“How long have I got?”
“That doesn’t give us a lot of time.”
Country: United States
Starring: Daniel Craig, Jesper Christensen, David Harbour, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Joaquin Cosio, Judi Dench
Eye candy: Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton
Director: Marc Forster
Run time: 105 minutes
Wrack my brain as I might, I can’t for the life of me remember what the title Quantum of Solace means. Or what scenes in the movie were relevant to this title. I’m at a loss. I really can’t understand where this title came from. It doesn’t, really, even sound very cool, or very James-Bondy. It could just as easily be the title of one of those sci-fi movies about cute children and magical bunnies.
The word “quantum” means only “a specified amount”. Quantum physics refers to the smallest discrete amount of some physical property that a system can possess. And the word “solace” means “comfort or consolation”. So, really, this movie could have been called A Specified Amount of Consolation. Or, A Modicum of Revenge. Or A Certain Amount of Vengeance. Because I suppose, the idea behind the film is that James Bond is getting revenge upon those who caused the death of his girlfriend Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Perhaps that’s what it means.
But just because I don’t understand the title does not mean that Quantum of Solace isn’t cool. Because it is. It’s very, very cool. Just like in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig is the most badass Bond of them all, with less charm and more hardcore skills-of-a-badass. I remember saying when I watched that first film that he reminded me, (and I mean this) more of George Lazenby than of any other Bond, in that he puts more emphasis on being tough and mean than on being clever and charming and slick. And I like that. But now, having watched this second Daniel Craig installment in the Bond series, he no longer reminds me of George Lazenby. And even though he ends the movie bloody, beaten up, and exhasuted, he doesn’t remind me of Bruce Willis either. He reminds me of Daniel Craig. And that is a terrific thing. I said it in the last movie, and I will say it again about this one – Daniel Craig is the best actor to play James Bond. Ever.
Quantum of Solace kicks off right where the last one left off. We see a car chase through the mountains, and before Bond destroys the opposition with some fancy driving and some gunfire, we know what’s going to happen when he opens the trunk. Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) is going to be in there. Possibly still alive, more likely dead, what with all the crashing and bullet holes. This is one of those car chases where a bunch of stuff is happening all the time, and the camera leaps from the road to the car to the hand on the gearshift and then back to the road. Bond’s car appears to be headed toward an impossible gap between say, two dump trucks, where not even a bicycle could fit, then we flash to his gearshift and then back to the road, where his car comes out of some mess of traffic where it had clearly not been split seconds before.
This must be one amazing gearshift. In Quantum of Solace, we don’t see a single one of those fancy James Bond gadgets that are a staple in this series, and I think it is safe to assume that this gearshift is one of them. There is no Q to explain how it works, but it appears to be able to teleport Bond’s car from one side of a snarl-up to the other. This would be an extremely useful gadget for the average commuter, but until it hits the mass market it’s best that such a prototype would be used to save the life of James Bond. Now, I have no idea how the henchmen chasing him manage to execute similar manouevers, perhaps they have stolen this same amazing technology and they are chasing Bond to get his copy of the instruction manual.
There are other chases in this movie, some that make more sense (editing-wise) than others. There is a terrifically intense rooftop-chase scene on foot, and while it doesn’t compare to the one in Casino Royale where Bond chases that guy with the mad monkey skills, it is pretty cool nonetheless. There is a plane chase, where Bond is able to make a fighter plane crash through a combination of smoke from his engine and…turning left…I think. Either way, there is a fireball and the other pilot loses and Bond made it happen somehow. Then there is a boat chase. It flows rather nicely but is based on a rather questionable premise.
You see, a woman named Camille (the smoking hot Olga Kurylenko) has just mistaken Bond for an assassin. And she has tried to shoot him. He divines that she is in league with the bad guys he is chasing, so after she attempts to kill him he follows her. So far so good. She is one of the bad guys, she will lead him to the other bad guys, and he will exact his bloody revenge for the death of the Woman He Loved in the first movie. He watches Camille interact with the bad guys on a pier, and then watches her get onto a boat with some other bad guys. He manages, telepathically I suppose, to figure out that the bad guys on the boat are going to kill her. She is still one of the bad guys, as far as he knows, and she has already tried to kill him. Yet he decides, in a situation that must be against his better judgement, to rescue her by stealing a boat and ramming a yacht and then kidnapping her.
Perhaps the twenty seconds he spent with her in her car before she decided to kill him were enough to convince him that she was alright, basically a nice person, with a warm heart and a purity of purpose. And that her decision to murder him with a gun was really just an unfortunate but understandable misunderstanding and he holds no grudge. He clearly doesn’t need her for anything. She gets knocked out during the boat chase. Now, she IS in league with these bad guys, and must know something that could help Bond get his men. But he didn’t save her to find out what she knows. He merely hands her unconscious body to a perplexed bystander and continues on his way. So…why did he save her life? What was that all about? Perhaps he knew (because she is obviously the hottest chick he’s met and it’s a James Bond movie) that she will resurface later and feel kindly toward him for all that life-saving boat-chasing action.
So, the boat chase is gratuitous. But it is cool, and John Woo himself might even be impressed with that one. The chase on foot makes sense, the chase in the plane makes sense, and it is easy to understand how the car chase could have come about. All that was missing in Quantum of Solace was a submarine chase and a space-shuttle dogfight. Next movie, perhaps. Actually, that wasn’t all that was missing in the film. There are no gadgets. There is no Q, although there is an M. He only sleeps with one woman, and it isn’t the one we expect. There are no duplicitous women. Not once did I hear him say “Bond. James Bond.” Nor did he mention a martini, shaken, stirred or otherwise. He is drinking something that looks suspiciously like a martini on a plane at one point. And he makes quite a point of letting us all know that he has no idea what the name of this silly, fruity drink might be. Which is far cooler than actually ordering one.
Because this Bond has no need for fruity drinks or charming cleverness or slick lines. He is not Pierce Brosnan, after all. He is Daniel Craig, and he’s a bull in a china shop compared to Brosnan, who was more like fine china at a rodeo. Does that make sense? Maybe not. Who cares. Brosnan was all hair gel and arched eyebrows, Craig is all guns and fists and scowling. Which is far more badass, makes for a far more badass movie, and enhances my enjoyment considerably.
I was worried a few times near the beginning of the movie. For a while, it looked like it was going to be one chase after another without a break for explaining the story. When those concerns were alleviated, it appeared as though Quantum of Solace might fall into that middle-years-Bond trap of having too many characters and too much intrigue and a story that was difficult to follow. Like, who’s that bad guy? How does he relate to that other bad guy? What exactly is the plan here, and how does Bond even know these people are evil?
But fortunately, that is not the case either. Soon, we learn exactly what is going on. The American spies (including Felix, played by Jeffrey Wright, who was also in Casino Royale) are doing business with the Bad Guy Boss, Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric). Greene is a rich, shadowy businessman who runs some kind of bizarre clandestine organization, apparently the same one responsible for the death of Bond’s girl Vesper in Casino Royale. He is setting up a deal with a deposed Bolivian dictator, which would return that dictator to power in return for some abandoned desert in the middle of the country. Greene has managed to convince the Americans that there is oil in that desert, and that is why the Americans are willing to look the other way during this Bolivian coup d’etat. However, he is deceiving them. His real target is water.
And that’s what made me enjoy this movie most of all. The bad guy. Sure, Bond is a badass. And yes, Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are ridiculously hot in the Bond-girl tradition. But this bad guy is a little more layered than the standard Bond villain. He is similar to the other villains in the series, in that he commands a cartel of bad-news international players who can make things like coups take place. But he is different in that he doesn’t have a crazed plan for world domination. He isn’t after uranium or plutonium or even oil. He is after water.
The idea here is that he will control, from his “useless” patch of desert, Bolivia’s water supply. And he will make the people of that country pay him for their own water. And he will get richer. That’s about it. Not only is it a rather small-scale evil plan for a Bond villain, but it is also plausible. Sure, it is the kind of evil plan that shows a complete disregard for human life, but it could really happen, in this world. In fact, it often does. We all know there are corporations who buy up water rights in poor countries. So Dominic Greene, in Quantum of Solace, is not only the most realistic evil villain in a Bond movie, but he is also an amazingly plausible villain for any movie.
Then again, there are still the implausible James Bond touches. Like the final showdown in the five-star hotel in the middle of the desert. This just wouldn’t work. It may be an amazing place, but if it’s hundreds of miles away from everything else, then who would ever go there? Even the richest people on earth, who want the solitude that comes from such complete isolation, would much rather have that solitude in the mountains near lakes and rivers than in the middle of the open desert. I assume.
Not only is this hotel fiscally unrealistic, but it also contains far more tanks of hydrogen than one would anticipate. This is a pretty poor architectural plan if this building will be your evil-guy hideout. After all, if one wayward truck say, backs into the garage and explodes, this could (conceivably) lead to a chain reaction of hydrogen-tank explosions that would destroy the entire place. Perhaps. I can’t complain too much, if that (hypothetical) giant explosion ending came after both the leading man and the leading lady got their respective sweet revenge on the people who had done them wrong in the past, and had a badass walk off into the sun. And also if that leading lady was the ridiculously hot Olga Kurylenko, and that leading man was the totally badass Daniel Craig. That would be OK. If it happened like that.