Movie Review: 007 Quantum
By Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune Movie Critic
Chilly-eyed, bullet-shaped Daniel Craig is the right man for the James Bond franchise, and his second outing confirms it. At their wussiest, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan seemed determined to fulfill creator Ian Fleming's fleeting, facetious description of 007 from the novel "Casino Royale" as "an expensive gigolo." Craig is nobody's trick, although one of the many virtues (at least for straight women and gay men) of the hugely entertaining 2006 film version of "Casino Royale" was the shot of Craig rising out of the ocean looking like the best kind of trouble. Suddenly Craig was the new Ursula Andress, at least for a few seconds. Yet "Casino Royale" brought Bond back to basics, providing a satisfying origin myth, keeping the action human-scaled and the gadgetry to a minimum while retooling Britain's killer diller for a nervous new century of spy-versus-spying.
Compared with "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" is a disappointment. Craig anchors it, and Judi Dench's M enjoys some fine, stern scenes, but director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Monster's Ball," "The Kite Runner") isn't much of an action man. There's plenty, but half the time it's visually incoherent. A minute past the (drab) opening credits, a superhumanly implacable Craig is careening through a snaky Italian tunnel, pursued by enemy agents with vehicular or machine-gun homicide on their minds. Simple premise. Oldie but goodie. Yet the way it's shot and cut, it plays like a parody of a car commercial shot in the style of a Bond film.
The dominant theme is revenge. The tale picks up minutes after the end of "Casino Royale." Bond is after the shadowy Quantum organization for killing his lady friend. Olga Kurylenko, the surly Ukrainian-born model and fledgling actress, plays the mistress of the primary adversary, a ruthless entrepreneur (Mathieu Almaric) buying up desert land in Bolivia for reasons unknown. We're a long way from the global domination days, in other words, when a Bond film wasn't a Bond film without a ray gun.
About that title "Quantum of Solace." In the Fleming short story, unrelated to the movie's screenplay, the phrase refers to a measure of comfort needed to get by in life. The only title less Bondian than "Quantum of Solace" would, in fact, be "Measure of Comfort." The film keeps Craig's 007 suffering and brooding and seething right up until the end, with only a brief dalliance with a fellow agent (Gemma Arterton) as the story whips from Italy to London to Bolivia-played-by-Chile, with side trips to Haiti (played by Panama) and a detour to Austria for a nifty surveillance sequence. During a performance of Puccini's "Tosca," Bond tracks the whereabouts and the what-they're-sayin's of various Quantum operatives in attendance.
That segment works. What I miss, though, are scenes such as that incredible construction-site pursuit in "Casino Royale." Its equivalent here comes early, in a rooftop scramble (equally derived from the "Bourne" series) followed by an interior scaffolding scene undone by an editing rhythm only rabid fans of "Moulin Rouge" could love. The miracle of the second and third "Bourne" pictures had as much to do with director Paul Greengrass' mastery of violent action in close quarters as with the propulsion of the editing. In "Quantum of Solace," there's a boat chase that left me baffled as to who was going how fast in which direction chasing whom, and why.
In one of the "Quantum of Solace" posters, Craig wields an absurdly large gun, as if to reassure the global audience: "This film may have a wimpy title, but never fear." The weapon itself, unless I missed it, makes no appearance in the film. Fine with me. I didn't miss it. What I missed was the class, pacing and authority of "Casino Royale." Not every director is well-suited to Bondland. "There's something horribly efficient about you," Kurylenko says to Craig at one point. The same goes for the film.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content).
Running time: 1:45.
Starring: Daniel Craig (James Bond); Olga Kurylenko (Camille); Mathieu Amalric (Dominic Greene); Judi Dench (M); Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields); Joaquin Cosio (Gen. Medrano); Giancarlo Giannini (Mathis); Jeffrey Wright (Felix Leiter).
Directed by Marc Forster; written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade; photographed by Roberto Schaefer; edited by Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson; music by David Arnold; theme song "Another Way to Die" by Jack White; production design by Dennis Gassner; produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli. A Columbia Pictures/MGM release.