Quantum of Solace might seem to be a disappointment following the high of Casino Royale but this is because of the 2007-08 WGA strike.
Marc Forster had his work cut out for him behind the camera. It’s not so much because of him but the studio pressure to release a film on time. In a perfect world, they would have waited for the WGA strike to end. Of course, this would have pushed the film to 2009 at the earliest instead of a prime spot just before Thanksgiving weekend. The other thing is that the Screen Actors Guild was also heading towards a potential strike. Everything possible was going against the film. A SAG strike would have effectively shut production down while the WGA strike meant rewriting as they went along. Co-writer Paul Haggis did all he could before the strike started in October 2007. It was on Forster and star Daniel Craig to finish the job. Joshua Zetumer was also brought on for an uncredited rewrite.
As is the usual case, the film sees Bond going across the globe. What makes Quantum of Solace unique from the rest of the franchise is that it is set one hour following Casino Royale. It is the first direct sequel to a Bond film. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is investigating Vesper Lynd’s (Eva Green) death. Bolivian agent Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) assists Bond in his investigation, which takes him to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). We eventually come to learn that Greene is a leading member of Quantum after Bond infiltrates their meeting at the opera. This results in M (Judi Dench) canceling his passports and credit cards.
Bond more or less has to go rogue after being accused of killing a Special Branch bodyguard working for Guy Haines. To say that Quantum is everywhere would not be an understatement. René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) makes his return. With his name now in the clear, he’s working with Bond. They’re both working towards the same goal: finding out who betrayed him. Unfortunately, Mathis suffers a tragic demise. But before he does, Bond seduces an MI6 agent, Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton). Anything to get the job done!
In a callback to Goldfinger, Strawberry Fields suffers a tragic death in which she ends up painted in crude oil. It’s the second Goldfinger callback in two consecutive films. Compared to Olga Kurylenko, Gemma Arterton’s character feels underused and this could come back to the fact that they rushed into production. One can certainly appreciate that her character is an homage to the 1960s Bond women with how she appears in the film.
Greene is an interesting villain for a Bond film. On paper, this is a man working in reforestation and funding for environmental science. At the same time, he wants to make money off of controlling the water supply. The film could have approached his character in a number of ways–he’s plain looking. I mean, he could just walk down the street and you wouldn’t even know he was a bad guy! While the US has its hands full in the Middle East at the time, Greene’s off in South America helping to pull off a coup and reinstall General Medrano (Joaquín Cosío) back in power. Where Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) is an ally to Bond, Gregg Beam (David Harbour), the CIA section chief for South America, would rather work with Greene as a partner to the US!
Forster’s style sees him going for as many scenes on location instead of a soundstage. As such, Panama stands in for both Haiti and Bolivia. Every filmmaker has a different style and this is what works for Forster. Otherwise, you’re looking at a lot of second unit work while the first unit is working on the soundstages. Dennis Gassner takes over for the retired Peter Lamont as production designer and designs the film in a way that Ken Adam would appreciate. Also, the franchise manages to come full circle in paying homage to North by Northwest since the Alfred Hitchcock classic once inspired the look for Dr. No. In another universe, Cary Grant could have starred as James Bond but he would never have committed to more than one film. But anyway, they use a Douglas DC-3 for the plane fight.
Musically speaking, David Arnold comes back to compose his fifth consecutive Bond film. He’s taking a different approach since Bond isn’t the rookie he was in the previous film. At the same time, he’s not relying on the classic James Bond theme that you’d see used quite frequently in other films. It’s another way to help reinvent the franchise for the 21st century. Meanwhile, we get our first title song duet with Jack White and Alicia Keys performing “Another Way to Die.”
Quantum of Solace isn’t a bad film but it must be watched with the understanding that it was rushed into production to avoid a potential SAG strike.
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
SCREENWRITERS: Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade
CAST: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench