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Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD 2-DISC SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES: Bond on Location: 24-minute special feature; Music Video – Jack White & Alicia Keys – Another Way to Die; 5 Featurettes: Start of Shooting; On Location; Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase; Director Marc Forster; The Music; Crew Files; Trailers.

FROM its breathtaking opening car chase along the winding roads of the Italian lakes, through its breathless rooftop chase in Siena, right down to its speed boat mash-up on the invitingly blue crystal-clear waters of Haiti, Quantum of Solace quickly establishes itself as an action movie of high pedigree. And that’s just the first 30 minutes!

But while Bond proves himself perfectly capable of existing (and mixing it) in a Jason Bourne world, this 22nd 007 adventure then fails to make the most of its ample opportunity. Rather than achieving a fine blend of high-concept thrills and intelligent emotion, Quantum seems content merely to continue blowing stuff up.

Marc Forster’s film is a lean, mean movie that’s cold-hearted and utterly ruthless in cutting to the chase. But given that the director was brought in because of his proven track record with developing character (Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, etc), it’s a curious thing that Quantum of Solace is surprisingly short on them.

Picking up 20 minutes after the events of the far superior Casino Royale, the film finds James Bond jetting off on a global mission that’s part fuelled by his desire to gain revenge for the murder of Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved. The problem is, the men responsible form part of a shadowy organisation with links everywhere. And their latest figure-head – Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) – is intent on toppling the Bolivian government, installing a dodgy dictator and exploiting the country’s water supply for his own commercial gain.

Drawing on environmental concerns as well as power, trust and betrayal, the screenplay for Quantum of Solace – again co-penned by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade – is rife with possibility, but lacking in gripping exposition. With the emphasis clearly on action, you start to wonder whether a director’s cut may be earmarked for the future, when plot-holes are plugged and adversaries are made more flesh and blood.

Almaric’s Greene, for instance, hints at being a ruthless manipulator, but is never given the time to build a credible threat to the far more physical Bond, while his henchmen sport bad hair-cuts, bad attitudes but little in the way to suggest they have what it takes to be part of such a ruthless secret organisation.

Of the women, Gemma Arterton appears fleetingly – and irritatingly – as an agent called in to intercept Bond, but who inevitably beds him (and pays the price for doing so), while Olga Kurylenko’s Camille is a far more credible partner with a similarly burning desire for revenge. It’s interesting that Bond only gets to kiss her, fleetingly.

But the organisation itself is never really exposed as amounting to that much, while suggestions of moles and a higher agenda and reach are never fully realised. There’s no sense that Bond is fighting insurmountable odds.

A lot of the action, too, feels as though it’s trying to keep up with Bourne, rather than surpass him. It is spectacularly brutal and – particularly early on – thrilling. But even at its best – such as the rooftop chase or hand-to-hand apartment fight scene – it’s hauntingly reminiscent of Paul Greengrass’ benchmark setter (a tracking shot of Bond leaping from a rooftop, onto a balcony and into an apartment particularly so).

Thank heavens, then, for Daniel Craig, who continues to make the role his own and invest Bond with a steely determination that’s befitting the physicality of the action sequences. Craig’s 007 is a wounded beast intent on revenge and there’s little room for emotional conflict to cloud his agenda. His piercing blue eyes exude a confidence and sexuality that add to his apeal, but they equally mask an ice-cold assassin. Woe betide the men who get in his way, especially now things are personal.

Craig makes Bond an enigmatic presence; someone that looks equally at ease in a tuxedo or a T-shirt, supping Martini’s or breaking bones. You’ll want to know more about what makes him tick, or how far he’s prepared to go, even though – again – Forster’s movie doesn’t really develop his persona in the same way that Casino Royale did.

That said, Forster does include some nice nods to entries past – a Bond girl sprawled on a bed, dripping in oil (Goldfinger) as well as a licence revoked (Licence To Kill) – and ends things on a nicely dark note that suggests there’s more to be drawn from this particularly story.

But having re-captured our imagination with Casino Royale, and left us pumped up for more, Quantum of Solace doesn’t leave quite the same kind of lasting impression. It’s a hugely enjoyable ride, and Craig continues to be brilliant, but you may still feel more risk-taking is needed before 007 can emerge from the shadow cast by one of his contemporaries.

Watch the trailer or view Bond’s global missions

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 45mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 23, 2009