20 August 2021 405 Views

#FLEMINGFRIDAY: Defending Quantum of Solace

by James Murphy

Daniel Craig’s 2008 Bond outing needs some love…

 

Quantum of Solace is inexplicably spoken of as some sort of shameful disappointment. Not by all but by what appears to be ‘the many’ both in bond fandom and beyond. Let’s fix that!

I do ‘get’ its limitations. So addressing those to start with:

    • Bit short for a 007 movie? Written during writers’ strike in places and that shows. Lots of half cooked one liners, pauses and half explained plot.
    • VERY VIOLENT! Bleeding to death. Attempted rape. Even the Dalton era drew the line somewhere.
    • Shameless use of an excellent short story title without any reference to said IN THE ACTUAL FILM. Seriously: just have Bond meet a civil servant called ‘Masters’ or a girl in an embassy by the name of ‘Rhoda’. Anything. Or else don’t use it!
    • There’s just not enough here to be a full blooded sequel to CASINO ROYALE, as intended.
    • Gemma and Olga have both, shall we say, ‘developed’ as actors since this film.
    • There should have been more investment in Bond vs Vesper’s traitor boyfriend.
    • No ‘Bond, James Bond’.
    • Crap henchman. David Harbour is in the movie and could have been either /both main baddie and the heavy.

And yet? None of those reservations can destroy the entire film.

The good outweighs the bad, even if it does not necessarily outnumber said. Consider these points:

    • Leaner. Meaner. Cooler..than Casino Royale!
    • The reason you might hate ‘Quantum..’ is that the film is sandwiched between two overpraised counterparts.
    • Best use of an opera scene since Godfather 3/Untouchables.
    • London has RAIN! Great atmospheric on titles in each location.

    • Better than SPECTRE! And indeed offers a far more credible reinvention of global menace as corporate unit.
    • At the same time? More coherent canon to have Blofeld somehow notice and then manipulate events in this film than be behind everything else in the Craig era. ‘Greene’ even gets a mention in SPECTRE for that reason, perhaps?
    • A cultural and historical curiosity. This movie IS the transition between Bush and Obama; from Blair via Brown toward coalition/Cameron. The motif of events being manipulated, played and yet still beyond  control.

    • The QUANTUM order might be fictional. Its geopolitics are all too real. So this is the fusion of reality and fantasy that is Bond at its best. Fairy tales, for grown ups. Wars of tomorrow will be fought over water, not oil. This movie sees that fact and uses it.
    • So this does capture the spirit of Ian Fleming! The coup in a country with global implications. Monopoly of a resource as a goal. Bond as vengeful but NOT ‘out for revenge’ or on vendetta. Yes, he goes rogue but it’s brief, purposeful and non navel gazing.

    • Kinetic action (jump cuts and shaky cam a pain but also an asset?). Craig is in great shape here and less puffy than the preceding film, less choppy than its successor. He moves with a sleek confidence and though still a bruiser in a fight, exudes more class and FUN amidst the serious tone.
    • GREAT car chase at the start and backed by one of the series’ best scores and closed by a great final scene / credits via gun barrel.
    • M is used correctly. No shoehorning an irritating new Q into action that’s unearned.
    • Of its time: solid companion piece to 2009’s THE INTERNATIONAL (Clive ‘almost 007’ vs cabal of nasty bankers).

  • 2008 was a great year. On film, and in life, imho..so maybe it’s a sentimental thing but yes, this Bond film was released the same year Iron Man first reached the screen while Indiana Jones returned and Batman faced his darkest (k)night.

Worth watching / re-discovering: absolutely, yes. This is what Bond’s tone could and arguably should have been, albeit with refinement and extended writing, had 2010-11 seen another pre SKYFALL soft reboot.

 

TRIVIA:

  1. ROGER ‘NOTTING HILL’ MICHELL almost directed this, before Marc Forster took over. Had the Michell pitch gone ahead, it would have reunited the director with Daniel Craig after they made ENDURING LOVE  a few years earlier. Bond would have been tasked with preventing a terror group from destroying the internet.
  2. There was a cut subplot involving Vesper’s child in a nunnery, facing adoption. The film was set to end with Bond killing Mr White.
  3. I once pitched a stage play version of the Quantum of Solace short story. Circa 1999:  typical undergrad hubris in retrospect but such is the nature of Oxford magic that doors do indeed open. EON Productions  and Glidrose Literary were very nice about it all. A lovely girl called Amanda Schofield  took some of my calls and it was always a pleasure hearing from her. She clearly loved the Bond movies and was a first rate professional ambassador for the brand. Inspirational: will never forget those interactions. Barbara Broccoli only ever picks the best: a great leader!

I still think there is a pitch for Bond on stage and that a Fleming short story gem is one such potential vehicle.  The story of a marriage breakup, relayed to 007, at a party? Makes him wake up to why he is single, albeit with the lost punctuations of Vesper and Teresa/Tracy et al.

Close quarters marital revelation combat is far more frightening a prospect to James, than the wrath of any baddie seeking world domination. You can easily expand that motif, with an action sub plot delivered via exposition and some dry ice /lights/sound/smoke and mirrors.

Hope springs eternal..

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, ONE AND ALL. TRANSMISSION ENDS. X

 



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