James Bond Retrospective: Quantum Of Solace (2008)

Pre-Credits & Theme Song Like Casino Royale, the pre-credits sequence begins without the series€™ trademark gun-barrel, on this occasion this is saved until the very end of the film. The film opens with an impressive car chase taking place in the tunnels along the edge of Lake Garda in Italy. Bond is pursued in a new Aston Martin DBS by two black Alfa Romeos in a hugely destructive chase that sees the door ripped from Bond€™s car while other vehicles are forced from the road as the relentless pursuit continues towards the town of Siena. The sequence is stylishly filmed setting the tone and visual approach given to the film by Forster and his cinematographer Roberto Schaefer ASC. The chase is a cacophony of noise provided by the growling engine of the Aston Martin as the sound echoes around the tunnels while visually the scene is made up of brief, detailed quick cuts to build the bigger picture. Opening in such a way gives little away about how the chase started or why Bond is being pursued; this is saved until the final frames of the scene when after losing the villains he pulls into a town square and opens the car boot to reveal Mr. White, the man he was confronting in the final scene of Casino Royale. The reveal is a great ending to the scene and emphasises that this film is the continuation of the story that begun with the previous film. The opening titles, provided for the first time by graphic design team MK12, are another slickly animated sequence with nods to the title designs of the past. While not quite as inventive as the titles for Casino Royale, the succession of images convey the main themes of water and sand from the film€™s plot while re-introducing the silhouetted female form to the sequence integrated with performance capture shots of Daniel Craig and his stunt double. The title music was written and performed by Jack White from the band The White Stripes and Alicia Keys. The song, Another Way To Die, is the first duet to be used as a Bond theme and like Madonna€™s Die Another Day is a very different, contemporary approach eschewing some of the more traditional aspects of the songs from the series€™ past. Despite the alternative style, the song still works really well within the context of the film and perfectly compliments MK12€™s opening imagery. The Movie Following the events of the previous film Casino Royale, MI6 secret agent James Bond captures and interrogates the man who assassinated Le Chiffre, Mr. White and discovers they were both part of a worldwide criminal organisation known as Quantum. Pursuing a lead to Haiti, Bond meets with Camille Montes, whose family were killed by exiled Bolivian General, Medrano. She informs Bond about environmentalist Dominic Greene, also a member of Quantum, who is involved in a deal with General Medrano to assist him to overthrow his government in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of desert. The CIA are also interested in Greene for altogether different reasons; to maintain access to stocks of Bolivian oil and therefore Bond€™s intervention is seen as an unwelcome disruption forcing his superior, M to demand his return to the UK. Disobeying orders, Bond and Camille continue their investigations and discover Quantum have been damming Bolivia€™s water supply and are planning to force General Medrano to sign a contract making Greene the sole provider of water to the country for hugely inflated prices. With revenge on their minds, Bond and Camille infiltrate Greene€™s desert hideout to put an end to Quantum€™s operation. After the reinvention of the franchise with Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace marks a return to more formulaic elements of the series. The creation of the criminal organisation Quantum is an obvious throwback to the likes of SPECTRE who dominated the villain roles of the earlier films while the plot structure follows many of the familiar beats that define the Bond films from the ill-fated Bond girl to the explosive finale set in the villain€™s secret lair. However, even with all these expected elements in place the film feels less like a Bond film than any that have come before. Director Marc Forster, whose previous films have all focussed on dramatic performances rather than action, chooses a visual style that despite the film€™s numerous action sequences strips them down to the most basic elements for short, sharp bursts rather than allowing fully formed set-pieces to develop. A case in point is during the early foot chase through the sewers and across the rooftops of Siena as Bond pursues a rogue agent. This scene had the potential to be as thrilling as the construction site chase in Casino Royale but the editing of the sequence allows the focus to be taken away from the action momentarily to detail a completely unrelated horse race taking place in a town square simultaneously. While the sequence is artfully shot, the shift in focus detracts from what should have been a signature moment in the film. Despite his unorthodox approach to the film€™s action, Forster manages to cram a satisfying number of action sequences into the film. In addition to the opening car chase and aforementioned foot chase, we are treated to a motorcycle and boat set-piece as well as an airborne dogfight between Bond in an antique DC3 and an enemy fighter plane culminating in a CG enhanced freefall and parachute stunt. The action bursts punctuate the film€™s brief running time, the shortest of the entire series at just over 100 minutes, emphasising the film€™s brisk pace. A key scene that unveils the scale of the Quantum organisation sees Bond infiltrate a floating opera in Bregenz, Austria where the criminal members are secretly meeting during a performance of Tosca. The scene is probably the most memorable of the film and is an example where Forster€™s artsy approach really works. With the opera essentially scoring the sequence it is given more power than if it had been scored in a more traditional way. Bond is at his best during the scene carefully orchestrating a ploy to force the members of Quantum to reveal themselves from their otherwise anonymous faces in the crowd. The scene is also the first occasion in the film where Bond gets to wear his iconic tuxedo which, despite being taken from a member of the operatic group, fits him perfectly.

Classic Line

M: You killed a man in Bregenz.

James Bond: I did my best not to.

M: You shot him in cold blood and threw him off a roof. I would hardly call that showing restraint.

Two characters that featured in Casino Royale are given further screen time in the film; Bond€™s long-time associate in the CIA, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) who was last seen being taken away by MI6 agents after his alleged association with Le Chiffre was discovered. Felix is reluctantly involved with his CIA Section Chief Gregg Beam€™s operation to work a deal with Greene however he leaks information to Bond leading him to Greene€™s desert hideout. Where Casino Royale is considered to be €œBond Begins€, this film could be thought of as Felix: The Early Years as over the course of these two films we discover how Bond and Felix met and formed a partnership that would see their paths cross on many more occasions. When Bond contacts Mathis, we discover he was acquitted of any involvement with Le Chiffre soon after he was captured and was handsomely compensated by the British government. With knowledge of Quantum he assists Bond once again to uncover Greene€™s plans. Sadly as is almost always the case, his fate is sealed when he agrees to help Bond and he is murdered by Greene and General Medrano€™s men. His death is marked with an uncomfortable scene where Bond has little choice but to leave his friend€™s body in a dumpster after taking money from his wallet. Bond€™s actions here can be viewed in two ways; either he is making his death look like a robbery but knowing that the authorities are controlled by Medrano and Greene realises there is little point in informing the police or he knows that Mathis would understand that this is the fate spies and there is no time to be sentimental. It is a scene that could only really exist in a Craig era Bond film. For a series that had built its reputation on stand-alone adventures, the idea to make Quantum Of Solace a direct sequel to the previous film was always going to be a risky prospect. However, when viewed directly after Casino Royale there is a feeling that this is that film€™s missing third act completing the original story and tying up all the loose ends. It still works in its own right but to fully appreciate the film it needs to be seen as a continuation of the already established story. Made under difficult circumstances during the writers€™ strike and under studio pressure to quickly capitalise on the success of Casino Royale, there was every opportunity for this film be a complete disaster. Despite its flaws Quantum Of Solace manages to deliver a pretty solid, coherent film that if nothing else cements Daniel Craig€™s position as the right person to take the franchise forward into the future.

Chris Wright hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.