As excitement mounts for Bond 24 I have to ask the question is Quantum of Solace the Perfect Bond film?
After The original announcement that Sam Mendes would not return for the Skyfall follow-up (it appears he will direct Bond 24 and 25, Daniel Craig’s final two films in the franchise) I suggested that it was an impossible film to follow and that the next film should go in a different direction. Rather than going bigger and better the next film should be a 90 minute action film, a stopgap before the next big storyline. But the more I look at it the more I think this has already been done. Quantum of Solace isn’t an action film, but it is none stop, one set piece neatly leads into another with little exposition or explanation. It is also the shortest of all the Bond films and over half an hour shorter than Daniel Craig’s other two films.
After some initial positive reviews (Empire magazine gave it a glowing four star review) it has become the whipping boy of the franchise, unfairly denigrated for lack of coherence and fun. While it is true that it is darker than we have come to expect from Bond (I seem to remember calling it The Bond Ultimatum in homage to the Bourne films to which it owes a debt) this is a true reflection of the character from Ian Fleming’s source novels. Having read all the Fleming (and some of the other) Bond novels I often forget that many of the fans of the films have not read them and have a different image of the character. While Fleming’s Bond looked a little like Pierce Brosnan, his character is closer to Daniel Craig and Timothy Dalton. Fleming’s books aren’t John le Carré spy thrillers, they are pulp fiction in the vein of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler with the main character of a private detective substituted from for a spy. This has been lost over time.
Quantum of Solace is slick and stylish but very European and rather than Hollywood. Directed by Marc Forster and shot by Roberto Schaefer it is possibly the best looking Bond film ever made, Sam Mendes/Roger Deakins’ Skyfall is the only other real contender for that honour. Despite popular opinion the plot is simple and coherent. In Quantum, the film also introduces a new criminal organisation, a SMERSH or SPECTRE for the twenty-first century. Bond needs a co-star to play off, here he has two “Bond Girls” Olga Kurylenko is perfectly cast as Camille but Gemma Arterton doesn’t really work as Agent Fields, not that she is given much to work with the character. She was clearly ever going to be a secondary supporting character.
The only real valid criticism of the film is that it is the only Bond film that doesn’t work as a standalone film, It depends on Casino Royale to give context and to explain bonds motivation. But then the whole Bond experience has been enhanced by cumulative knowledge for years. If you have avoided the film or didn’t like it first time around, now is the time to watch/re-watch it.
Quantum of Solace isn’t the best Bond film but it may well be a perfect Bond film!