Royale, with Bond having captured the mysterious Mr. White in the closing moments of the film. Opening with a riveting car chase and a decent hard rock theme performed by Jack White and Alicia Keys, it all goes downhill from there.

What made Casino Royale stand out for many among the previous films in the franchise is the fact that it actually cared about Bond, M, Vesper, and even Le Chiffre, as people. Following Vesper’s death, it feels as though Quantum of Solace should be a continuation and escalation of that. It isn’t, and that is where the major disappointment lies. Casino Royale set up 007 as a human being, with thoughts and emotions apart from his service to Queen and Country. James fell in love, and despite whatever he says to the contrary, he should want revenge for Vesper’s death. The plotline to Quantum of Solace, however, does away with the emotions and raw intensity properly established in Casino Royale and, as a result, doesn’t go anywhere.

The conflict presented in Quantum of Solace begins after Mr. White escapes from MI-6 custody as fast as he was placed into it. He does so with the help of M’s corrupt bodyguard Mitchell, who was in Mr. White’s pocket from the word go. Bond chases Mitchell around Sienna and is ultimately forced to kill him. That makes M suspicious of Bond’s ability to remain professional, which is established by an interesting interaction between Bond and M earlier in the film.

“I need to know that I can trust you.”

“You don’t?”

“Well, it’d be a pretty cold bastard who didn’t want revenge for the death of someone he loved.”

The thesis that M puts forth is actually a very reasonable one, one that the film fails entirely to follow through on. Throughout the film, M expresses disdain and disgust for Bond’s actions throughout the film, as he appears to be racking up quite the body count for no apparent reason. She eventually has Bond arrested and detained, seeing him as a liability. The very stupid part about all this, from my perspective, is that Bond does not allow his emotions to affect his judgement in the slightest, and the people Bond kills throughout the course of the movie were necessary to complete his objectives. M’s distaste and distrust comes from nowhere but an (admittedly logical) assumption with no real evidence to back it up. That is extremely out of character for her, and seems only to manufacture conflict for a film that doesn’t really have anything interesting going on.

MI-6 tracks a marked bill that was inserted into one of Le Chiffre’s money laundering accounts to a geologist connected to a billionaire environmentalist named Dominic Greene. Greene is a member of Quantum, the organization headed by Mr. White. Greene’s plan is to initiate a coup in Bolivia to gain control of the country’s water supply. Bond meets a former intelligence officer named Camille Montes, played by Olga Kurylenko. Montes has a personal vendetta against the general behind the upcoming coup. He killed Camille’s father, and then raped her mother and sister before beating the two of them to death. Her character is the only one who presents any kind of emotional development whatsoever. Bond nor M, the two major players in this saga, show any kind of character development from where they left off during the end of Casino Royale. Bond shows no clear emotional drive for revenge, and except for escaping MI-6 custody to stop Greene’s scheme, remains entirely loyal to M and the British Government. Greene’s scheme is neither connected to White or Vesper aside from being a member of Quantum, nor does it seem particularly evil or threatening. As a sidenote, there is also a vauge hint of a sideplot involving the corrupt C.I.A. section chief of South America, and Felix Leiter’s boss, agreeing to work with Greene in exchange for oil. The chief only appears for a singular scene, Leiter for two, and nothing of consequence comes from their involvement.

Quantum of Solace, for what it’s worth, does have some very well-done action. The opening car chase is great and so is Bond’s hunt for Mitchell throughout Sienna. The film’s potential as a continuation of the new environment and new character dynamics established in Casino Royale is squandered by ignoring any and all emotion that would be expected in such a sequel, instead opting for a generic plotline that provides little to no investment for the audience, not providing any kind of closure or emotional reaction of any kind for Bond excluding the end scene.

Not only does this scene feel entirely out-of-place, forced, and somewhat random considering that the only setup we are given is ten seconds of exposition at the beginning of the film, but it also seems eerily similar to the scenes from the end of The Bourne Supremacy and the beginning of The Bourne Ultimatum, the latter of which came out just one year prior to Quantum of Solace’s release, with the only difference being Bond’s intent for revenge, which was not at all established until this point, and Jason Bourne’s quest for forgiveness.

Quantum of Solace is by no means the worst Bond film. It is perhaps the most disappointing given its potential, however. It is a watchable, adequate, serviceable, yet extremely forgettable film that wasted nearly all of its potential. The surprisingly creative action sequences are still all too brief, and unlike films like John Wick or Mad Max, are not nearly creative enough, entertaining enough, or groundbreaking enough for the film to rise above the surprisingly generic and average screenplay. This waste of potential was certainly reflected in the mixed critical reception of the film and lower than expected box office returns. The relative failure of this film is undoubtedly what led to MGM facing another bout of serious financial struggles that took them a long four years to resolve.

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