Picking up immediately after the events of Casino Royale, James delves into the mysterious world of Quantum, the organization that forced Vesper Lynd’s betrayal.
Bond, James Bond:
Daniel Craig returns for his second performance as the famous British spy, and he is still wonderful in the role. He’s gloriously brutish and brutal, with his ability to full on jump into a brick wall and just stand up and continue his pursuit, and then as he holds the villain over a ledge by the hair. He’s just unforgiving and does whatever he needs to do to get the job done, to the point that it becomes a point of contention between he and M, who believes that he is a little too quick to kill people who could otherwise be helpful in the long run. Which makes the end of the film even more impressive, after he finds Vesper’s liar of a boyfriend, who faked his kidnapping in order to have Lynd be under the thumb of the mysterious Quantum organization. I include his scene with M later in the review so I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but his decision to let the man live is a significant step for the otherwise reactionary Bond.
Craig performs the character well. His delivery of quips still works here, just because it isn’t a self-aware “I’m being funny” delivery, but it’s more “This is who I am.” Towards teh beginning of the film, M chides Bond for allowing Le Chiffre to be killed, because that goes back on the promise he made with Leiter in the previous film, where they would get to arrest the villain. Bond says that they got his body, and if “they wanted his soul, they should have made a better deal with a priest.” His delivery is just so bitter, which is perfect for this portrayal of Bond.
He performs dramatic scenes well, as well. He and Camille, our primary Bond girl, are on similar missions of revenge in this film. When Bond realizes that his actions directly stopped Camille from being able to complete her revenge mission, he plays the empathy and apologetic nature well. She wants the exact same thing that he does, and he can understand how frustrating it must be to be so close to the revenge, only to be stopped by the actions of an impartial third party. Craig really does some solid work as Bond, and even though he hates the franchise (or at least all the press he has to do for it after the film is finished), I am excited to see him play the character at least one more time (although I do think this probably means I’ll never get Idris Elba as Bond. At least I have Dark Towhahaha I couldn’t even type that with a straight face. What a waste.)
After the success of “You Know My Name” (I’m assuming it was successful, I don’t know for sure, don’t @ me), the Bond franchise decided to stay in the same rock-heavy vein, and gave the theme song to this movie to Jack White, who joined forces with Alicia Keyes. The result is….quite awful. The opening is fairly promising, with heavy guitar and drums and some solid piano work from Keyes. Then they start singing, and it is utter nonsense. Neither singer seems totally confident that the words that they are singing are, indeed, words. There’s no real set beat or melody, and it just feels like they are trying to get each set of lyrics out as quickly as humanly possible as if to not linger over any individual moment of the song. In the single version of the song (a longer version), White riffs on his guitar, which Keyes then responds to with an imitation of the guitar. It’s deeply silly. It says a lot about how bad “Die Another Day” is that there is somehow a song worse than this in the franchise, but here we are. Listen at your own risk.
Mathieu Amalric plays Dominic Greene, the villain of this film, who is the head of some environmental organization, who reports to Quantum. Amalric plays the character with an appropriate slime, but he never seems particularly threatening, to the point that I’m assuming that once he and Bond meet up, it will be a quick fight. I will give credit to Amalric for giving Greene a wonderful kind of insanity during the fight, yelling and chasing Bond, which actually seems to fit the character, this idea that he has an insanity hidden under his slimy exterior. His plan itself is just so bland (he wants to monopolize water, which, k) that he is easily the weakest part of a movie I otherwise kind of enjoy.
He also has a somewhat noteworthy death, just because it’s implied that he gives James a bunch of information about Quantum, under the assumption that James will let him live. Which James does, technically. He just lets him live by abandoning him in the middle of the desert, with nothing to drink but a can of oil. It’s not quite Franz Sanchez getting obliterated, but it’s a pretty stellar death for such a weasely human being.
After Tracy in Oh Her Majesty’s Secret Service, this franchise gave us the mess of Tiffany Case, who does not know how to react when death is staring her in the face, so I was a little concerned with how it would follow Vesper Lynd. The franchise does fairly well, with Olga Kurylenko’s Camille Montes, who, as mentioned above, is on a revenge mission similar to Bond’s. Kurylenko performs the character pretty well, as far as I remember. I’m admittedly writing this several weeks after initially watching the film, so nothing really stands out one way or another about her performance as a whole, which makes me think she at least does a serviceable job with the revenge plotline. What I do like about her is the motive that mirrors Bond’s, and that the film doesn’t try to force any kind of romantic relationship between the two. It wouldn’t fit Camille’s interests (she’s so driven by the revenge) and Bond clearly isn’t in any position to have sex, unless it helps him in his mission (see below). The film ends with Bond trying to kiss Camille, who pulls back with a knowing look as if to say “you’re not in the place for this, and you need to handle that.” That’s the one bit of her performance that I remember, and it did stick with me, obviously. It’s a solid enough follow-up to one of the best characters in the Bond franchise.
There is a secondary Bond girl in this movie, with Gemma Arterton playing MI6 agent Fields, whose first name is not revealed in the dialogue of the film but is apparently Strawberry. She plays a by-the-book desk agent who is supposed to keep track of Bond, to make sure he does not do anything stupid before he sent back to Britain the next day. So, of course, she has sex with him when he lays some line on her. She also unsubtly trips one of Greene’s men down the stairs, obviously calling attention to herself, which leads to Greene killing her. Her death does call back to the gilded death from Goldfinger as Quantum drowns her in oil, leaving her oil-covered body in bed in the same pose as Jill Masterson. It’s a memorable death for an otherwise unmemorable role.
Judi Dench returns as M in this movie, and she is still a gift as this character. The relationship that she and Craig’s Bond have together is so excellent. She has an understanding of the man, to the point that when Bond tells M that somebody was a dead end, she instantly understands that he murdered the dude. She also is not afraid to read Bond the riot act, at one point exquisitely delivering the line “I think you’re so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don’t care who you hurt. When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies, it’s time to go.” But, when push comes to shove shortly after this speech, she trusts Bond to do what he needs to do in a dire situation and lets him run free, despite there being a kill order put out on him. Their final speech at the end of the movie is so strong, I wanted to include the clip below.
A pre-fame David Harbour is in this movie, and he is a straight up joy as Gregg Beam, a CIA agent who is willing to help Dominic Greene’s power grabs because he knows that it could lead to USA getting oil. He’s only in a few scenes, but Habour is clearly loving every second of his time in a James Bond movie, and the fact he gets to wear a mustache that is basically a character in and of itself just adds to the joy. I’ll be honest, if this wasn’t Jim Hopper, I probably wouldn’t even talking about this character, but I’m not going to miss an opportunity to talk about the wonder that is David Harbour.
Jeffrey Wright returns as Felix Leiter in this film, marking the first time that a Felix Leiter returned in consecutive films, and I was so excited to see him. I mentioned in the previous review, but Wright is so clearly the best Felix Leiter, that none of the other one’s even kind of compare. He’s so effortlessly charming as this character, and the relationship he has with James is so well acted by both Wright and Craig. Leiter constantly goes behind Beam’s back, despite being his subordinate, including at one point to have a fun conversation with James at a bar. At one point James quips “That’s what I love about US Intelligence, you get in bed with anyone,” and Leiter laughs, saying “Including you, brother. Including you.” The conversation ends with Leiter telling James to run as SWAT rushes into the bar, all while Leiter casually finishes his beer. Wright is a joy, and I’m so badly hoping that he will return in Bond 25.
Mathis returns in this film, having been cleared of any wrongdoing from the end of Casino Royale. He joins James on a mission after Bond is able to re-earn his trust, and the mission leads to him losing his life. His final moments are actually quite sweet, as he asks James to stay with him as he dies, a request that Bond grants as he holds Mathis in this arms. The two forgive each other for the misunderstandings that surrounded their relationship, and Mathis dies in Bond’s arms. And then Bond throws Mathis in a dumpster. It’s such a strange transition.
The secondary villain in this movie does not get a lot to do, but he plays an important role in Camille’s arc, so I do want to mention him. Joaquin Cosio plays General Medrano, a disgraced Bolivian general that Greene is helping come into political power. All we really know about this guy is that he’s a Bolivian general who murdered Camille’s family and that he loves to sexually assault people, including Camille’s mother. It’s a gross character, and even though Camille is successful in getting her revenge, that doesn’t make it an enjoyable experience watching him assault a woman. I feel like he could have been evil without the assault. It’s kind of needless.
The Daniel Craig era has been light on gadgets, as well as henchpeople. Nothing really to discuss in this section.
The James side of this plot is something I can get into, even if Craig’s films do kind of get into a rut of him going rogue at one point or another. Watching him do whatever it takes to get revenge, MI6 code of conduct be damned. Having him paired up with a girl on a similar mission, and having him genuinely feel bad for rescuing her from a situation she was fine with because it meant she was close to her revenge, is a nice touch. The villain plan is…just not very dramatic? I’m not trying to remove the importance of water, and how terrible it would be for people to be in a situation where someone has a monopoly on their water, but for a Bond villain plan? That just seems so insignificant. I’ll give credit to the movie for Greene’s portrayal matching the insignificance of his plan. You just know that once James gets an opportunity to take this guy down, he won’t have very much issue. But that still doesn’t save the villain’s plan. It’s still silly.
Miscellaneous Spy Business:
-This movie wastes no time, throwing us into a frantic car chase, giving us one of the best cold opens in the franchise. The final reveal that Mr. White had been in the trunk for the entirety is a perfect transition into the credits sequence, which, as noted, does not live up to the wonder of this films’ first moments.
-This movie has some really intense fight sequences that they just end up cutting to hell. The fight immediately after the theme song is impressively choreographed, especially as they fight in mid-air, dangling from ropes, but the way it is edited really takes away from how excellent it is.
-This movie is slightly Internet infamous because it has one of the worst background extras of all time. He’s impeccably incompetent.
-This franchise has had CIA agents portrayed by cast members from Twin Peaks, Lost, and now Stranger Things. That’s a helluva shared universe that the CIA is getting involved in.
-This movie has action sequences featuring cars (earth), planes (air), boats (water) and then the climax is in a burning building (fire). All I’m saying is that I need to pitch a James Bond/The Last Airbender crossover.
I think being sandwiched between Casino Royale and Skyfall has kind of hurt this movie. Two movies that are frequently mentioned among the best of the franchise as a whole bookend what really is a decent enough movie, with some really solid action sequences (even with the strange editing decisions) and another strong Bond performance from Craig and a sufficient follow-up to Vesper Lynd in Camille. A villain that never feels particularly threatening until he absolutely loses his mind at the end of the movie, and who has a relatively unimpressive plan, combined with a secondary villain who is basically just there for “sexual violence is gross” and little else, does hurt this movie overall, but everything else around it is strong enough to make it a worthwhile journey into the franchise. 008.5/0010. These are stupid.
TJ At The Movies Will Return With: Skyfall
References Quantum of Solace Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_of_Solace Photo/Video Credits Cover Photo https://thestudioexec.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/quantum.jpg James http://www.universalexports.net/Movies/Graphics/22-prerelease/teaser/1.jpg Greene https://overmental.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mr-greene.jpg Camille http://cdn-static.denofgeek.com/sites/denofgeek/files/2015/10/camille-quantum-of-solace.png Fields https://pre00.deviantart.net/77eb/th/pre/i/2016/121/9/f/007_quantum_of_solace___strawberry_fields__3__by_newyounggun-da0ux36.jpg End Scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF2e6LWBhhU David Harbour https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/07c75-2523952bgregg2bbeam2b255bquantum2bof2bsolace255d.jpg Felix http://livingincinema.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/quantum-of-solace.jpg Worst Extra Ever https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/0a5WJ5EXfbmkfAbWO5.IdQ--/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9NTQwO2g9MzIx/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/f1b8a44b48256b518faa954aab675620