Quantum of Solace review

I have a theory about James Bond which might prove unpopular with hardcore fans. This is that for a long time, the Broccolis have been quietly pulling off one of the boldest scams in motion picture history. By simply switching things around, they’ve managed to get away with remaking the same movie over and over again, for forty-six years.

It’s a singular achievement, put into perspective by imagining how tiresome twenty-two versions of any other film would be. Jaws, for example. The Neverending Story, Part 22. By now, these film sagas wouldn't be playing to packed houses, they'd be direct-to-video bombs, featuring Z-list stars and occasional cameos from people who should know better. Like Malcolm McDowell or Mick Jagger.

Personally, I gave up on Bond a long time ago, so it was a pleasant surprise that 2006’s Casino Royale turned out to be really rather good. Inspired by the Bourne movies, the franchise looked to have taken a big step forward. Casino Royale was lean and tough, the story was engaging, and in Daniel Craig, we had the best Bond in decades.

It’s unfortunate then, that Quantum of Solace has undone pretty much all of this excellent work. I wish I could summarise the story but I had absolutely no idea what was going on - apart from the fact it had something to do with Bond’s dead girlfriend, the shadowy but boring Quantum organisation, and an environmental terrorist.

There’s a traditional formula for Bond films - a breathtaking pre-credits stunt, followed by thirty to forty dull minutes of plot exposition, after which Bond hooks up with a babe and chases people all over the globe (and sometimes into space). Obviously aware that Bond stories are stymied by this template, the writers of Quantum of Solace have departed from it by dispensing with the initial plot development section altogether. Instead, they spend the first third of the film whipping Craig around the world at breakneck speed, which has the unfortunate effect of making Quantum of Solace seem like the Holiday programme, but with fighting.

All of this isn’t very interesting, and it’s easy to slip into a soporific state during the copious action set-pieces. In fact, I was far more taken with the dazzlingly surreal universe this film dreams up - one where a beautiful female secret agent can meet Bond at a Haitian airport wearing nothing but a brown trenchcoat and boots. Immediately, the two British government employees check into a hotel and get busy, before receiving an invitation to a party…. that evening! She hasn’t a thing to wear! Leave it with me, says Bond, and arranges for her to get some clothes and have her hair done.

However, that particular scene has nothing on the bizarre ten minute sequence in which Bond steals a plane and crash-lands in the middle of the Bolivian desert. Eventually, he climbs out of a crater then walks for hours in the midday sun, dressed in a tuxedo, before rocking up to a dusty, ramshackle, one-horse town. There, he hops straight onto a public bus (the kind that comes along once every three days) and doesn‘t even bat an eyelid.

The whole film feels like a missed opportunity, especially after the efficient and exciting Casino Royale. Craig is good, but the problem with creating a grittier Bond is that if it isn't backed up by an interesting or partially believable story, it's difficult to know why you should care. Bond doesn't instantly become a deeper character just because he's mourning his girlfriend. Either way, it'll be interesting to see what happens next. Will Ms. Broccoli follow this up with yet another money-spinning, predictable action flick, or will she attempt to find some better source material (Sebastian Faulks, perhaps)? Wasting Daniel Craig would certainly be a shame.

, a word about that title, which has been widely dismissed as the worst ever. I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and I think to some extent I know what it's trying to say. ‘Bond 22 - An Amount of Comfort'. Whatever that means. It’s as pointless and daft as the film itself.

Andy T.


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