The Bond Reboot with Casino Royale in 2006 was exactly what the franchise needed and breathed new life into a series that had become caricature of itself. Some criticized the new Bond to be a little too sober and required just a little silliness to really be Bond. Perhaps those criticisms are justified, but for now, I’m perfectly content with a more serious Bond. That’s why it’s such a heart-breaker that Quantum of Solace is disappointing in unexpected ways.
QoS picks up right after Casino Royale ends. Still upset over the death of Vesper, Bond transports the mysterious Mr. White to a safe house for interrogation, which goes awry and leads to Mr. White’s escape. Following some new leads, Bond stumbles on a Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and the shadowy Quantum group. Greene’s plan is to overthrow a South American government and install a military dictatorship in exchange for the ownership of a large, barren desert that the world governments believe is rich with oil. In reality, Greene wants to control the water that runs below the desert. While this isn’t necessarily a pressing issue, Bond is trying exorcise demons by killing those that blackmailed Vesper, so he might as well embroil himself in stopping Greene. On his way, Bond meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who is on her own mission of revenge to kill the general that will become the military dictator if Greene succeeds.
The film starts off great. It’s setup like a foreign car commercial only to surprise you with a frenetic car chase sequence where an Aston Martin gets eviscerated. Then the movie loses its groove. The theme song — written by Jack White — is almost a microcosm for the entire film. It sounds great in the beginning, but kind of falls apart in the chorus. After the opening credit sequence, which features the return of shapely women, we get a little bit of plot and then it’s more action! Another chase sequence, but this time it’s on foot. We’re given just enough plot to justify Bond going to a different country and it’s more action! This time we watch a fight sequence ripped straight out of a Jason Bourne movie. Then, just for kicks, we get another chase sequence, but with boats. QoS is one of the few action movies where I consciously wished for more plot while watching the movie. I love action, but it’s got to have motivation or else it’s just pornography.
The biggest problem here is amazingly in the writing, which is surprising since this is the same team that penned Casino Royale. At no point in the film do we get to know the characters beyond what they tell us about themselves. As a result, we don’t care about them. Why is Mr. Greene to be feared? He just seems like a milquetoast business man who is in no way a match for Bond. Even his henchmen are toupee-wearing wimps. Other characters are introduced or re-introduced only to die meaningless deaths five minutes later. Finally, Camille’s subplot and her bad guy, General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio), are completely unnecessary. Greene even warns the General that if he doesn’t capitulate, that he’ll be replaced. There’s nothing special or necessary about him at all.
Contrast all of this with the elements of Casino Royale where everything was balanced relatively well. All of Bond’s enemies were formidable in their own way and in the proper setting. They were unique, necessary and their motivations clear with far-reaching impacts. Supporting characters were fully developed and we cared about them beyond how and why they told us to. All of this is missing from Quantum of Solace and I’ll never understand why it was omitted.