“I’m motivated by my duty.”
In 2008, James Bond returned to the big screen (though he doesn’t deliver that iconic line) in the first film’s literal sequel. Quantum of Solace picks up one hour after the events of the preceding film, 2006’s Casino Royale. Daniel Craig reprises the role of 007, and continues portraying him as the blunt instrument creator Ian Fleming described him as.
This one, for me, is a bit of an odd duck. Having just re-watched it for this post, I actually enjoyed it more this time around than I ever have before. The producers, Micheal G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli brought aboard director Marc Forster. Viewers know Foster for Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, and The Kite Runner. A seemingly strange choice, but one that, I feel, works well, bringing a different style to the Bond films.
Having said that, the film works best when played as a coda to Casino Royale, and watched back to back. The script doesn’t use any of Ian Fleming’s original materials. But Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade, who had adapted Fleming’s novel for the previous film returned for this one. They turned the final draft in before a writer’s strike prevented any more work on it.
The film sees Bond pursuing the lead provided by Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) about a mysterious organization that seems to be everywhere, even in MI6. We discover that revelation in a fantastically orchestrated foot chase following the title sequence. (Preceding that sequence in turn is a fantastic car chase using the gorgeous Aston Martin DBS). He comes up against an operational arm of the organization that they call Quantum. Overseeing that arm is Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric).
Greene is attempting to gain control of resources in Bolivia. And the CIA, much to Felix Leiter’s (Jeffrey Wright returning, and the first actor to play the character two times sequentially) chagrin, is letting him do it. But aiding Bond is Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who has a desire of her own to wreak revenge on Greene.
The cast is rounded out with Judi Dench returning as M, in a much larger role this time around, wonderfully so. Gemma Arterton appears as an MI6 station agent, Giancarlo Giannini returns as Mathis, David Harbour as Leiter’s CIA section head. And Rory Kinnear appears as Tanner (M.’s aid, and in the novels one of Bond’s only friends).
Without a script quite nailed down, the film went into production. Canadian Dennis Gassner oversaw production design, and Roberto Schaefer served as Director of Photography. Gary Powell oversaw the stunt coordination, and Louise Frogley came aboard as costume designer.
As always, the film embraced its exotic locations, and Quantum used the most of any film in the series to date. They shot in Italy, Chile, Panama, Austria, Mexico, around the UK, and of course, the 007 stages at Pinewood. The story moves Bond constantly as he rushes in pursuit of any thread to the tapestry that is Quantum, and its larger organization, even if he does it unsanctioned.
The reveal of the actual resource Quantum is after shouldn’t really come as a surprise. It makes sense, and it’s one we’ve seen play out in the real world a number of times. And the film rockets along towards that reveal, even as Bond has a determination to get his answers from Greene.
There ends up being some gorgeous set pieces in the film. The opening car chase that took two months to film, the foot chase that follows it, the water chase, plane chase. There are also the various moments of fisticuffs that occur throughout. The film renders those fights brutally and quickly, embracing the idea of the blunt instrument that is 007.
The film will often drop its sound and replace it with a score, or source music during an action beat, or its denouement. This is something new for a Bond film. And these choices give the film an interesting almost introspective feel, even as the stunt work and gun play excites.
And speaking of the music, David Arnold returns for a fifth time delivering a slightly darker score. His score is one that blatantly misses any of the cues, themes or motifs that the film’s title track features. Arnold didn’t write that track. Jack White wrote and produced the song, Another Way to Die, himself. And he made it the first duet to be featured in a Bond film when Alicia Keys joined him on vocals.
I remember the first time I heard it, I wasn’t wowed, but it has grown on me since. It troubles me though that the film doesn’t reference the track. The references usually helps make the 007 film experience for me. Instead, Arnold delivers a solid but unconnected (to the theme) score. It’s one that embraces Monty Norman’s original theme and underlines the film’s emotions and actions.
Daniel Kleinman is absent from the main title designs, taken over by the film-making collective, MK12. But it feels very much in the vein of a title sequence, and fits right in with what has gone before.
The film as mentioned, feels like a coda to Royale (the longest film in the series), and works wonderfully back to back. It’s also the shortest 007 film, and that affects one’s enjoyment of the film as well. Most Bond films have a two hour runtime on average, so this one feels like you’re just getting comfortable, and it’s over.
Even as the film wrapped production, the studio generated promotional material for its release. (And again I lamented the use of photoshop and longed for the days of old school movie posters). The images crafted for the posters aren’t disappointing. Greg Williams show them and Empire Design designed them. In fact the shadow advance poster featuring 007 holding a Heckler & Koch submachine gun followed by the reveal of Craig definitely works. In fact, one can argue that both those posters work better than the quad and one sheets featuring Craig and Kurylenko. And honestly, I’ve never been a fan of the need for character posters, just give me one piece of iconic memorable art for the film.
But that’s just me.
Quantum of Solace was released in the UK on 31 October, 2008, and in North America two weeks later on 14 November, 2008. My feelings about the film is one that a number of fans seems to share. Yet Quantum of Solace went on to be the biggest Bond film to date.
The film ended, which sees the gun barrel sequence there, where it would usually open the film. And the film promised that James Bond Will Return…
And the wait began as fans anticipated something special for 2012, the film series’ 50th anniversary. Would that four year wait be worth it?
Thanks to my personal Q Branch at DK Publishing for allowing me access to their 007 library. Their library includes James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters, Bond By Design: The Art of the James Bond Films, and The James Bond Encyclopedia.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
- Release Date: 11/14/2008
- Directed by: Marc Forster
- Starring: Daniel Craig, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko
- Produced by: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
- Written by: Neal Purvis, Paul Haggis, Robert Wade
- Studio: B22, Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)