I like Daniel Craig, and I like him a whole lot as James Bond. But I’m not sure I can say I liked “Quantum of Solace” as much as I liked the man who plays the main character.
I had read a few reviews before I went to see “Quantum” so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the movie, but I guess my idea of James Bond is not in line with what most critics are looking for. The movie has been characterized as being too violent, lacking in fun and too confusing. But I disagree with most assessments of “Quantum of Solace” that I have read so far.
First, let me address the violence issue. Too violent? I hardly think so. “Quantum of Solace” is a revenge movie and if James Bond is out for revenge then a certain amount of violence is to be expected. But violent is too strong a word in my opinion to characterize the latest Bond offering. If you have watched “Casino Royale” then you have a good foundation for Quantum. The movie picks up not long after Bond has just witnessed the suicide of the woman he loves, Vesper Lynd. Bond is determined to find out what could have led Vesper to such a desperate act and he tries to be angry at Vesper, but mostly he just wants to find out who is responsible for Vesper’s death—and make them pay.
The action starts right from the beginning with a furious car chase that takes Bond all over the mountainous terrain of Italy and barely managing to limp his Aston Martin to its destination. Then the credits start. The action is pretty much a mainstay throughout the movie, with a few sequences that reminded me quite a bit of “The Bourne Ultimatum,” so much so that I was sure they had been directed by the same person (they were not). There is a foot chase early on that will remind viewers quite a bit of the fight sequence in the Bourne movie that had Matt Damon jumping from rooftops and between buildings as he tries to evade another assassin—the only difference here is that Daniel Craig is playing the Matt Damon role. The fight scene at the end of the chase is very reminiscent of Bourne too with the in-close fighting. It’s very realistic and credible—-points in the movie’s favor.
There is also just about every kind of chase scene in this movie you can think of. Foot chases, car chases, boat chases and even a plane chase—and they’re all great. I especially liked the boat chase—something about Craig behind the wheel of a boat is very appealing. There’s plenty of fight scenes though I don’t think they rise to the level of violence that most critics would have you believe; the movie still comes in at a PG-13 rating. It isn’t so much that the movie is violent; it just has a lot of action. And I’m all for action. The hard part about critiquing this movie is the parts that come between the action sequences; that’s when the movie loses its momentum. The critics who say that “Quantum of Solace” is confusing have a point.
Here’s what I think the movie is about (I’m really not entirely sure I have it right). Vesper Lynd was blackmailed in the “Casino Royale” by some shadowy organization that kidnapped her boyfriend. At the end of the movie she commits suicide and I believe her motivation was to protect Bond so she could not be used against him if she was dead. Bond isn't sure what motivated Vesper so he attempts to find out what motivated the people who blackmailed Vesper. The organization is occasionally referred to as “Quantum” but what they are is never fully spelled out. What I inferred from the movie is that “Quantum” is made up of people who attempt to control the natural resources of any particular region and sell them to the local government at a premium.
“Quantum of Solace's” main villain is a man named Dominic Greene, who helps a corrupt general attain control in Bolivia in return for ownership of a particular region to which Green has diverted all the country's water. The problem with the plotting of “Quantum of Solace” is that Greene is sort of inserted as a token villain. We don’t know if he was particularly responsible for Vesper’s involvement in “Quantum.” He’s kind of slimy, cowardly kind of guy that we don’t mind seeing Bond use as a punching bag, but I don’t think he adds up to a villain worthy of a man like Bond. Personally I would have preferred if the man known as “Mr. White,” who we saw in “Casino Royale” as he took the money from Vesper, would have been cast as the villain. He would have been a face we could tie to the previous movie and we could believe he was intelligent enough to put real obstacles in Bond’s path. As it was, I liked watching Craig push some bad-guys around, but I never really thought Greene was going to be a real problem for Bond.
Another complaint put forth by critics about “Quantum of Solace” is the lack of gadgets. It’s true that Bond doesn't have any toys to play with this time but that wasn't a particular problem for me. I feel that the insertion of gadgets wouldn’t have made sense anyway since Bond was supposed to be going a little bit rogue here. It’s hard to go on a personal mission of revenge and check in with the office—if you know what I mean. I actually think that the lack of gadgets makes more sense than virtually anything else in the script. And the last bit of criticism that I just don’t agree with is that a lot of critics said the movie was just too grim. That Bond brooded too much and didn't have the old sense of humor this time around. Um, did they forget that woman he loved just died? I think Bond can be forgiven if he lost his sense of humor for a little while. We can give him an hour-and-a-half to grieve can’t we?
In line with the grieving thing, the Bond women play a role here but they are really overshadowed by the memory of Vesper Lynd and I find I didn’t mind that at all. So my overall impression of “Quantum of Solace” is a movie that shines in the action sequences and the scenes with Bond and M (Judy Dench is particularly effective in this movie as M and her relationship with Bond really develops here) but stutters through the rest of the film.
I still think Daniel Craig is a terrific Bond and I have no criticism of him in the role. Any problems with the movie I lay at the feet of the scriptwriters. I think the movie would have been much better if we had a clearer idea of what led Vesper to betray Bond and commit suicide. I would have liked it more if Bond had had a central focus early on and we could have watched him hunt a credible villain down. Yeah, we get to watch some good action sequences and see Bond in some good fight scenes, but I still felt something was lacking. I didn't walk away from the movie with the same sense of satisfaction that I had with “Casino Royale” and that disappointed me a bit.
So in the end I have the dilemma of whether or not to recommend you see this movie on the big screen and my answer to that is it depends. "Quantum of Solace" is a Bond movie and if you like Bond it's a pretty good bet you'll like the movie. The action sequences are great and Daniel Craig is as charismatic as he was in "Casino Royale." But if you're not a die-hard fan of Bond you might be a little let down by the sketchy plot-line. Personally, I would go see the movie in the theater again. But then, I do like Daniel Craig.