Complex Story Drives a Spectacular Quantum of Solace
- 2008 14 Nov
DVD Release Date: March 24, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: November 14, 2008
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content)
Genre: Action, Drama
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini
If Casino Royale was a promise to elevate future Bond films above their cheeky forerunners, then Quantum of Solace fulfills it. The second film in this franchise reboot makes good on every tonal shift successfully accomplished in the first—and so while this new entry doesn’t quite plumb the psychological depths of its predecessor, it packs just as many punches (and maybe more).
Picking up almost exactly where the last one left off, Quantum of Solace is more than a sequel; it’s literally a continuation of the Casino Royale story. Though it does work as a stand-alone experience, much of the narrative glides past important references to Royale; in consequence, re-watching that before diving into this would be strongly advised.
More specifically, some characters make surprise returns (thus emphasizing the linkage of the two films), so being cognizant of their histories with Bond makes events and relationships echo with more complexity and intrigue. And in Quantum of Solace, the intrigue runs deep.
When we last left our favorite double-O, he was reeling from the betrayal of Vesper—the woman he was ready to leave MI6 for—while also suspecting her martyrdom may have been a final act of love that saved him. But for Bond, the emotional gut-punch of her “double-agent” deception trumps the possibility of an altruistic sacrifice, and so now his pursuit of the clandestine organization (revealed as “Quantum”) that controlled her has become personal. Though he coolly denies accusations of such by M (his famed superior), it’s clear that James Bond is on a mission of vengeance.
The stakes have also been raised significantly. So far-reaching is Quantum that they have infiltrated deep into MI6 and the CIA, and now even the most reliable allies are suspect. Before, Bond had to make allegiances with people he wasn’t sure if he could trust. Now he’s forced to align himself with people he knows he can’t trust, but he has no other options so he must.
Situations, circumstances and relationships have been elevated from calculated risks to outright gambles, and eventually Bond must deliberately break M’s orders and go rogue (no doubt Sarah Palin would approve). Early on, a seasoned vet tells Bond that when he was younger it was easier to distinguish between good and evil but now it’s harder to keep track, and that you can even get the two mixed up. That’s not only a sober reflection of our increasingly complicated world but also proper advice for 007, an agent who’s quickly learning (and becoming more jaded by the fact) that he can’t afford a cavalier self-confidence any longer.
Thankfully Bond’s suave, sophisticated persona is not dulled by the harder edges. He remains the quintessential stud: every woman wants him and every man wants to be him. Daniel Craig embodies Bond with the epitome of cool (how he swiftly commandeers one particular motorbike is especially smooth, as is the occasional one-upmanship of the bad guys he chases or flirtations with beauties who catch his eye) while maintaining the necessary mystery, internal conflict and overall gravitas.
This quest boasts the requisite thrills, spills and chills, all as impressively staged as anything currently seen on the action landscape (and undoubtedly inspired by the high standards of The Bourne Trilogy). From an opening car chase/gunfight to rooftops to speedboats to motorcycles, these sequences feel both familiar and inventive—all in the right ways. Don’t be surprised to find yourself expressing an audible “wow” or “whoa” from time to time as Bond globe-trots from Europe to Latin America and back again.
There are also the Bond Girls and Bond Villains, and as in Royale they are more realistic takes on classic archetypes—fulfilling their purposes (the girls are gorgeous, the villains maniacal) while respecting our intelligence. Solace still avoids some of the classic Bond staples: no gadgets, no Q, no “Bond. James Bond.” introduction or “martini shaken, not stirred” request, but only die-hard fans will mind. For this new Bond (which is still being established), the exclusion feels apropos.
Royale was the longest Bond film ever, and now Solace is the shortest. The most obvious casualty of this severe cutback is character development. While not shallow, Quantum doesn’t dig much deeper either (though the Bond/M relationship continues to be substantive). Instead it relies heavily on what was established in Casino and, in that context, characters and situations still resonate. But here the complex story is the driving force, especially in the final act when the plot machine takes over so completely that characters (including Bond) become little more than cogs in the wheel—but oh, what a spectacular wheel it is.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Alcoholic drinks occasionally consumed, but just socially (and seen as part of a glamorous lifestyle).
- Language/Profanity: Very rare, and when they occur are mild (“D”, “H” and “A” words) except for one instance of Christ’s name being used in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: A brief moment of intimacy in bed; Bond kisses a woman’s bare back as she sits in the bed. The rest of her body is covered by a bed sheet. Other moments of typical Bond flirtations. A naked body, face down, covered in black oil. But overall, as chaste a Bond film as you’re likely to see.
- Violence/Other: Lots of action violence throughout—car chases, gun play, fighting, explosions, etc. The action is intense and realistic, but never overly graphic.
Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla. He is also cohost of the "Steelehouse Podcast,” along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture.
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