‘Quantum of Solace,” the sequel to 2006’s ‘Casino Royale,” is the gloomiest Bond since ‘License to Kill” and the most cynical in the series’ history. Daniel Craig’s 007 is a withdrawn hero in a film less interested in making its audience smile than in making it squirm. Bloody battles are frequent, often so fast-paced think ‘Bourne Identity” on speed that a sneeze, even a blink, may leave you wondering who’s shooting at whom and where the hell they are. These fits of action are inventive, but not as interesting as the too-rare scenes of character development that establish Bond as a depressed loner with a lot on his mind. If you think this sounds unlike the Bond you know, you’re right.
For those unfamiliar with ‘Casino,” 007’s latest is not recommended. The script makes massive assumptions about what and who you remember from the previous picture. Bond newcomers: expect to be deeply confused. Here’s how it starts: James and M (Judi Dench) are interrogating a valuable suspect (Jesper Christensen as the film’s only menacing baddie), hoping to learn something about Quantum, the shadow organization that blackmailed and killed Bond’s lover. When a traitorous MI6 agent strikes, Bond and his boss narrowly escape.
Our hero follows a typically unlikely series of clues, hopping between four countries in the film’s first hour. His main discovery is a stunning but seriously disgruntled Bolivian woman named Camille (Ukranian model Olga Kurilyenko). Her slimy boyfriend, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), is both an operative of Quantum and a phony environmentalist who pours his wealth into a mysterious project.
For Camille, Greene is just a stepping stone to General Medrano, a would-be despot who is trading desert real estate for a Quantum-orchestrated coup in Bolivia. This man’s insubstantial dialogue and lumpy demeanor are overshadowed especially in one lurid scene by his penchant for violence against women. He did, we learn, rape and kill Camille’s whole family, hence the grudge. As Bond and Camille close in on their targets, we catch up on Quantum’s environmentally destructive master plan. This plan, involving an underground reservoir, seems like an afterthought.
While the core plot is Fleming formula with an added revenge motive, the film’s subplots provide a hint of real drama and geopolitical savvy. Bond’s allies, Renee Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), are among the more interesting supporting characters, although neither is allowed to do much (one of them, I won’t say which, dies in Bond’s arms in a surprisingly emotional scene).
Humor is absent from the relationship between Bond and Camille, who are bound together only by grief. It’s refreshing to see Bond, for the first time ever, not go to bed with the female lead; it’s just too bad that Camille is so one-dimensional. Once she gets her revenge, the story leaves her behind.
The producers of ‘Quantum” have followed through on the bizarre decision to couple imaginative, sensitive director Marc Forster with the editors from the hyperkinetic Jason Bourne films. The rapid-fire cuts and unsteady camera in ‘Bourne” have become clich; in this case, the pairing of this editing style with Forster’s rich compositions is a misfire on every level. On a positive note, the music is as good as the editing is bad: the score is punchy and daring, sounding like a bass-heavy mashup of the horn riffs and surf guitar of the 1960s with airtight beats and a rock-oriented vibe unlike anything heard before in a Bond flick.
‘Quantum of Solace” has the look of a fine film mauled by amateurish editing, and what I suspect is the removal of a lot of its dialogue. If you’re a diehard Bond fan, watching
‘Quantum” may be like hearing a dreadful remix of a song you think you’d like, even though you’ve never heard the original. If you’re not a Bond nut, well… ‘Quantum” is just another way for your $7 to die.
Kloss is a Take Five Scholar.