Even though there have been 23 James Bond films from Eon Productions, you’d be hard pressed to call any of them sequels. Aside from a few references from film to film, each installment has been a one-off film and you wouldn’t have had to see any of other Bond films in order to understand what was going on in which ever film you happened to be watching. That changed with Quantum of Solace. Bond had unfinished business at the end of Casino Royale and that business was the driving force behind Quantum of Solace. It is not unreasonable then to call Quantum of Solace a sequel to Casino Royale.
Quantum of Solace is regarded as the weakest so far of the Daniel Craig Bond films, only having scored 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, and anecdotal evidence reveals similar results. I would say that in my opinion, while it isn’t as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall, it’s still a very fine film. The technical film making is not great. There are several jump cuts, and the cinematography might be among some of the worst in the series, but the story is compelling and the action sequences are riveting.
There are several things that I like about Quantum. First off, it harkens back to the Connery days with a SPECTRE-like organization, but this one is called Quantum. This is an organization that is attempting to manipulate world events so that their political an economic power can be increased. But unlike the science fiction-esque underground lairs and holding the world for ransom over stolen nuclear weapons, this organization operates in a much more modern way that is behind the scenes and in the shadows. They manipulate and orchestrate rather than annihilate. As the story progresses, Bond learns more about them and learns first hand how deadly and sinister they can be, and he learns how much power they wield, even within MI6. Finally, he learns that Vesper was within their grasp and powerless to keep them from manipulating her to do their bidding.
That leads my to the next aspect of this film that I find to be quite good. Thematically, it’s one of the strongest Bond films. It’s about revenge and redemption and duty, and how those things don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. M takes Bond off the case because she believes, rightly, that Bond is motivated by revenge. She is mistaken, however, when she assumes that his motivation will prevent him from dispassionately doing his duty. This proves to be a tragic misjudgement when she sends Ms. Strawberry Fields to bring Bond back to London. Bond convinces Fields that he’s doing the right thing, and she ends up dead (similarly to Jill Masterson in Goldfinger), covered from head to toe in oil, with oil filling her lungs. Bond finds redemption for himself as well as for Vesper when he solves the case and returns to M’s good graces. The point is proven when M tells Bond that she wants him back, and is response is, “I never left.”
This film continues Bond’s humanization as well by continuing to show is burgeoning alcoholism and his tendencies towards hubris. He also shoots first and asks questions later (in a stark contrast to Timothy Dalton’s Bond), and that trait gets him into more trouble with M. Clearly with Daniel Craig, Bond is no longer Superman. He has flaws, and he has depth like we haven’t seen. Previous films have attempted to create depth within Bond, but none to the degree with which the current film makers have.
The villain in Quantum of Solace is unfortunately one of the weak links in this film. Dominic Greene is Quantum’s equivalent to Bloefeld, and he certainly has a sinister side to him, but he’s ineffectual as a villain. It could be because Matthieu Amalric isn’t a terribly imposing force as an actor. It could be that there are so many other moving parts in this film that threaten Bond aside from Greene. Whatever the reason, he’s not a memorable villain. In fact, he’s probably most comparable to Blofeld from Diamonds Are Forever, which saw Bloefled at his least threatening and imposing.
The same is true for the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace. Camille Montes is out for revenge against General Medrano, who Greene is trying to get into power in Bolivia so that he can gain access to Bolivia’s water rights. General Medrano had her family killed when she was young, and she’s been looking for revenge ever since. Unlike the revenge seeking Melina Havelock from For Your Eyes Only, however, she plays a much more minor role for most of the story, and her character loses a little focus throughout the film. She is a very atypical Bond girl who doesn’t affect the film the way most Bond girls do, and she’s a much more minor character than any Bond girl since Honey Ryder.
The fact that the villain and the Bond girl are forgettable certainly works against this film. There are films in the series where one or the other is forgettable, but rarely that the case for both. Also, the structure of the screenplay isn’t as strong as the other Craig Bond films. This film focuses a bit more on the action and a little less on the story, and I can understand why critics and fans are a little more down on this film than Craig’s other efforts. However, I found it to be very entertaining and would rank it very close to the top 10 in the series.