Any decent Bond film begins with three crucial ingredients- a good soundtrack, a good title, and a storyline you can sum up in a couple of sentences. Quantum of Solace, therefore, is struggling from the word go.
Quantum of Solace is effectively a partner piece to the hugely successful Casino Royale, which introduced Daniel Craig as a new, high octane James Bond who is at once rougher and more soulful than any of his previous reincarnations.
It was an inspired piece of casting, and here Craig continues his rehabilitation of a character that had become a self-parody in the Pierce Brosnan days. Again he puts in an excellent performance, but is unable to carry a film which is, to be honest, a bit of a mess.
For the first time in the Bond franchise, the narrative of one film is allowed to flow organically into the next one. The film starts exactly where Casino Royale ended as Bond attempts to capture the shady criminal Mr White with not one but two chase sequences.
The narrative hook of Quantum of Solace is, or at least should be, the question of whether Bond is pursuing this new criminal underworld out of a sense of duty, or out of revenge and bloodlust for the death of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), the secret agent he falls in love with and who he suspects of betrayal at the end of Casino Royale.
James Bond the rogue agent is a strong idea, but an idea is all it is. Both dramatically and filmicly, Quantum of Solace fails to harness Bond’s rage and loneliness that is supposed to propel the film forward. As such, solace is never achieved because there is nothing for it to compare to.
Marc Foster was bought in to direct the film because, after films such as Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball, he was considered a director who could communicate the subtleties of a character. During filming, there were whisperings of continued problems with the film’s script, involving numerous re-writes and doctorings.
As such, one never gets the impression that Foster has been able to marshall his subject matter, or work on the aspects of the franchise he was bought in for.
The film veers manically from frenetic action sequences to scenes that are stodgy, pensive and dialogue heavy. At only 106 minutes long, it is the shortest Bond film but an awful lot is packed in.
The result is confused, disjointed and debilitated by an almost demented sense of energy, as if the director has decided to prioritise breakneck continuity over everything else. One gets the impression there is a good film hidden in here somewhere, but most of it has been left on the cutting room floor.
If Casino Royale was a reclamation of Fleming’s original source material, Quantum of Solace offers a return to the stagnation that had inflicted the franchise. Daniel Craig deserves better.