Daniel Craig as James Bond
Olga Kurylenko as Camille
Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Greene
Judi Dench as M
Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis
Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields
Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter
David Harbour as Gregg Beam
Jesper Christensen as Mr. White
Anatole Taubman as Elvis
Rory Kinnear as Tanner
Tim Pigott-Smith as Foreign Secretary
Joaquín Cosio as General Medrano
Fernando Guillén Cuervo as Colonel of Police
Jesús Ochoa as Lieutenant Orso
Directed by Marc Forster
“Quantum of Solace” may not be as openly clever or as witty as “Casino Royale” but it’s far more intelligent and relevant to today’s world, and ultimately, that’s what makes it a respectable Bond sequel.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is after the criminal organization responsible for the death of his love Vesper Lynd in “Casino Royale,” leading him to South America, where he encounters environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is involved with the control of natural resources used to financially benefit that organization. At the same time, Bond meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a South American beauty whose family was killed by Bolivia’s dictatorial leader, prompting her to seek her own revenge. Meanwhile, MI6 head M (Dame Judi Dench) is forced to work with CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to try to stop her rogue agent before he starts an international incident in his blind desire for revenge.
If you haven’t seen “Casino Royale” yet, you might want to pick up the DVD and watch it because as confusing as “Quantum of Solace” may be at times, it’ll be even harder to follow if you try coming into it fresh without knowing the story leading up to it. Despite being a direct sequel, there are no flashbacks and no overt recaps to get you up to speed from the previous movie before the 22nd James Bond kicks off with a high-speed car chase through the hills of Sienna, Italy, as Bond is chased by Mr. White’s men after confronting him at the end of “Casino.”
The premise of the sequel mainly involves Bond’s quest to find those responsible for Vesper’s death, doing whatever it takes to get answers even if it puts his job at risk. This intense drive for justice leads to a series of chases and fistfights in the first twenty minutes but things do eventually settle down as the story moves forward via exposition unveiling more details about the criminal organization whose fingerprint can be found on all sorts of global dealings. Once we see them conducting secret negotiations during a performance at an Austrian opera house, it becomes evident to the British and American governments that this is clearly an entity that needs to be squelched, proving themselves to be as influential on world politics, essentially doing what these democratic countries have been doing for years by getting involved with the change of power in foreign countries.
Under the auspices of new helmer Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner), this is a very different beast than “Casino Royale” and in fact, all prior Bond films, relying even less on quips and gadgets to keep things entertaining. It’s not so far removed from the direction of the reboot, the influence of the “Bourne” franchise still being fairly blatant from the fast-paced car chase, leading to a chase across the Italian roofs and a brutal fist fight within an apartment. Despite a fairly conventional boat chase like the ones we’ve seen in countless prior Bond films, you can tell Forster is trying to change things up when he throws in an innovative rope fight which suffers slightly from being cut together in a confusing way. Later in the movie, there’s an even more impressive airplane dogfight, unlike anything we’ve seen in any movie, Bond or otherwise. For the most part, Forster has created a visually enticing film and when you mix this action into the film’s intricate plot and characters dynamics, “Quantum of Solace” becomes a movie that does require a lot more thinking, but one that can also be studied and admired for some of the more masterful storytelling involved.
With just two movies under his belt, Daniel Craig has created a definitive Bond, the type of tough take-no-bull British intelligence agent that’s required to conduct business in this world where corporations and government call all the shots. This affinity for setting the story within a real world climate doesn’t leave very much room for humor, so Craig plays the role rarely cracking a smile or making the type of quips that were commonplace for the Bond of old.
That leaves it to Judi Dench’s M to add some of the film’s lighter moments, as well as a unique narrative for Bond’s exploits. Within the course of six Bond films, she’s created a strong female character who is treated with the utmost respect by her primarily male MI6 agents, even having the ear of the Prime Minister when it comes to international relations. Sadly, there aren’t nearly as many scenes between her and Craig, but Dench has a way of conveying what you’re thinking. At one point, Bond seems to be abusing his license to kill to the point where you wonder why M keeps sending him to interrogate people who keep dying. Just as you’re pondering whether Bond needs to have his license revoked, Dench remarks on it in such a matter-of-fact way that it’s one of the movie’s funniest moments.
Mathieu Amalric’s Dominic Greene is not quite as intense or menacing a Bond villain as Mads Mikkelsen in “Casino.” Disguised as an environmentalist tycoon trying to help the people of South America, his distinctive form of villainy eventually rises to the surface, as we see his involvement in the country’s military coup. Amalric is one of France’s fine actors, but his frail physique is so evident when he eventually gets physical with Bond that it’s no surprise when he’s evenly outmatched. It is interesting to see Craig’s Bond being so physical and violent when dealing with criminals who are more business-minded brain rather than brawn.
Russian beauty Olga Kurylenko brings an interesting dynamic to the mix as Camille, a revenge-hungry South American woman who gets closer to Greene for her own reasons, and they make quite a pair as they travel across the globe chasing after Greene. The film’s other Bond girl is fellow MI6 agent “Strawberry” Fields who is assigned to bring Bond in for deprogramming. Played by Gemma Arterton–thin, short blonde hair and exceedingly perky–she’s more of the traditional Bond girl we’re used to seeing, creating a nice balance to the more unconventional Camille. (The previous film’s nod to Ursula Andress coming out of the sea in “Dr. No” is countered by a “Goldfinger” reference so blatant it’s almost annoying considering how few other Bond traditions have been retained.)
These new characters are introduced in a somewhat strange way, showing up in a conversational scene as Bond arrives in South America without explaining who any of them are. Their identities and their connections are revealed over the course of the next hour, which helps create an environment where there are few obvious good guys or bad guys, which ultimately allows Forster to fully explore the film’s central theme of “Who can one trust in this new world?”
The Bottom Line:
Over the course of just two films, Daniel Craig has firmly ensconced himself as one of the definitive Bonds, one now fully updated for the 21st Century. Though some of “Quantum of Solace” feels deliberately derivative and it’s sometimes gets too serious and steeped in real world politics for its own good, it also delivers enough of the action and espionage we’ve come to expect from Bond to make it an enjoyable experience.