- 2009 Film Review -
Quantum of Solace
- April 17,
- By Eric M. Scharf
- It is a rare person who does not
have some level of appreciation for 007. I am not part of that
minority, and I have enjoyed every 007 film in existence.
Loyal fans like myself, however, have still had to rise to the
challenge of accepting, once more, a new actor in the lead role of
The series began with the brilliance of Sean Connery, followed by an
unappreciated radar blip of a performance by George Lazenby. Roger
Moore quite literally came to the rescue with a less serious but
still successful run of 7 films after it was determined that Lazenby
was not going to be the long-term solution to Connery’s departure.
After it was learned that Pierce Brosnan was not going to be let out
of a 5th season of Remington Steele, a much harder edge and
no-nonsense approach was introduced to audiences with Timothy
Dalton. A more intense flavor of Dalton’s style would be seen,
again, years later.
After 6 years involving various legal delays between EON and MGM, as
well as reluctance by the film studios to give up on deficient
scripts and concerns over the role becoming too serious, Dalton
understandably could not wait around forever to renew his license to
kill. He moved on, and whether or not it was his choice is another
story. Then, finally, what everyone had seemingly been clambering
for had occurred: Pierce Brosnan was brought on board to play “Bond,
James Bond.” Brosnan brought with him a hybrid of the charm and
deadly capability displayed by former leads Connery and Moore, while
retaining some of Dalton’s edge as well.
007 appeared to be on the way back to top-billing with filmgoers
everywhere when the film studios evidently determined that Bond,
once more, had to get younger and more physically capable. There was
some waffling by the studios once public reaction began to turn
ugly. They went back to the bargaining table with Brosnan, who
stated that he still preferred to continue with 007 even after being
unceremoniously kicked to the curb, but an amicable solution could
not be arranged.
- Brosnan put down his famous martini for the last
time and walked away from the franchise, never to return . . . at a
time when the studios had low confidence that a quality successor to
Brosnan would be found. There was nothing wrong with Brosnan, who
probably had at least 3 to 4 more 007 films in him. The studios may
have had the best of long-term intentions, but they unnecessarily
created a problem for themselves.
This scenario brings us to the present, where we find ourselves
watching the hardest edge ever to play James Bond, 007: Daniel
Mr. Craig first assumed the mantle of the coolest, most mysterious,
most seductive secret agent in the history of MI6 with the remake of
“Casino Royal.” His brand of Bond, although driven by the script, is
one devoid of the incredible gadgets to which 007 fans have learned
to crave with the announcement of each and every new film.
The gadgets, thus-far, all seem to be based upon real world products
for branding tie-ins. Cell phones are a good example used throughout
Craig’s first two films as Bond. Hollywood film-making, after all,
has become as much about marketing a film as it is about making a
film, let alone a good one.
Craig’s Bond is hardened from his experiences without the convenient
creature comforts typically provided by Q. This new Bond has proven
he can exist and succeed with no more than his incredibly sharp
mind, deadly combat skills, and pinpoint accuracy against anyone
unfortunate enough to become his target or an obstacle in his path.
- He will accomplish his mission without even the shirt on his back
(as in “Casino Royale”), being, by far, the most physically fit 007
since Sean Connery in his earliest Bond film. Craig has converted
007 into the kind of secret agent who can, indeed, terminate an
international criminal with a single strand of their own hair. If
you go by some of Ian Fleming’s earliest Bond stories, and if the
studios’ aim is to adhere more closely to those stories, Craig
appears to be on the right track.
“Casino Royale” can be summed up by my singularly-held theory (held
only by me, of course) that it was the first film in a series of
etiquette “courses” (films) for a nearly unstoppable force, in
Craig’s 007, who cares not for “playing the game” with his enemies,
and who would gladly dismiss the pleasantries and subtleties with
which the fans are so familiar . . . for a direct hit. He despises
foreplay, and he has the patience of Dirty Harry, who happens to be
one of my all-time favorite film characters.
This new 007 does, indeed, know how to navigate a China shop like a
silk scarf floating effortlessly on a gust of wind, but, like Dirty
Harry, he simply prefers doing it like a Brahma bull, as the enemy
deserves no better.
The following “Casino Royale” exchange between 007 and M, played
once more by the wonderful Judi Dench, supports the irritating
transformation 007 must endure in order to show M that her faith in
him has not been misplaced.
James Bond: “So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.”
M: “Any thug can kill. I need you to take your ego out of the
They realize they need each other, but neither will admit it, and
neither will give a centimeter unless ordered to do so. The tension,
which lasts the entire film, is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut
- Craig brings more of the same and a
bit more involuntary refinement, per my theory, in “Quantum of
Solace” (QOS), beginning on the final breath of “Casino Royal,” with
some of the same supporting actors, and double the physical action.
- Mr. White, the man responsible for
the demise of both Vesper Lynd and Le Chiffre, has unofficially been
brought to justice, as MI6 prepares to interrogate him in a
dungeon-like setting for information on the bigger picture of his
crime network. While a bit of a stretch, this seems to me like a
subtle introduction to the equivalent of SPECTER or what might
become known as SPECTER in future Craig-driven Bond films.
Mr. White is cool as a cucumber, pointing out to everyone in the
make-shift interrogation room that his organization’s tentacles run
very deep in so many places, like MI6. M seems to quiver ever so
slightly before firmly pointing out to Mr. White that he will,
Before we get the opportunity to hear and savor any intelligence
data, M’s right hand man and personal body guard turns on his boss
and attempts to free Mr. White, who is accidently shot in the leg.
The body guard-turned-traitor dashes up the stairs with Bond hot on
his heals. Bond gets his man, only to return to M having to explain
that yet another potential source of information is, once again,
dead at his hands. This is made even worse by a now-missing Mr.
White, whose proof of existence is marked only by the blood stain
where he was previously seated.
M’s trust issues with the agent she once referred to as a “blunt
object” continue to grow. Losing one of her most reliable and
trusted team members, along with Mr. White, shakes her confidence
and leaves her grasping for answers, before we have even been
introduced to Bond’s latest enemy. After all, M has a boss, too, and
those answers become even harder to produce when your own department
has been infiltrated by who knows how many agents of evil.
- Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu
Amalric, is a world renowned technology giant and
environmentalist-turned-bad-guy who strangely reminds me of
actor-comedian Chris Kattan. There were moments in QOS when I
half-expected the scene to get dark, a disco ball to drop down,
“What is Love” begin to play in the background, and see Amalric
begin that same violent, back-and-forth head shake made famous by
the Butabi brothers in “A Night at the Roxbury.”
Nonetheless, the amazing, beautiful, and sinister-looking locations,
with which we are all familiar from previous Bond films, simply melt
away in QOS. There are simply locations, bad guys, Bond, Bond’s
constituents, and the common objects of desire that keep them all
glued together for the length of the film.
- A quick fling with
Strawberry Fields, a new, naïve agent eager to prove herself, hits a
dead end, but there is no love interest for Bond this time around.
There is only an extremely attractive Bolivian spy, Camille, with an
eye for revenge against Bolivian General Medrano who murdered her
entire family right in front of her when she was young.
- Though Bond continues to give M and
everyone else a purposely quizzical look whenever he is accused of
being out for revenge, it is that very thread being shared between
Bond and Camille. Revenge would have, in fact, come very early for
Camille, if Bond had not literally and unknowingly prevented her
from ending Medrano’s life, thus, preventing the removal of Greene’s
key playing partner in the military coup they were planning for the
- I was disappointed to see her
character degenerate, however, from such an aggressive beginning to
such a weak finale, as she struggles mightily to complete her
personal mission objective and termination of her target, under less
than imposing circumstances. Bond is forced to assist in a
situation where even he appears to overestimate Camille's
- Most 007 fans have been trained, with past
films, to expect Bond to calmly come to the rescue of the damsel in
distress, no matter how well-trained she may be, but there is no
such act in QOS. Bond actually appears surprised that she is
having any real difficulty, and while it is refreshing to see Bond
capable of such an alternative viewpoint of a woman in the same line
of work, the writer and director would have done better to allow
Camille to keep her dignity and finish what she started.
- Speaking of being targeted for
termination, QOS is the first Bond film in some
time, however, that does not include anyone specifically camping out
to remove Bond from the land of the living. QOS, alternatively,
provides plenty of aggressive decisions by Bond, from beginning to
end, as if like a mind reader, getting incredibly close to solving
Greene’s criminal puzzle many times during the film.
It should come as no surprise that Bond spends at least half of the
film having to dodge murderous accusations and live munitions being
fired at him by his own countrymen, because, as with “Casino
Royale,” he continues to have a bad case of being in the right place
at the wrong time. This can, in all fairness, be attributed to MI6
being led to the scene of a hotel room crime just as Bond arrives.
If anything, he seems snake bitten in his desire to get M off his
back, by performing up to her unreasonable standards.
Bond does his job, but he continues to do it too well. And for as
many times as his extreme efforts reward him with another cross-eyed
look by M, even though his intended targets deserve their fate, it
is understandable why he would revert back to playing by the rules,
as long as they are his rules.
His bad timing enforces his own rules once again, and, with MI6
cutting off all of his monetary and travel resources, he must seek
help from a familiar-if-understandably-unfriendly face, in Rene
Mathis. We quickly learn that Bond was wrong in accusing Mathis of
being a double agent in the last film. Mathis strangely seems to
understand and even forgive Bond, even though it was clear that
Mathis was treated like an enemy combatant once the accusation was
- Mathis, ever the reliable
connections guy, makes sure Bond is back on his feet in no time,
even accompanying him back into the lair of the beast to help him
succeed in his mission. Mathis introduces Bond to the local chief of
police, who, essentially, professes his loyalty and resources to
Bond. Mathis does not last much longer, and it is my interpretation
(because it was not shown) that he is shot and stuffed into the back
of a vehicle by that very same officer.
- And, with bad timing as his
best friend, Bond and Camille are caught attempting to leave in the
very same vehicle, only to discover Mathis’s withering body. And,
still, with what little strength he has left, Mathis manages to help
save Bond, again, before another gun shot wound ends his life. It is
a tragic end to one of Bond’s few reliable sources.
- Mathis was not the only familiar
face with whom Bond would cross paths, as his fast friend and U.S.
counterpart, Felix Leiter (played by Jeffrey Wright), also does his
part to spare Bond (and Bond’s would-be captors) unnecessary
trouble. Leiter’s presence in that part of the world is explained as
a component of the U.S. path of least resistance policy.
- Wright does
an excellent job, in his limited role, and I would be pleased to see
him in future 007 films, continuing to offer his calming, mature
influence, as he did in “Casino Royale” (when Bond wanted to break
ranks and go after Le Chiffre directly, rather than return to the
poker table to continue “playing the game”).
Even with the “plot within a plot” turmoil that ensues and continues
to build for Bond as the film progresses, he starts to display more
of the focus M has been seeking, while he succeeds in conquering two
of his bigger demons and a piece of another by film’s end. He
receives a quantum of solace and little more in avenging the death
of his one-time love, Vesper Lynd, though, as a man of his word, she
was out of sight and out of mind during this latest mission.
helps his revenge-mate, Camille, escape unharmed from Greene’s
self-destructing fuel cell-powered lair. He also manages to kill
neither Greene nor Vesper’s ex-boyfriend, his brief follow-on
mission. Greene succumbed to the desert heat, encouraged to drink
anything that would quench his deadly thirst.
007 taking these two men alive, per say, rather than using his
license to kill should vault him out of M’s dog house, but we know
it will not be that easy. M is an impatient mother who expects her
mutt to behave like a pure breed. 007 is, after all, an orphan. M,
however, is in the unenviable position of requiring no patience,
just results . . . from a person she cannot control like her other
M wants 007 to function like a member of a team, and, yet, every
time his precision misses her mark, she wraps him across the
knuckles like Mother Theresa, thus, making him feel far more like a
rogue or unappreciated mercenary than part of MI6. She decided to
upgrade Bond’s status to 00, before “Casino Royale,” and she will
have to endure his professional refinement, step by painful step,
until she is satisfied or she relents on her requirements, allowing
Bond to be part GQ and part Dirty Harry.
I have a feeling, per my singularly-held theory, that the next Bond
film will have a scene showing M explaining to 007 that, if she is
to really begin trusting him, and if she truly wants to see him
become the entire package MI6 agent she requires, then, she must
also give him the complete arsenal of tools with which to work. M
officially introduces 007 to Q . . . and off we go to the next
While I believe I am alone in my singularly-held theory, which I
want very badly to come true, I also believe that EON is well aware
of the huge number of Bond fans who are perplexed by the continued
absence of the traditionally suave and physically-capable Bond, as
well as Q’s incredible library of fantastic toys.
EON can count me as, quite possibly, the one person who has no
problem with 007 being rebuilt as an unstoppable modern day MI6
mercenary, who is carefully transformed, over the course of 3 or 4
films, into a willing gentleman who can kill with but a look, with
amazing devices at his disposal, but never with the desperate need
to use them.
EON – hear me now. Do not let my big picture theory disintegrate
and, please, stop conjuring up cute film names that serve no