Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a 2017 action thriller spy film directed by David Leitch and written by Kurt Johnstad. Based upon the graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Jonson and Sam Hart, the film follows MI-6 officer Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, as she is sent into Berlin in November 1989, directly preceding the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the civil unrest that followed, to recover a list containing the names of every Allied and Soviet operative currently active. Lorraine meets up with David Percival, played by James McAvoy, MI-6’s top man in Berlin. Lorraine must learn to navigate the city and work with some shady individuals in order to recover this list.

If the plot of Atomic Blonde sounds disappointingly generic to you, that’s because it is. This film suffers a lot from a presumably low-effort script from Johnstad, the man behind such high-minded brilliance as both 300 films and Act Of Valor. Those are his only screenplay credits. Why anyone would hire this guy to make a memorable screenplay is beyond me and I was disappointed they didn’t find anyone that would try harder. The really infuriating thing about that is there are some would-be decent twists in this film, but the plot surrounding these twists is so meh I didn’t really care. This movie would be so much more interesting if there was a reason to really give a crap, but Johnstad instead uses a plot we’ve seen a dozen times before and does nothing interesting with it. Johnstad instead decided to rip off two of the most entertaining spy films in recent years. 1996’s Mission: Impossible and the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall both had the “spy list” plot, but both were able to turn it on it’s head and make it unique, which is, I think, part of the reason why those two films were so good and why they are still established and well-recieved franchises to this day. Skyfall actually said “screw the stupid list” at the halfway point and jettisoned the generic Macguffin for something better. Johnstad, in contrast, copy-pasted “spy story” from the internet and put it on a piece of paper.

I should mention that Atomic Blonde uses the cliche “in the interrogation room after everything went down with the main plot presented as a flashback.” These scenes feature veteran actors Toby Jones and John Goodman asking Broughton questions about events that happened throughout the film, interrupting the main Berlin narrative. These scenes accomplish nothing and bring the film to a screeching halt. Literally nothing is said or done in these scenes that it would be considered important to leave them in, and I’m not exactly sure why they did at all.

The acting from both Charlize Theron and James McAvoy is top notch, with McAvoy’s performance being something unrelated to the action that I really enjoyed. Sofia Boutella’s performance as a naive French Intelligence officer, though, left something to be desired. That’s another problem I had with the film, and of course, it’s related to the script. Spy films are, by their nature, full of twists, lies, and betrayal. There are usually several key players in the fold of the story to keep things interesting. There’s not a lot of room to manuver with twists when you just have three extremely underwritten, generic, and boring characters to work with. That’s all this dude thought was necessary and he was very wrong. I wish to reiterate that the screenwriter is a giant and near-fatal detriment to what could have been a extremely interesting and engrossing stylized spy film.

This is not to say the movie isn’t without its merits. Far from it, in fact; Atomic Blonde benefits from masterful directing from David Leitch, co-director of John Wick, which I found to be very entertaining. Make no mistake, he and Chapter 2 director Chad Stahelski are masters of Hollywood action and are quickly rising on my list of favorite modern directors. This film does not change that at all, because despite not being absorbed by the plot at all, Leitch was still able to present an extremely stylish Berlin, complete with a competent and catchy soundtrack of classic tunes that you would be remiss not to find on the radio at the time. The former stuntman’s signature balls-to-the-wall action continues to be present in full force here. Not to spoil anything, but there is a sequence approximately 3/4ths of the way through the film that I believe puts even the director’s previous works on notice. Atomic Blonde is efficient from a technical standpoint on nearly every level. David Leitch’s directing is this film’s saving grace, taking it from utterly forgettable to somewhat memorable and fun despite itself.

Atomic Blonde was a film that I was actually very much looking forward to, due to it being directed by Leitch. In some very critical ways, I was disappointed. In other ways, I was very impressed. I came in wanting brilliant action sequences. If I got that, I was going to be satisfied. Thankfully, I was. Sadly, I was secretly hoping to be more than satisfied. Due to the production hiring a lazy bum to write a script, Atomic Blonde was nothing more than “pretty darn good.” The visuals, action, and music were top notch, but the script is so heartwrenchingly lazy that the film gets tied down by it. I really feel that anyone could’ve done a better job. Even so, I was entertained. Atomic Blonde is a kind of movie where it really depends on what you came for, so I leave it up to you. I enjoyed it. You may very well not, and that is understandable.


The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a 1965 Cold War spy film starring directed by Martin Ritt, with a screenplay by Paul Dehn and Guy Trosper. It is based upon the bestselling 1963 novel of the same name by John Le Carré. The film stars Richard Burton as British Intelligence officer Alec Lemas and Claire Bloom as Nan Perry.

I have discussed le Carré’s career at length in my review of the recent miniseries The Night Manager. A valid criticism of that review is that I spent too much time focusing on Le Carré’s long and illustrious career, both as a British Intelligence officer and novelist, when I should have been focusing on the miniseries itself. As such, I will provide a brief summary on why le Carré’s work is so interesting, while at the same time complicated, and then move on to the film.

David Cromwell was an agent for military intelligence stationed in Austria briefly following World War II, acting as a German-language interrogator for defectors from the Iron Curtain. He returned to Britain and finished up his studies on foreign languages (his specialty) at Oxford University, where he covertly informed on radical/Communist groups for MI-5. He was an MI-5 officer from 1958 to 1960 before transferring to MI-6, AKA The Circus, where he returned to Germany under the official cover as “Second Secretary” at the British Embassy in the city of Bonn. He was later transferred to Hamburg as political counsel. It was there Cromwell wrote his second novel, A Murder of Quality, in 1962 and this novel the year after, both under the pen name John le Carré, which is French for “John the Square.” The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was a momentous success. Cromwell left the intelligence field in 1964 due to disastrous intelligence leaks caused by Soviet double agent Kim Philby. le Carré has since become known as one of the best spy fiction writers of all time.

le Carré is a brilliant writer, and the adaptations of his works have been known to be equally as brilliant. However, his work as well as their various adaptations can be difficult to recommend to the uninitiated; somewhat of an antithesis to James Bond, le Carré’s work is grounded in the real world. The majority of his novels are very cerebral and drenched in true-to-life tradecraft. le Carré presents the espionage world as it truly is. It is a world of moral gray areas, trenchcoats, secret meetings, back-door politics, and very little violence. There are no climactic shootouts, gadgets, or glamour. le Carré presents the real deal, with very little handholding. As such, his work, though excellent, is potentially inaccessible to a layman, either due to confusion or a feeling things are too slow. le Carré and films based of his works are great, but you have to know what you are getting into beforehand. Don’t expect Skyfall or Jason Bourne. Much like the stereotypical Dad with a weird fascination with American Civil War history, espionage is my weird fascination, so I enjoy both le Carré’s novels and films.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold follows MI-6 officer Alec Lemas, head of station in Berlin. Lemas, a seasoned and extremely cynical man who considers himself “an operational man,” becomes exceptionally disillusioned after a defector fails to bluff his way past security at the Berlin Wall and is subsequently shot down and killed. Lemas is returned to London and resigns rather than be put to a desk job. Lemas finds a bookkeeping job in London and falls in love with a naive but well-meaning Communist named Nan Perry. Lemas deals with his inner-turmoil by getting drunk. Lemas loses his job after causing trouble at a local grocery. He is then approached by agents of German Intelligence, having been singled out for defection for obvious reasons.

This decision sends Lemas down a dangerous path of treachery, lies, truth, and betrayal. Lemas has no delusions about what he is. The very cynical and somewhat nihilistic man does not believe in “God nor the words of Karl Marx.” That isn’t why he does what he does. The protagonist in this film is so nihlistic and cynical that he believes in nothing, except perhaps love. His leanings are so in contrast with his Communist girlfriend that everything finally comes to a head in the closing moments of the film.

What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the Word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not! They are just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me: Little men, drunkards, queers, hen-pecked husbands, civil servants playing Cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives! Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong?

le Carré faced endless criticism from his former peers in the intelligence community after The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was published. Former spies who turn to writing often do, but for le Carré, it was not potential violation of the Official Secrets Act, but because his philosophy on the intelligence community angered them. Many of his peers saw espionage as fighting the good fight, a moral cause, the greater good. Not him. He portrayed the intelligence world as it is: a dirty, rotten business.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold benefits from a flawless screenplay on top of its excellent source material. The film does a great job at making people think, about making you care, about making you understand how this secret world works. The dialogue is poignant and masterfullly crafted. There is also some rather brilliant cinematography on display here by Oswald Morris and a pretty great score by Sol Kaplan, too. Richard Burton is a marvelous actor. He is much more than Elizabeth Taylor’s husband, that’s all I have to say on that subject.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was arguably even more of a massive success than the novel. The film won several awards at the 1966 British Academy Film Awards, winning Best Actor for Richard Burton, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best British Film. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Richard Burton was also nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards that same year.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a intelligent, cerebral spy film, executed to the highest standard. Inspired by a spy who really did come in from the cold, this film is a look into what being one really is like, the strain it takes on your morals, your health, and your relationships, both personal and professional. It is a great classic film that I would recommend to anyone looking for a cerebral film with great acting to go along with it.

James Bond: The Daniel Craig Era (Part IV: Spectre) (Spoilers)

After the series’ high success that was Skyfall, news that the majority of the major cast and pretty much all the behind the scenes crew would be returning for Spectre had a lot of people very, very, very excited. And with the revelation that frequent Quentin Tarantino collaborator, the immensely talented German thespian and actor Christoph Waltz would be playing the film’s main antagonist, with a secondary antagonist role played by Sherlock villain Andrew Scott, the hype and intrigue for this movie grew even more.

When the teaser trailer for the film released in early 2015, we were promised a mystery, a personal story, a conclusion to the events that began almost a decade earlier in 2006 with Casino Royale. The teaser played everything out just right, and kept every solid plot detail quite close to the chest while still getting the audience invested and intrigued. It really is a great trailer.

With a script once again written by the people behind Skyfall, John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, it seemed unlikely that anything could go wrong. Skyfall succeeded in nearly every area, especially exploring the roots and emotions of the Bond character and exploring the franchise on a much deeper thematic level. In order to be a success, Spectre simply had to continue this trend, combining these aforementioned elements with brilliantly produced and shot action sequences.

Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins was unavailable to return for Spectre, most likely due to his work on the brilliant Sicario, so the immensely talented and regaled cinematographer handed the reigns off to his Swedish counterpart Hoyte van Hoytema, who is just as talented, if not more so, than Deakins himself. Van Hoytema is known for acting as director of photography for such beautifully shot films as the award-winning 2010 sports drama The Fighter, the critically acclaimed 2011 Le Carre adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the Academy Award winning, Spike Jonze-helmed 2013 science-fiction romance comedy-drama Her, and 2014’s Interstellar, for which van Hoytema was nominated for a BAFTA award. Spectre was shaping up to be a film that could easily match, or even surpass, Skyfall.

Spectre begins with what I and many others consider to be the best cold open to a James Bond film yet. The Day of the Dead sequence begins with a four-minute long single take tracking shot, followed by a pulse-pounding escape and eventual fist fight in an airborne helicopter.

From then on, the film starts to go downhill. Adele’s Skyfall was an excellent combination of previous classic themes, and was combined with an excellent, creative, trippy, and engaging sequence that delved deep into Bond’s fractured psyche. Sam Smith’s Writing On the Wall and its accompanying credits sequence, though well-performed and well-designed, lacks any sort of investment the previous film provided. Smith has no emotion or true enthusiasm in his vocals, and the opening credits sequence, filled with what I can only describe as weird tentacle stuff, does nothing except confuse me.

Bond is reprimanded for his conduct in Mexico, which was an off-the-books assassination assigned by Dench’s M posthumously. Bond heads to the funeral of the man he killed and porks his widow, played by Monica Bellucci, only after killing two men who break into her apartment. Yes, even for a James Bond film, the scene is about uncomfortable, nonsensical, and creepy as it sounds. Bellucci tells him about a meeting of the mysterious SPECTRE organization, revealed to be the mastermind beind the Quantum suborganization. It is at this meeting that Bond meets Franz Oberhauser, played by Christoph Waltz. Bond escapes with a SPECTRE ring and is able to track down Mr. White, now a fugitive in hiding dying from radiation poisoning. He kills himself with Bond’s Whalter before making 007 promise to protect his daughter, played by the beautiful Lea Sydoux.Bond is then sent on a rather forced and trite journey to take down Oberhauser, revealed to be the son of Bond’s surrogate father; the Oberhausers were a wealthy family and friends of the Bonds who took James in after his parents’ death. Franz killed his parents, making it look like an accident, and inheiriting their wealth. He also changes his name: Ernst Stavro Blofield. This twist is entirely predictable with no mystery surrounding it whatsoever, and the reveal isn’t treated as shocking or relavatory in the slightest. With the film’s title a reference to the organization headed by Blofield, everybody knew off the bat that Waltz’ character was Blofield, but his connection to James could have been something shocking; a twist. There is no twist in here and the plot is entirely predictable and uninspired. In Skyfall, though there were no “twists” perse, it wasn’t predictable. It was fresh and exhilarating. Except for the widow thing, I was able to call every single point of plot progression before it occured.

This time around, the script does not even touch on any deep meanings, nor does it progress Bond as a character. Blofield’s role as “the author of all your pain” barely effects Bond and provides him with little to no overriding motovation or even emotional intensity. The plot, which should have been a shocking, emotionally charged hunt for the man who ruined Bond’s life at every turn, is instead a formulaic, by-the-numbers, rather episodic-feeling, and boring affair. Considering this is by the same team as Skyfall, and that Spectre was marketed as a culmination of the events of Bond’s past in this continuity, I cannot begin to imagine why the writing team did such a disappointing job, especially considering the brilliance of their previous effort.

For some very odd and rather disheartening reason, it is clear that no one’s heart was in this. Aside from the admittedly epic opening, all the action is rather standard; the direction is technically efficent, though not very creative. Van Hoytema does give us some brilliant shots, although the notable ones are few and far between. Craig used to view the role of Bond with great enthusiasm, but has gone on to state that he’d rather “slit his wrists” than reprise the role again, along with some other striking comments. He phones it in as Bond here. Lea Sydoux is given nothing to do but stand there and be pretty. Christoph Waltz could be a great Blofeld, if the writers gave him anything interesting to work with. Everything about Spectre is, frankly, a little boring, which is actually hugely disappointing to me, given it had so much potential if people had just given a crap.

Spectre was in production during the infamous Sony hacks of 2014/2015, and a copy of the script and critiques of it were obtained. It would not suprise me if this greatly hindered production and had something to do with the failure to reach its potential. Upon the news that Spectre is the most expensive movie in the Bond franchise thus far, and one of the most expensive movies ever made in general, I am a little worried that the Bond franchise as a whole might end up going out on a low note. It’s been almost 54 years, and all good things must come to an end, but not like this, I plead.

Spectre is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination. It is a very well-done film from a technical, exclusively filmmaking standpoint, and is entirely worth your time if you need a movie to watch. It is, however, a rather gigantic disappointment given the talent involved and the legacy of what came before, much like Quantum of Solace, only much worse, in my opinion. I am aware that, oftentimes, expectations do not match reality, but Spectre did not only not reach my expectations, it managed to be totally overshadowed by other films that year, including Mission Impossible: Rouge Nationa series who’s high octane, impressive stunts were no doubt inspired by the long-running Bond franchise. I hope that the series will once again pick itself back up, because the grandaddy of spies being outshone by a series inspired by it and a movie that satirically praises it is not a good sign.

James Bond: The Daniel Craig Era (Part III: Skyfall) (Spoilers)

After the disappointment that was 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the 23rd film in the long-running franchise wisely, yet surprisingly, decided to eschew all overarching events of the preceding films, choosing instead to focus on an entirely new narrative. Directed by Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty and Jarhead, and with a screenplay by longtime franchise veterans Neal Purvis, John Logan, and Robert Wade, Skyfall is a “soft reboot” of the franchise, once again recreating major elements of the franchise while still keeping some of the major elements established in Casino Royale; the Bond featured in Skyfall is still very much the same Bond we were introduced to in 2006, but it isn’t the same world.

There are several elements that are inherent to the Bond franchise: outrageous and impressive stunts, hot girls, good-looking cars, good-looking girls, an eccentric villain, and gadgets. Bond films were originally intended to be the ultimate escapist male power fantasy. This is something that the franchise mostly excelled at doing. As I mentioned in my Casino Royale review, after Pierce Brosnan’s lackluster run as the character, it was decided that it was time to reinvent the franchise. Casino Royale excelled in doing so, but it was felt necessary to jettison the more outlandish factors that made up Bond in order to modernize the franchise in a more grounded, post-9/11 environment. With Skyfall, it was decided that there was, in fact, a way to have their cake and eat it, too, as it were.

Skyfall premiered in 2012, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise. Skyfall is, both on the surface and on a deeper thematic level, a love letter to the franchise that has been a cultural touchstone for many a generation. Skyfall’s brilliant opening evokes memories of great franchise moments. Octopussy’s train sequence came to my mind, specifically. These outlandish and intense sequences of pulse-pounding escapist action continue throughout the film. All of the aforementioned elements of old school Bond return in Skyfall.

The theme tune to a Bond film has always been an important aspect. I have found that a Bond film is quite literally only as good as its theme song. The best Bond movies have the best theme songs and the worst Bond movies have garbage theme songs. (Pun intended) Bond themes are known for big, brass heavy orchestral arrangements with soulful lyrics. Iconic theme songs include 1964’s Goldfinger sung by Shirley Bassey, which is said to have started the tradition of Bond theme tunes being sung by popular artists of the time, and 1965’s Thunderball sung by Tom Jones. 1973’s Live and Let Die sung by Paul McCartney and Wings is iconic for it’s hard rock elements infused with the more traditional Bond fare, and due to it being a pretty great hard rock ballad in its own right, led to the song becoming the first Bond theme to permeate pop culture and move on past the film itself. I am personally also a fan of Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name performed for Casino Royale, which ditched all elements of previous theme’s in favor of an edgier direction, much like the film itself did.

Adele’s Skyfall is a culmination of the greatest Bond tunes, calling on the spirit of Bassey and Jones for inspiration. With Adele’s powerful vocal range, a large orchestral backing, and an appropriately trippy yet uncharacteristically and engaging credits sequence designed by Daniel Klienman, Skyfall ranks as one of the best themes of the franchise.

Skyfall sees the long-awaited reintroduction of gadgeteer Q to the franchise after Desmond Llewelyn’s death in 1999. Llewelyn began his career as Q in 1963’s From Russia With Love.  He was 49 at the time, and continued to play the character up until his death at 85 from an unfortunate car accident. Here, Q is played by the much younger Ben Whishaw. Whishaw is a talented actor most known for his stage work, notably in a 2005 production as the title character in Hamlet. He had somewhat of a major film breakthrough in 2006 playing the main character in Perfume: The Story of A Murderer. The young Whishaw, wisely realizing it wouldn’t make much sense to portray the character in the same vein as the much older Llewelyn, adds a sense of arrogance to the character you would expect to find in a 31-year-old computer genius in 2012. Interestingly enough, Whishaw’s father is an IT specialist. The gruff and veteran killer Bond treats the young Q with an equal modicum of contempt, disbelief, and begrudging respect, and Q, though commenting at length concerning Bond’s inefficiency, does the same. Whishaw, I feel, goes under the radar in Skyfall, and his performance as Q is a surprisingly bright spot in one of the best films in the franchise.

Skyfall sees the last of Judi Dench’s role as M, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, in part, I suspect, because of Dench’s unfortunate development of macular degeneration. It is fitting that she gives it her all in Skyfall. M is the role that Dame Judi Dench is most known for, making her impressive debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Dench portrays the character as one with a brash, blunt, aggressive personality. She is a veteran of the spy game and she knows exactly how it’s played. Her overriding duty is to her country above anything else, including her dignity. Dench conveys her character’s values and personality with such force and will that Dench and her character are nearly inseparable beings.

M has always been set up as a surrogate maternal figure for Craig’s Bond, and Skyfall carries that arc to a very logical and satisfying conclusion while also featuring as a very important plot point that is explored throughout the film.

The standout in Skyfall is Javier Bardem’s performance as Silva. The veteran Spanish actor is the single most intimidating villain the franchise has ever had. There are certain points where Bardem channels his role as Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Menbut for the most part, this is an entirely different monster. Instead of relying on physicality, emotionless brutality, or weaponry, the character of Silva is an eccentric genius who operates out of sheer force of will and an insatiable lust for vengeance. Most Bond villains are forgettable tools used to drive the escapist action that the franchise is known for, but thanks to Bardem’s performance, Silva is so much more, and is assured to stay in the memories of hardcore Bond fans and the general audience alike for being a very creepy and memorable villain, thanks in part to one particularly uncomfortable scene.

It is clear that Silva will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Unlike Chigurh, he is an emotional being who operates off of a deep, impassioned feeling of hatred and betrayal, which almost makes him more intimidating.

Skyfall is a masterful work of directing by Sam Mendes.The acclaimmed and experienced director handles the franchise with ease. Masterful stunt coordination makes Skyfall one of the most exhilarating films in the franchise. This masterful direction is bolstered by some rather epic assistance from cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins creates a beautiful, vibrant world to contrast with the darkness that is the film’s main narrative. Deakins makes diverse use of colors to draw the audience’s attention. This is especially noticeable during the sequences taking place in Shanghai. Deakins and Mendes are, in fact, able to create a beautifully shot and well choreographed fight scene that is, for me, the standout stunt piece of the film. Despite the fight being relatively brief, it is intense, raw, beautiful, and captivating.

Deakins has always created beautiful establishing shots for his films as well. The long take featured in the Macau Casino does not feature any action, but is an impressive feat nonetheless; the tracking shot features no rapid cuts or edits and seamlessly shows Bond investigating and perusing the casino.

Skyfall is also elevated by an unusually deep and thematic script by Neal Purvis, John Logan, and Robert Wade. There have been 24 movies in the Bond franchise so far; there have been highs and lows. In 2012, with the 50th anniversary of the first film, Dr. No, in 1962, Skyfall is an appraisal of wether or not Bond films have been “played out.” Purvis, Wade, and Logan accomplish this by bringing the consequences of modernization to the forefront. Q boasts to Bind upon their first meeting:

“I’ll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.”

“Oh. So why do you need me?”

“Every now and again, a trigger has to be pulled.”

Bond, Mallory, and even M herself call into question whether or not this is “their fight” any longer, considering that they may be too old-fashioned for the game.

Silva is the main antagonist of the film, but Skyfall is also a story about what was once new and exciting now being old, inefficent, and antiquated. Silva preys on Bond’s insecurities concerning these very ideas throughout the film, and does so in very effective and downright meanacing ways.

At the climax of the film, M, called to testify before a governement committee concerning her failures, solidifies this theme and insists that there is a need for agents like 007 (and thus, a need for 007 films), reading a poem by Alfred Tennyson.

Skyfall provides answers and resolution to that conflict in and of itself. If the coming James Bond films keep up with the immeasurable quality of Skyfall, then this franchise is by no means played out or antiquated, and is, in fact, reinvigorated in an immense way. The 23rd film in the franchise is undeniably one of its best, featuring brilliant acting, action, direction, cinematography, and even a great script, it will also undeniably be a very tough act to follow…

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.