Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace2008. Starring Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench. Directed by Marc Forster.

There were so many negative reviews of this, the second movie in the series of reinvented James Bond adventures, that I was not in any kind of hurry to see Quantum of Solace. Even though I loved 2006’s Casino Royale, which introduced us to Daniel Craig’s icy, brutal James Bond, who lacks the winking casualness of past Bonds, and substitutes his bare knuckles for the increasingly goofy devices that drove earlier movies. Casino Royale began its reinvention with a bang — a relentless parkour chase that leaves the viewer out of breath and happy for the change in pace. The film ended — and if you haven’t seen it, I’m sorry — with the death of a romantic conquest that this Bond couldn’t shrug off with a sip of the perfect martini.

That’s what I’ve heard doomed this movie — Bond’s guilt for the death of his new love, and the thirst for vengeance that would lead him off mission. You know, 007 has “lost his smile.” But I went into Quantum of Solace with an open mind, and I loved it. Yes, Daniel Craig rarely smiles, and his Bond can’t seem to trust anyone, but that’s what I expect of an agent. When the trail for vengeance exposes an infiltrator who puts his beloved boss and adversary, M, in danger, Bond lashes out and keeps swinging, bounding from country to country in pursuit of a mysterious group of criminals whose goal he doesn’t yet understand.

One member of the group unlucky to cross paths with Bond is Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, looking much healthier than he did in The Butterfly and the Diving Bell), a supposed eco-friendly entrepreneur who is much friendlier with totalitarian thugs than tree-huggers. Greene is buying vast regions of desert in South America for a mysterious purpose, and killing off Bond’s fellow agents and undercover friends. Meanwhile, Bond keeps running into Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who is as persistent in her own pursuit of revenge.

The action scenes are great, as always — Bond conducts gun-blazing chases by car, boat and plane, and there’s a rooftop chase that ends in an amazingly tense struggle to the death among scaffolding, ropes and broken glass. Craig’s Bond doesn’t spend much time sipping drinks and chatting up the ladies — he may be the most peripatetic character since Lola of Run Lola Run. I also have to say that Craig looks believably beaten after a scuffle, his face full of scratches and bruises. But those rough angles of his face look at home in a tux as well. His Bond is gloomy and dour and he seems driven by something dark behind his eyes, but it’s just that this angry Bond thirsts more for revenge than a shaken martini.

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