By: Samar Khan
Alas, what could have been. What was a special opportunity for a franchise not known for establishing continuity between films to do just that was squandered with the second installment of the Daniel Craig 007 Bond series, QUANTUM OF SOLACE. While the film had a myriad of issues that somehow managed to not affect either its predecessor or its successor, the most glaring indictment of Marc Forster’s feature Bond film can be best surmised by describing the lead villain: forgettable and a waste of potential.
What made Casino Royale and Skyfall (review coming soon) so exceptional were the fantastic villains employed in each, played respectively by Mads Mikkelson and Javier Bardem. By all accounts, based on his track record alone, we should be in for a treat when Christoph Waltz takes over the role of lead villain in the upcoming Spectre. While Mathieu Amalric is by no means a bad actor (this is a “high” level Bond film, after all), the effect of a poor script and heightened expectations clearly impacted his performance. A commonly glossed over fact is that there was a writers strike that occurred halfway through filming of QOS, which meant that lead star Craig and director Forster had to take over and finish off the script and add in their own pieces of dialogue. To say that impacted the film is being kind; the second half of the film contains a Pierce Brosnan-era plane fight that was just as awful as the noticeably poor CGI used as well as a burning hotel scene that sounds cool in theory but was nowhere near as epic as it could have been. You find out with almost exactly half an hour left what the ultimate goal of the villain – Dominic Greene was his name for those that actually care- was. This served to hammer home just how poor the script was when compared to Casino Royale and the exceptional Skyfall.
As a standalone thriller, Quantum of Solace is an above average and competent film; as a great or good Bond film, it is not. Since it clearly wished to establish the aforementioned continuity, expectations were rightly raised as modern audiences have grown to expect such a concept in their films (the Bourne trilogy was mostly good for this). In a bid to build upon the crushing romantic loss from the first film, the second film aimed to provide Bond with a “lovers quest for revenge” type storyline that somehow managed to move away from what makes a Bond film so unique. Absent was the trademark charm and Bond’s suave attitude with the ladies (Gemma Arterton was wasted in a minor role while Olga Kurylenko had no chemistry with Craig), which took this film into “Subpar-Bond flick” territory.
The technical aspects were severely lacking as well. The opening segment of the film post-intro credits sets the stage for what was to follow, a lengthy car chase managed to cut so often that the average time for a single shot was probably close to a second. Think about that for a second. In the second it took you to process that thought, you would have seen a drastic shot jump. The overuse of shaky-cam (I guess the Bourne trilogy was not all perfect for popularizing that fad) was a glaring indictment of the film’s editing issues, as compounding said shaky-cam with the aforementioned quick cuts was the best way to illustrate the film’s plethora of issues. The score, otherwise excellent in the other Craig films, falls flat as well with no memorable sound segments anywhere throughout the film; Another way to Die by Alicia Keys and Jack White may be a good song, but it was a poor choice for a film that needed something at an epic scale to rescue it from its multiple other technical shortcomings. Why else were people so excited for the Skyfall score and soundtrack when it was announced that Adele would be lending her talents to the film? Her titular song fit the theme of the film perfectly and essentially served as a bow on what was an excellent return to form for the series AFTER this… problem.
Speaking of problems, how can one go any further without at least giving a cursory mention as to the plot of this film. For starters, the film was effectively about Bolivian water rights. I will repeat that with added clarity: outside of added “tension” elements such as American involvement (which could have been something more than the footnote it ended up being), the film proved to be about Bond trying to stop a villain that was intent on consolidating rights to Bolivian water. I’m not sure how much more clearly one can explain how a film about an MI6 agent in a series renowned for its internal espionage and high stakes gamesmanship was focused on BOLIVIAN. WATER. RIGHTS.
The acting was serviceable, with there being no memorable performance to speak of. Craig admirably attempts to play a heartbroken yet stoic Bond, but even he cannot save the script. Dame Judi Dench was excellent as has become par for the course for her while the duo of Amalric and Kurylenko disappointed; a poor script and undefined character direction can be reasonably argued for the former, but the latter was entirely miscast in her role. After Quantum of Solace and Hitman (2007) showcased her inability to grasp a leading role, it is little wonder she has not been considered for larger roles in any major films in recent years.
After reading this review, please do not get turned off by the franchise. Rest assured, the series rebounds excellently with Skyfall, for which we shall be airing a review in the coming days. If you are attempting to marathon the series prior to the release of Spectre, avoid watching this film and re-read this review.
After careful consideration, Chulbul Pandey graces this film with a grade of D