Fresh off the monumental success of 2006’s Casino Royale and having reinvented a classic character for a whole new generation, Daniel Craig returned as secret agent James Bond in 2008. And in Quantum of Solace, the emphasis was placed on a hard-hitting action rush that kicked into high gear from the very first frame.
James Bond descends into mystery as he tries to stop a mysterious organisation from eliminating a country’s most valuable resource.
Picking up the directorial reigns from Martin Campbell would be director Marc Forster, a filmmaker who was more known for his dramatic depth, but who seriously supercharged the action in this one. Where Campbell’s Casino Royale was a classic romantic spy film, Forster put his emphasis on the action and on a wounded 007 who was very much out for blood. Quantum of Solace moves forward at an explosive pace and of all of Craig’s Bond films, it’s the most action-packed and is a rather brutal watch with this slightly unhinged secret agent going straight forward to get his revenge. But what’s interesting is that even with all its high-end action, Forster still brings his dramatic lens to bare and in Quantum of Solace we’re seeing the cost of what it means to be James Bond, and how much of a heavy toll it can be to bare.
Forster’s direction also plays a serious part in moving the James Bond narrative forward and aligning it more to the classic structure of the Bond films. While Casino Royale was about becoming James Bond, Quantum of Solace is about what it means to be James Bond and that means inhabiting a dangerous new world that goes above rudimentary terrorist acts. While only briefing mentioned in Casino Royale, audiences come into contact with the mysterious and dangerous new organization of Quantum, who are bent on global domination and establishing their new world order. It’s fantastic to see Craig’s Bond begin to operate against much larger forces, while also having to go it alone and rely on his skills and instincts to get the job done. As an audience member, it’s great to see this classic Bond narrative structure made contemporary and Forster does a fine job with this.
After his exceptional work on Casino Royale, Daniel Craig again returns to the big screen as James Bond and this time the stakes get cranked up for cinema’s greatest super spy. Reeling from his betrayal at the hands of Vesper Lynd, Craig’s Bond is on the hunt and willing to get down and dirty when it comes to dismantling a dangerous and secretive new threat. Quantum of Solace is Bond with the choke chain taken off and Craig goes for the jugular. It’s a very direct performance from Craig, and while Bond does treat himself to a few treats, such as a tryst with the scintillating MI6 officer Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), Bond is all business. While Bond does crack plenty of heads this time, Forster’s direction also helps pull out a very damaged performance from Craig and Quantum of Solace is very much about why James Bond does what he does and how this man justifies his profession and existence.
Stepping up as a new Bond girl is Olga Kurylenko as the salacious and headstrong Camille Montes, a Bolivian agent who comes into Bond’s world and whose own quest for revenge gets mixed in with his mission. Kurylenko’s Camille stands out amongst other Bond girls as she can go head-to-head with the debonair super-spy and can match his advanced combat skills and action. While she never becomes especially close to Bond, and there are no outward romantic feelings between the two of them, she essentially offers the audience a mirror image by which we can view Bond as both are suffering and consumed by a need for revenge. It’s Camille who opens Bond up to what he may become, asking him to reflect on this before it’s too late. Kurylenko cuts a great figure as the fearless Camille and her presence in Quantum of Solace helps to modernize Bond and give him a different type of woman to play off.
Quantum of Solace is also an important film for the emphasis that it places on the relationship between Craig’s Bond and Judi Dench’s M. While there was some interaction between the two of them in Casino Royale, this takes on deeper significance within Quantum of Solace and we begin to see the complex dynamics at work here. While they bicker back and forth between one another, and Bond’s straight and often to the point methods rile up M, it’s very clear that she trusts Bond completely and this film helps to illustrate this as the sharks begin to encircle them both. Both Craig and Dench are two of Britain’s most capable and respected performers and it’s fantastic to see them at work in a closer manner and it helps to establish a deeper level of trust and respect between the two characters.
Stylistically, Quantum of Solace is very much a throwback to the classic Sean Connery era Bond films and especially the design style of the great Ken Adam. While director Marc Foster is telling a modern story and making the classic Bond tropes contemporary, the film’s sense of style and design recalls the fantastic elements of classic Bond films like From Russia With Love and Thunderball. From its art deco and retro-future architectural design to a focus on classic vehicles and a throwback style in relation to the film’s costuming, Quantum of Solace is packed out with retro-cool. In addition to this classic design ethos, another incredibly important addition to the film was the pairing of Daniel Craig with noted menswear designer Tom Ford, who re-crafted Bond’s look for a new age with an ultra-masculine flair that signalled his dominance as a daring debonair man of action.
Of all of Craig’s turns as Bond, Quantum of Solace is certainly the most action-heavy and the intensity doesn’t let up for a moment. Craig ran the gauntlet here and the film kicks off with a bang with its explosive and adrenaline charging car chase that kicked up plenty of gravel and elevated the audiences heart rate. What followed was an onslaught of action, with Craig jumping from a daring rooftop gun battle to a brutal bone-breaking knife fight, followed by a jet boat collision coarse in Haiti with Kurylenko’s Camille. But it was the film’s epic aerial chase scene over the Bolivian desert that was the film’s show-stopping piece and this was a piece of action cinema that was epically shot and cranked up the volume with the spectacle it delivered.
Quantum of Solace was a great next stage in Daniel Craig’s career as James Bond. It’s the first time where he starts to mature as the character and introduces him into a more Bond-esque world. The action’s intense, the narrative’s crisp and the visual palette is packed together with a terrific mixture of both retro flair and contemporary style and it is an important step in Bond’s new mission for this new generation of cinemagoers.
No Time To Die will arrive in cinemas on October 7.