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Quantum of Solace (2008)

November 25, 2008

 

written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis & Joshua Zetumer (uncredited)

produced by: Michael G. Wilson & Barbara Broccoli

directed by: Marc Forster

rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content)

runtime: 105 min.

U.S. release date:  November 4, 2008

DVD/Blu-ray release date: March 24, 2009

 

Director Marc Forster (“The Kite Runner” and “Stranger Than Fiction”) seemed an unlikely choice to helm a Bond film, but it was a move that had me smiling with anticipation. I was hopeful that the excellence of the 2006 reboot “Casino Royale” could be carried over by a stylish, genre-jumping director with indie chops. My interest increased when it was revealed that this was the first Bond film that could be considered a direct sequel, taking place right after the events of the last film. It only made sense to continue a story that has created a new Bond universe, free from forty years of continuity yet leaving the viewer with some unanswered questions. While I did have my hopes up, I also knew that this was a different director and there would be no way to duplicate the feel of the previous film’s new direction.

James Bond (Daniel Craig) is back, in fact he’s only been gone a half hour or so. We’re immediately thrust into the action, trying to catch up with a fast and furious 007 speeding through traffic in Italy. From Lake Garda to Siena, Bond wastes no time dispensing his gun-toting pursuers, with the captured/injured Mr. White (Jesper Christiensen) in the trunk of his car. He ends his brutal swath of destruction by dropping off his battered captive at the feet of his frustrated boss, M (Judi Dench), in order to begin their interrogation.

Bond’s goal is to learn more about Quantum, the evil organization behind the death of his love, Vesper Lynd and uncover what their nefarious global plans are. It would appear they are everywhere and they are one step ahead of MI6. This becomes shockingly evident when their interrogation is interrupted by the betrayal of M’s bodyguard Mitchell (Glenn Foster) who attacks her, allowing Mr. White to escape. An adrenalized chase ensues as Bond pursues Mitchell through the tunnels and across the rooftops of Siena, amid the crowd assembled for the Palio di Siena. Bond winds up killing him (much to M’s disapproval) leaving forensics to find intel that ties him to a contact in Haiti.

Like every Bond film, it’s off to another country yet unlike any pre-Craig entry there is no time for sight-seeing here. This Bond is on a mission. He’s like a bull in a china shop with cat-like agility as he takes out Slate (Neil Jackson), his intended target in a bloody tactile mess. Since his encounter with Slate didn’t provide any useful information, Bond poses as his victim, which leads him to a briefcase and an unexpected ride from a beautiful Russian-Bolivian woman named Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko). They both discover that she has been targeted for termination by her supposed lover, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) the chairman of an ecological organization called Greene Planet and a member of Quantum. She kicks him out of the car thinking he’s the hitman, but Bond pursues her by motorcycle to a dock warehouse and watches from nearby as she meets with Greene.

 

 

Greene is a smarmy, effete eco-terrorist villain, a man clearly in love with himself, showing little regard for anything (or anyone) but his own agenda. He awaits the arrival of Bolivian General Medrano (Joaquín Cosío), a man Camille has worked her entire life to meet and kill since he murdered her family when she was a girl. Greene is helping the exiled general get back into power, in return for support of his organization. In doing so, he hands Camille over to Medrano to do with what he will. What does Greene get out of all this? A seemingly barren piece of desert land. 

Bond rescues her in an exhilarating motorcycle/boat chase but discovers Camille’s not too grateful for his intervention. After making sure an unconscious Camille is in good hands, Bond follows Greene to a private jet, which flies to Austria. His flight is accompanied by CIA agents Gregg Beam (David Harbour) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright). Beam offers U.S. support of the overthrow in return for Bolivian oil, which he believes Greene to have discovered. In return, Greene requests that the CIA deal with Bond’s interference. Beam agrees, despite Leiter’s unspoken disapproval.

Meanwhile, on the Austrian shore of Lake Constance near Bregenz, members of Quantum (including Greene and White) gather at a floating performance of Puccini’s opera, Tosca.

They’re holding a covert conference by way of concealed earpieces in order to finalize plans for their Tierra Project. Guy Haines (Paul Ritter), an advisor of the British Prime Minister, is among the talking heads.  In a clever and humorous scene, Bond obtains an earpiece and disrupts the meeting, taking photos of exposed Quantum members as they flee the theater.

As Greene abruptly departs from the opera with his entourage, he is intercepted by Bond in a standoff. A gunfight ensues with Quantum goons in a restaurant that carries over onto a rooftop where Bond confronts Haines’ bodyguard, who is subsequently killed by Greene’s goon. M is furious with Bond’s activities at the opera and revokes his passports and credit cards. She demands that he return to London, on learning of the bodyguard’s death, frustrated that there is no one to interrogate. 

Undeterred, Bond instead travels to Italy by boat, where he reunites with his old ally René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini). Mathis is reluctant to help due to what transpired during the Le Chiffre incident (see last film), but Bond persuades the retired agent (once stationed in Bolivia) to accompany him to La Paz. They are greeted at the airport by Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), an MI6 field operative from the British Consulate. Fields demands that Bond return to the UK on the next available flight, but he disobeys and they both wind up in his hotel suite bed. Mathis pulls some strings and gets them into a Quantum fundraiser that night held by Greene, where Bond runs into Camille again. When Bond and Camille leave together, but are pulled over by the Bolivian police. They order Bond to open the trunk of his vehicle to reveal a bloodied Mathis. As Bond helps Mathis out, the policemen open fire, killing Mathis. Bond disarms and kills the policemen and comforts the dying Mathis, who asks Bond to forgive Vesper Lynd.

 

 

Bond and Camille make it to the location of Greene’s suspected land acquisition, surveying the area in a giant Douglas DC-3 propeller plane. Suddenly they are intercepted and shot down by an Aermacchi SF-260 fighter and a Bell UH-1 helicopter. They barely escape from the crippled plane by parachuting into a sinkhole below. As they escape the cave, Bond and Camille learn that Greene’s Tierra Project involves water, not oil. Quantum is blockading Bolivia’s supply of fresh water, normally flowing in underground rivers, by damming it into hidden reservoirs beneath the desert. During this short down time, Bond also learns that Camille’s family was raped and murdered by Medrano and that is why she seeks revenge.

After these discoveries, they return to La Paz, where Bond meets M and discovers Quantum murdered Fields by drowning her in oil. M orders Bond to disarm and end his activities in Bolivia, but he escapes by overpowering the MI6 operatives in a hotel elevator. As he makes his escape, he tells M he’s not finished with his operation.

Once again, Bond turns to a trusted ally, meeting Leiter at a local bar, who advises that the CIA is now after him. Leiter discloses the location where Greene and Medrano will meet and gives Bond enough time to flee from American goons as they arrive. Bond and Camille make their way go to a hydrogen-powered eco-hotel in the Bolivian desert, where Greene and Medrano are finalizing their plans. As the various parties depart, Bond attacks and kills the departing Colonel of Police (Fernando Guillén Cuervo) for betraying Mathis, setting off a chain of explosions when a hydrogen fuel tank is hit by an out-of-control vehicle. Camille makes her way to Medrano and manages to kill him while Bond captures Greene after a vicious fight amid the deteriorating hotel.

After interrogating him, he leaves Greene stranded in the middle of the desert with only a can of motor oil. Bond drives Camille to a train station, where they kiss before she departs. They both know it’s not a romantic exchange, moreso one of gratitude as Camille is aware Bond’s heart belongs to someone else. With this in mind, Bond knows he still has one last lead to follow.

Bond arrives in Kazan, Russia, where he confronts Vesper Lynd’s former lover, Yusef Kabira. Turns out Yusef (Simon Kassianides) is a member of Quantum with the job of seducing high-ranking women who have valuable connections. He gets them to give up government assets as ransom for himself by staging fake kidnappings where he is supposedly held hostage. Bond catches him at Yusef’s apartment, attempting to do the same with Canadian agent Corinne Venneau (Stana Katic), even giving her the same kind of necklace he gave Vesper. Bond tells Corinne about Vesper and advises her to hit the road and alert the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As Bond leaves Yusef’s apartment, he’s met by M who is surprised that Bond did not kill Yusef, but rather left him alive for questioning.

M  reveals that Leiter has been promoted at the CIA to replace Beam. News that Bond is cotnent with. He also tells him that Greene was found in the desert, shot in the head twice with motor oil found in his stomach. Bond doesn’t volunteer any information on Greene, but tells M that she was right about Vesper. M then tells Bond that MI6 needs him and fully reinstates him as an agent, to which he replies, “I never left,” and then walks off into the cold night. As he leaves, Bond drops Vesper’s necklace in the snow.

I’ll be so bold to say that for the first time Ian Fleming’s James Bond is accurately portrayed on-screen in the form of the piercing Daniel Craig. If you’ve read the novels, you’ll know that the charming spy was never described as gorgeous or cracking one-liners. Sure, he’s charming but he’s first and foremost a man about his duty, a cold killer and a stubbornly resilient one at that. Craig has this down. He’s so good at exuding cragginess on the outside while internally simmering that you can’t even imagine him playing with puns like Roger Moore did. Craig won me over in the previous film and simply confirms he owns Bond in this film.

Composer David Arnold returns to score the franchise for the fifth time and he does an excellent job. Combining the classic Bond them with music indigenous to locales such as Haiti as he also includes some of Alicia Key’s piano heard in her song “Another Way to Die” with Jack White that played during the traditional opening credits.  

There are some flaws with this film but for me not as many as the critics would have you believe.  As I mentioned, it helps to see this as a direct sequel and not a stand alone story like we’re used to. It also helps to understand this is who Bond is. He’s not Jason Bourne as everyone seems to be comparing this movie to. I understand the comparison, but Craig is utilizing the same physicality here that he brought to the role in “Casino Royale”. This film suffered from being the shortest Bond entry yet though. It would have been good to flesh out more of the Quantum organization or maybe even the character of Camille (although I’ll admit, Kurlyenko is kind of a bore) but that may have been for the better. It gives them more material to work with later. After all, Craig has signed on for three more films.

It would be impossible to live up to “Casino Royale” which is (at this point) the highest grossing Bond film ever. Forster knew what he had to live up to and all the expectations that comes with a sequel. Still, instead of copying anything previously done, he makes his own film. I can respect that. While he’s not known for being an “action director” he does a good job at combining the action scenes with a parallel plot point, holding your attention even more. Forster also succeeds at bringing closure to the Bond/Vesper story.

Bond can still pursue Quantum in the next film and maybe even start to grow into that gadget-wielding, womanizing spy everyone expects. Maybe in time viewers will come to understand that it took these two films to fully rejuvenate 007.

 

 

 

RATING: ***

 

 

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