Rating: Rated M (action violence)
This film takes up where “Casino Royale” ends. Quantum of Solace is the moment of peace in yourself that, if you find it, brings about a better understanding of the meaning of life. Daniel Craig clearly interprets the title that way, and he stars for the second time in this 22nd. James Bond film, as a heartbroken and angry James Bond, resentful and revengeful about the loss of his love, Vesper Lynd, in “Casino Royale.” His is a piece of acting, somewhat akin to a James Bond take on “The Dark Knight,” and Daniel Craig, well-buffed and toned, makes a very good, brooding Bond. The familiar elements are all there in the plot-line, and Bond fans would not want it any other way. M is played by the redoubtable Judi Dench whose relationship with Bond is filled with wavering tension and Bond is isolated (though M ultimately stands by him). An evil villain threatens the welfare of the world for nefarious purposes. Bond single-handedly comes to the rescue, against the orders of M; and a beautiful woman willingly succumbs to Bond’s infamous charms in one more luxury hotel suite. Jeffrey Wright for the second time plays Felix Leiter, Bond’s CIA ally on the other side. Yet this is a different Bond movie to the ones which have gone before. Bond in this film knows there are good reasons for not trusting. He thinks Vesper was disloyal to him, and yet he loved her; and as a result, he has a substantial anger-management problem that won’t go away.
The main story-line revolves around Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene, the sinister Chair of Greene Planet and Member of Quantum. Quantum is an agency dedicated superficially to noble causes such as reforestation and protection of the environment, but it is really a secretive international organisation that has nasty goals of an anti-environmental kind, giving a double meaning to the film’s controversial title. Greene is pursuing the acquisition of a block of arid, desert land. Pretending to be interested in oil, he wants to blockade supplies of fresh water to control access to water resources in a bid to gain political supremacy. Camille (played by Olga Kurylenko), and previously betrayed by Greene, joins forces with Bond to thwart him, though the relationship between Bond and Camille is tantalisingly undeveloped. In the course of action, Bond meets up with Strawberry Fields (played by Gemma Arterton), an M16 field operative from Bolivia. Seduced by Bond, she meets an untimely end by being drowned in oil. Bond disobeys M’s orders and pursues Greene whom he leaves stranded in the middle of a desert with a can of oil symbolically by his side. He then pursues Vesper’s past lover, who works for Quantum.
This Bond movie avoids the humour and whimsy of past 007 exploits, and substitutes fast action in their place. If anything moves, it is bound to soon explode, collapse or crash, and James Bond will be there in the middle of it. Marc Forster, as Director, injects more ordinariness into his characters, but blurs the lines between good and evil in them. Bond is a ruthless killer and considers he has special reasons for being so; while Greene represents the evils of Society, rather than embodies them individually. In fact, Greene is the most ordinary-looking of any 007 villain in the Bond series, and the film has no grand moon-like studio-created special effects to make one gasp. The locations are typically exotic. They move us from London to Haiti, Austria, Italy and South America, and they provide high moments. Some key scenes stand out. There is a marvellous staging of the opera, “Tosca,” where Bond cleverly identifies his villains in the middle of an actual performance; the opening car chase sequence and the boat sequence that follows are smart, fast-paced, and very well choreographed; and Forster returns nostalgically to Guy Hamilton’s “Goldfinger” by using oil, instead of gold, to depict the unseemly demise of Strawberry Fields.
There are signs of more Bond movies to come, and one hopes for more character development than this film delivers. Weak in story-line and with terrible opening titles (and matching song), this film is far from routine, and it has some terrific action sequences. The film will disappoint a little after “Casino Royale,” but it is very entertaining. It just doesn’t move much beyond showcasing Daniel Craig as a hurt and angry James Bond, who has lost trust, and who powers through it all regardless.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Columbia Pictures
Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Film and Broadcasting Office.