Quantum Of Solace, Daniel Craig’s second outing as Bond, has three unique features for the franchise. One, according to a 2012 study by the University of Otago in New Zealand, Quantum of Solace is the most violent film in the franchise. Compared to Dr. No’s 109 “trivial or severely violent” acts, Quantum of Solace contains 250. It’s the shortest Bond movie in the franchise, at 106 minutes. The next shortest is actually a tie between Dr. No and Goldfinger, each at 110 minutes. Third, and most importantly, it’s the one Bond movie that continued exactly where the previous movie left off.
In 2006, around the time that Casino Royale entered post-production, Eon Productions began working on its sequel. Producer Michael G. Wilson came up with its completely original story, even though it’s titled after an Ian Fleming short story in the collection, For Your Eyes Only. Casino Royale ended with a cliffhanger, where Bond tracks down some sort of crime boss, shoots him in the leg, and introduces himself with “Bond, James Bond” just before the credits role. That moment is also the only point in the movie that plays the classic Bond theme. Quantum of Solace changes that really quickly. Also, instead of giving us the traditional gun barrel sequence at the beginning, it happens right at the end of the movie. It’s a neat choice that somehow works.
They chose Marc Forster as a director early on. When asked about landing the director job, Forster said that being offered the role surprised him. He wasn’t a big fan of Bond throughout the years, and that he wouldn’t have accepted the role if he didn’t see Casino Royale first. He felt that he movie humanized Bond in ways that none of the previous movies did. As a German/Swiss director, Forster is actually the first Bond film director not from any Commonwealth nation. At when filming began in January of 2008, he’s actually the youngest person ever to direct a Bond movie. Before directing Quantum, he mostly focused on dramatic movies, which made him seem like a good fit to continue Bond’s character development after the rough events in Casino Royale. Although, that didn’t work so well for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Forster, along with the writers, rewrote the story from scratch after landing the job. They wanted the movie to be quick, as a contrast to Casino Royale’s longer running time, to make it “tight and fast … like a bullet.” Collaborating strongly with producers Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, he noted that they only blocked two very expensive ideas. He wanted to mirror real world politics a bit in the story, especially with certain companies claiming to be green because it’s fashionable, when they’re often not. He wanted the story to suggest that there’s a lot of overlap between good and bad these days. He also wanted the main Bond girl, Carmille Montes, to not be a love interest.
Fun fact – they finished the draft mere days before the Writers Guild strike began. With the script looking bare bones, Forster, Wilson and Craig helped with rewrites up until the strike ended, even though none of them are given writing credits. After the strike ended, they hired Joshua Zetumer to help clean it up. It got to the point where Forster had the actors rehearse their scenes, and then Zetumer would rewrite the dialogue depending on the actors’ ideas each day.
French actress Olga Kurylenko, who portrays Carmille, said she was glad to not have a love scene with Bond, feeling it would have distracted from her performance. She also spent weeks training for the fight scenes, while also spending time watching all the previous Bond movies. She fond Michelle Yeoh from Tomorrow Never Dies inspiring, saying “because she did the fight scenes by herself.” The crew originally wanted a South American actress for the role, but out of the 400 women who auditioned for the role, she came across as the least nervous and most confident. She’s perfectly fine in the role.
Quantum of Solace’s theme song is a first for the franchise – a duet. Jack White of The White Stripes collaborates with Alicia Keys on “Another Way To Die.” It’s … ok. My general thoughts on Alicia Keys is that she comes up with great piano tunes and beats, she’s got a great voice, but her lyrics kind of suck and she gets way too fancy with her vocals for my tastes. That’s pretty much how I feel about this song. Others might like it though.
Amy Winehouse actually recorded a demo track for the film, but because of Winehouse’s well-known legal issues at the time, Eon Productions didn’t want that kind of publicity.
Also, the title Quantum Of Solace was chosen mere days before its announcement in January of 2008. Not only was it named after a short story, but they felt the title reflected some of the themes in the movie. Daniel Craig admitted, “I was unsure at first. Bond is looking for his quantum of solace and that’s what he wants. He wants his closure. Ian Fleming says that if you don’t have a quantum of solace in your relationship than the relationship is over.” Of course, they also named Casino Royale’s unnamed criminal organization Quantum.
Quantum of Solace earned $586 million, just shy of Casino Royale’s $600 million. However, unlike Casino Royale’s near universal praise from critics and audiences alike, Quantum of Solace received mixed reception on both fronts. It earned a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Moore, who praised Casino Royale, said “Craig is a damn good Bond but the film as a whole, there was a bit too much flash cutting … you were wondering what the hell was going on.” The Sunday Times noted “following Casino Royale was never going to be easy, but the director Marc Forster has brought the brand’s successful relaunch crashing back to earth – with a yawn.” Roger Ebert, who enjoyed Casino Royale, disliked the movie. However, Empire and The Daily Telegraph both gave it positive reviews. Also, The Times listed the film’s opening car chase as the tenth-greatest car chase in film history.
Uhh … we’ll get to that more later, but whoever wrote that must not have seen too many car chases in movies. It’s not even the fourth best in the Bond franchise.
As for my own thoughts, I think it’s better than most people seem to think, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s great. I’ve seen a lot of people complain that the villain is just trying to get control of Bolivia’s water supply. They complain that it’s lame. However, apart from most developed countries in the world, it’s very true that water is a valuable commodity. Controlling the water supply in a country like Bolivia could be hugely profitable, especially if they made it safe to drink. Same goes for Africa. That said, there are aspects of the story that aren’t explained all that well. There are too many power players introduced that don’t really affect anything in the long run. And the ending where Bond finally tracks down the man responsible for Vesper Lynn’s blackmailing/betrayal feels like it’s completely disconnected from the rest of the film, making it feel tacked on.
The movie tends to focus more on character drama than the story anyway, and that’s probably Quantum of Solace’s strongest point. Daniel Craig spends most of the movie on a rampage, getting more people killed than necessary, and even getting some of his allies killed. The same goes for Carmille Montes, who wants revenge for multiple reasons. The two of them form a dangerous pair – British Intelligence and Bolivian Secret Service agents working together on a mission that is equal parts for their country and personal. Bond’s own rampage also gets him in trouble with multiple organizations, although the movie kind of just waves that away in the end, making it feel kind of pointless. There’s a great conversation towards the end of the movie, where Bond realizes that revenge won’t bring him solace – it just leave him empty. It leads to that previously mentioned ending with Vesper’s blackmailer giving this movie an emotionally satisfying ending, even if it does feel tacked on from a storytelling standpoint.
The action on the other hand … I mentioned this in my Casino Royale post, but the shaky cam was popular at the time. This movie embraces that awful trend with a vengeance. The cameras in the opening car chase move around so much it’s pretty much impossible to tell what’s going on. Half of the shots last less than two seconds, some of them are shaking around or moving so rapidly that you can’t focus on anything. You’ll get one shot that zooms from Bond’s car to the cars chasing him, then you’ll get a half second look at Bond shifting gears, then you’ll see an incoming truck for one second, and the next thing you know, one of the cars chasing Bond crashes into the truck. And I didn’t even mention the half-second reactions shots in-between all that. It’s dizzying, and that opening car chase isn’t even the worst offender.
I get the impression while watching this movie that the fight choreography is good, but what’s the point if you can’t even see it half the time?
Now for the fun part of this blog post – the kill counter. I just noticed that I forgot to enter this part of the blog post since Goldeneye, so I’ve gone back to the last four posts and fixed that.
Bond kills – 16
Other’s kills – 15
Total kill count – 31
Sean Connery’s total kill count – 72
George Lazenby’s total kill count – 5
Roger Moore’s total kill count – 90
Timothy Dalton’s total kill count – 23
Pierce Brosnan’s total kill count – 135
Daniel Craig’s running kill count – 27
Quantum of Solace feels like it could have been a fantastic follow-up to Casino Royale. It continues exploring Bond as a character, as he grows from mostly seeking revenge, to someone who starts to soften up just enough to be a more balanced agent. The fact that this movie is short feels right when you’re following up a movie that’s nearly two and a half hours long. However, with a story that feels a bit convoluted, perhaps adding 10 minutes to explain the story better would be an improvement. Removing some of the characters that don’t add to it would help too. The shaky cam also ruins what would probably be a bunch of great action scenes. Quantum of Solace could have been a great Bond movie, but instead it’s just ok. It’s below average because of its serious flaws. But in this case, you can at least blame some of the movie’s problems on the writer’s guild strike and a rushed script.
Next up is Skyfall, which released on the 50th anniversary of Dr. No. We’ll get deeper into my thoughts then, but I’m pretty sure most people would agree it was a better anniversary celebration than Die Another Day. After that, we’ll conclude with the most recently released Bond movie, Spectre.