By Nick Statt
Have you ever gone to a movie hoping desperately that it will kick ass because a previous one, maybe by the same director or its predecessor in a series, was just so awesome? That’s exactly how I entered the second Bond film in a chain of new flicks with Daniel Craig as the main man. Unfortunately, I left the theatre with the exact opposite feeling. To be blunt, it was disappointing.
Don’t get me wrong. Quantum of Solace, Craig’s sophomore performance as the legendary British Secret Agent, James Bond, was a decent action film. It did everything relatively well, and the formula for the typical Bond film was generally followed, yielding an entertaining 106 minutes. QOS starts off one hour after the end of Casino Royale, making it the first of the series to offer a direct sequel plot. Bond, played by the always excellent Daniel Craig, goes off on a search mission of a secret organization that, in Casino Royale, blackmailed his lover into back-stabbing him and MI6, leading to a guilt-induced suicide. This means that Bond’s search is fueled more by revenge than his duties to M. In his search for this organization, Bond runs into Dominic Greene (played by the accent-heavy Mathieu Amalric), a pseudo-environmentalist villain who plans to gain control of one of Bolivia’s most valuable resources. Greene is also supposedly part of the organization. However, that little fact is dropped almost immediately while the plot keeps going. Along the way, Bond meets Olga Kurylenko’s character, Camille, the Bond girl of the film, who wants revenge on Greene’s business partner, General Medrano. The two team up to take down Greene and save Bolivia from falling into further tyrannical hands, all the while fueling their need for revenge.
All that sounds dandy, right? Well, QOS unfortunately stands out as just a culmination of a lot of things that make a series action movie bland. An important note to make once more is that QOS stands as the first direct James Bond sequel in the series’ now 22 film run. It follows Casino Royale, 2006’s smash hit, and attempts to carry with it the same punch viewers received two years ago. It falls short because of how great its predecessor was received. Casino Royale was definitely a hard act to follow, especially considering that many critics call it one of the best Bond films, let alone acting debuts, in the series. It dwarfs its sequel and leaves it to make mistake after mistake.
Another problem comes in the form of the change in directors. Martin Campbell directed Craig’s debut, while Marc Foster took the helm of the sequel. The change in directors is clear in Foster’s lack of action film knowledge. The fights seem too reminiscent of past Bond battles, and the action seems to hope that its “gritty realism” that made Casino Royale so fresh would carry over. Instead, one is left with hardly any memorable scenes. Despite a car, a boat, and a plane chase, you’ll find yourself thinking in the back of your head how lackluster these scenes are compared to the previous films’. The choreography doesn’t match up, and the switch in directors certainly didn’t help.
The acting for the most part is solid. Craig doesn’t seem to want to stop being a great Bond any time soon, so you don’t have to worry about that. Olga Kurylenko does a good job at portraying an equally messed up revenge binger, and Mathieu Amalric does a similar job as the villain. Both are solid, but nothing that really shocks you. The only secondary character that seemed to stand out was the peppy Ms. Fields, played by Gemma Arterton. Acting as an MI6 affiliate sent to take Bond home, you’ll find that she drops off the radar far too quickly and leaves you with a desire for more character development. The script was as average as the casting, leaving room for a few funny one-liners, but had nothing as deep or entertaining as Royale’s.
As for the plot, it’s important to know that Casino Royale was based almost solely on Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel of the same name, giving it an extremely solid ground for the script and fleshing out of an entertaining plot. This new Bond series is attempting to head back to its roots and use as much Fleming as possible, but QOS seems to be just a bundle of different Fleming elements. The secret organization, which you don’t know is named Quantum until the end of the film, had me so excited, considering how important it is in the novel world of Bond, but it’s just left out to dry. You see a few faces and hear a few names like Mr. White, the man who infiltrated MI6 and blackmailed Bond’s lover in the first film, but once Dominic Greene is the villain, the movie runs full steam ahead. It completely ignores the monumental plot element it could have used.
Quantum of Solace is not horrible. If you’re any type of Bond fan, you almost have to see it because of how great Craig really is as the title character. If you’ve never seen a Bond flick before, please start with Casino Royale, not just because QOS is its sequel, but also because it is simply a far better film. Foster’s attempt at Bond was unlucky to have to follow Martin Campbell’s, and we can only hope that Craig’s third, which undoubtedly will be coming in a few years time, revitalizes the Bond spirit as much as Craig’s debut did in 2006.