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Action Alphabet: 'Quantum of Solace'

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I never truly realized just how few action movies, or movies in general for that matter, begin with the letter “Q.” The Quick and the Dead was the kind of movie I felt was bad because it was so stupid (and because they kill off a handsome pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio) and never really did like Quigley Down Under and, if for no other reason, because “Quigley” is such a terrible name for a cowboy/action hero. I am aware that Daniel Craig’s second James Bond flick Quantum of Solace is the weak link a string a great movies and a mediocre movie at best on its own, but I do think it is too wantonly despised – not to mention my only real choice left for my letter “Q” – and should be admired, if only briefly, for the merits it does possess or at least tries to with all its heart.

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Quantum of Solace begins right where Casino Royale left us, or so we discover after watching the creative yet jumbled opening car chase down the road from Nice through Monte Carlo to Portofino that ends with Daniel Craig’s dashing blonde Bond letting a dazed Mr. White out of the trunk of his bashed and bullet-ridden car. Mr. White is brought in for interrogation by Bond’s boss M (Judi Dench) and his henchmen attempt to help him escape but to no avail – Bond chases an MI-6 double agent to a rather queasy conclusion, fighting and shooting at one another suspended from construction rope. None of this is really important leading up to the introduction of the film’s villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a creep with connection who corners precious world resources for profit and helps set up shady government regimes, and Bond must stop him. The main Bond girl this time around is Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a fifth-wheel with an oversaturated tan looking for revenge for the death of her family – Greene knows the murderer and that’s how she meets Bond.

Quantum of Solace is such an overwrought movie, a victim of directionless director Marc Forster and a script thick with who-the-hell-cares details. The biggest issue here was whatever studio exec being so insistent that they continue on the trajectory of a real world Bond instead of the Martini-sucking lothario Bond mixed with the poor architecture of his plot. Craig’s iteration of Bond began in Casino Royale as a slick and mysterious secret service agent who finds his heart when he falls for the dearly departed Vesper Lynd; but she dies, and Bond is a wreck despite his efforts to conceal it. And that’s what the audience gets to watch for 106 minutes: Bond slogging and shooting his way through the first two stages of the Kübler-Ross model. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to try and hide the fact that this is just a revenge movie cramped with elaborate whatevers to try and make it seem like a sophisticated 22nd Bond installment. Bond is better than killing-spree pity-parties. As one might imagine with an angry Bond movie, there’s a lot of action and a big body count (M spends a lot of time ragging him about it) and it is spectacular if only a bit underwhelming for how hard it tries to one-up Casino Royale. The parkour-esque chase scene that ends with Bond and his foe fighting each other whilst tangled up in ropes is pretty imaginative and exhilarating to watch, but is still just a hair too crazy to be in keeping with the realistic aesthetic that it sometimes seems to want, sometimes (obviously) not. My personal favorite fight is Bond’s fight with a screaming, axe-wielding Greene in a burning building – it’s the only sequence that finds relief with how hilariously ridiculous it is and is, therefore, hugely funny. You have to work hard to find it in your heart to forgive Quantum of Solace its sins and search for its shining moments…except that there’s only really one of those in the whole movie: the opening credits sequence with Jack White’s kick-ass track and infuriatingly unloved “Another Way to Die,” sung with Alicia Keyes.

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