Quantum of Solace, a reappraisal

Some things, such as wine, get better with age. Quantum of Solace, the most recent James Bond film, doesn’t fall into that category. But after re-watching the movie more than two years after its release, we’ve come to new conclusions, some that reinforce previous observations, some that are different than before.

The movie has ridiculously bad continuity. Eon Productions made a big deal about how Quantum of Solace was a direct sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale. In a 2008 article in USA Today, Eon made it sound like this was a revoluntionary development.

Here’s an excerpt:

More changes to the traditional formula are in store for Quantum of Solace, among them the notion of a true sequel. Bond has always been ageless, and the previous 21 movies stand largely independently of each other, but Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale ended, with Bond working his way up the chain of command of the terrorists who blackmailed his lover, Vesper Lynd.

“We set something up in motion in the last one that we need to keep in touch with in this one,” (Daniel) Craig says.

Apparently, the filmmakers got careless on basic details. At the end of Casino Royale, Craig/Bond wore a three-piece suit. At the start of Quantum, Craig/Bond wears a two-piece suit. Casino has referenes to the story occcurring in 2006. Quantum has referneces to the story occuring in 2008. Vesper Lynd, before her death in Casino, managed to get to Bond the cell phone number of Quantum’s Mr. White. That enables Bond to capture Mr. White at the end of the movie.

Cell phones act as a GPS beacon to anybody who has the number. Either Mr. White is an idiot for holding onto his cell phone for *two years* or Bond is an idiot for taking two years to track Mr. White down. Real answer: the filmmakers were SLOPPY and didn’t bother to take care of elementary continuity issues. You may consider us as being picky for bringing it up, but Eon encouraged such examination through its endless promotion of the “direct sequel” angle.

Other issues: If QoS “directly” happens after Casino, how was MI6 able to move into entirely new headquarters in such short a time? How was MI6 able to buy Rene Mathis a “sorry we tortured you, here’s a new villa” make-up gift so quickly?

The Jason Bourne series ripoffs take up less QoS screen time than you might think. A lot of Bond fans disliked the Bourne ripoff feel of QoS. There’s actually less screen time taken up with such stuff than you might think. The problem: The Bourne ripoff scenes *dominate* the first 20-30 minutes of Quantum — a critical time when the audience first makes up its mind. Director Marc Forster and Second Unit Director Dan Bradley (a Bourne veteran) seem to settle down *for the most part* after that. But, as the cliche goes, you have only one chance to make a first impression.

So does that mean we think some Bond fans have picked on Quantum too much? Au contraire. A few examples of Quantum’s shortcomings:

10:27: M. clearly seems to be shot by the traitorous MI6 bodyguard really in the employ of Quantum. Use a basic DVD player’s pause function and Judi Dench clearly reacts as if she has been shot. She winces, and falls backwards as if she had been shot. Except later, we’re told she wasn’t. Huh?

13:00 (approximately) Daniel Craig may have actually done his own stunt and jumped on top of a moving bus. But the herky-jerky camera angles and editing don’t let you know for sure. If Craig really did the stunt, why not show the audience he did so?

16:30: Based on the dialogue between Bond and M, it seems that M wasn’t shot. But that’s clearly at odds with the image we were shown about 3:30 earlier.

45:30: Bond sends a thug, hanging on for dear life, falling off a building, a ripoff of a similar scene in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, except the Roger Moore scene in the earlier movie is filmed with considerably more style and panache.

47:00 (approximately): M gripes at Bond about the death at about 45:30. We’re shown the thug involved wasn’t actually killed until after he fell (when he was shot by a Quantum henchman). Why didn’t Bond mention this fact to M? Apparently it slipped his mind (what there was of it).

54:00 (approximately): Probably the last moment of the movie that seems remotely Bond like. 007 decides the cheap hotel MI6 has arranged for his supposed cover isn’t to his liking. So he adapts the cover (school teachers on holiday) to school teachers on holiday who’ve won the lottery.

1:10 (approximately): Cheesy airplane special effects, albeit not as cheesy as 2002’s Die Another Day, involving crude CGI effects. But close.

Now, on some 007 fan Web sites, you’ll find message boards where Quantum supporters say critics fail to appreciate Daniel Craig’s fine acting and the intricate plot and how the movie is true to the spirit of Ian Fleming. (For an example, CLICK HERE).

With due respect, that’s ridiculous.

Quantum of Solace is less realistic than a Stan Lee-scripted Marvel Comics story. Bond goes days without sleep, yet has more energy to fight people than Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man or any other super-powered Marvel hero. (He consumes six martinis on a flight from Europe to South America, gets no sleep yet can outfight everybody in sight.)

What’s more, the film’s primary villain, Dominic Greene (Mattiieu Amalric) and his henchman Elvis who wears a Prince Valiant wig (Anatole Taubman) are the whiniest, softest heavies of the 22-film series. And Greene’s hideout is a hotel in the middle of desert powered by fuel cells. The power source for the fuel cells? Maybe nitrogylcerin. Maybe (as a friend of ours called it) Explodium.

In short, the movie may not be as horrible as we thought on first viewing. But those who thought 1971-1985 were the Dark Ages of Bond movies (a roster than includes some HMSS editors) may want to reconsider.

To be honest, that’s not going to happen. Nor will the Quantum fans give up the idea how wonderful the film was. So be it. Differences of opinion make the world go round.

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12 Responses

  1. However much I want to like Quantum of Solace, it just doesn’t do it for me and watching Casino Royale/Quantum back to back in one sitting didn’t have the desired effect either – I fell asleep during the latter.

    You’re right about the villains – they’re completely lame. And the hotel in the desert was – well, just not interesting, explodium powered or not :) I’d much rather see picturesque locations than exotic locations – in the jet age there are almost no truly exotic locations left in the world, a far cry from the early Bond movies.

    As for the continuity, I think I have the answer. Bond tracked down Mr White immediately, but he couldn’t find the keys to his Aston Martin. He was therefore unable to bundle Mr White into the boot of his car until he’d located his spare keys, which turned out to be in his 2 piece Tom Ford designed suit. All that took a little longer than would have been expected since neither Q nor Miss Moneypenny were on hand to arrange the suit to be Fed Exed out to Italy.

    More seriously, after all the noise made about the number of Aston Martins used and abused during filming, it’s such a shame that the opening sequence doesn’t work. If you’re going to write off 7 Aston Martins (or however many it was) please at least make sure you can see a proper car chase.

  2. Excellent post. Based very much on too many so-called fan forum experiences, I’ll give you all the more kudos for saying what needed to be said in the face of kill-the-messenger (for observing that the emperor has no clothes) mentalities so frequently (and inappropriately) indulged therein.

    Wouldn’t it be something if folks who took the time to write thoughtful pieces were viewed as having great interest in giving feedback with an eye toward righting a franchise with a history of success that can be objectively shown to be at odds with what we saw in Quantum of Solace?

    By the way, a further continuity issue (as my interests and studies are as they are in this regard). At the end of Casino Royale, where James Bond is standing above Mr White, his watch can clearly be seen showing from under his cuff. That watch has crown guards, as did the Omega 2220.80 Seamaster worn during the latter part of that film. Conversely, in scenes where he is driving the Aston Martin with Mr White in the trunk early in Quantum of Solace, 007 is seen to be wearing the Omega 2201.50 Seamaster Planet Ocean – which, as we all know, does not have such pronounced crown guards.

  3. [...] acclaim of recent Eon hires. But, looking at it again, Octopussy is miles ahead of films such as Quantum of Solace, which featured a critically acclaimed director (Marc Forester) and an equally cri…. But you can actually tell what’s happening in the action sequences (something you [...]

  4. Excellent piece. My least favorite, by a wide margin, of all the films. You did not mention the one aspect of the film which makes it truly unforgivable–the CIA putting a hit on 007. Ian Fleming and even Cubby Broccoli would never have stood for that!

  5. As my father would say”This isn’t MY James Bond film”
    QoS was Fresh, Fast and Fierce. Could it have used more writing time? Yes. Could it have been a little slower in the editing? yes – but not much.
    It was a tonal switch from the Cubby Broccolli area and Bond needs that, badly. Too bad teh writers strike did not allow them the proper time to get teh script locked down. QoS deserves much praise for its intention AND it’s execution.

  6. The continuity “issues” are overstated here. Clearly, QoS is an immediate followup to CR, but clearly there was a lot of recovery time for Bond after LeChiffre was killed and before the final sequence of the film. Hospital recovery time, and then time with Vesper. It could easily be weeks, even months, between Bond wrecking the Aston Martin and the day Bond discovers Vesper’s betrayal and watches her die.

    The problems with QoS are mostly the horrible cinematography and editing that makes it hard to see what’s going on. And storytelling … Casino Royale deserved a Dark Knight level sequel. It got a Licence to Kill.

  7. “It could easily be weeks, even months, between Bond wrecking the Aston Martin and the day Bond discovers Vesper’s betrayal and watches her die.”

    Weeks, months? Sure. Two years? No. One movie clearly took place in 2006. The other clearly took place in 2006, the other in 2008. Some fans argue Bond waited two years from the time he discovers White’s cell phone number to the time he captures him. If so, White is an idiot for keeping his cell phone that long. Street gangs are smart enough to use disposable cell phones. Quantum isn’t?

    Also, at the same time Bond finds the cell phone number, Mathis is still being interrogated(based on the Bond-M conversation). Early in Quantum, MI6 has bought him a house as an apology and he’s already moved in. And M has had a complete redcorating of her office.

    If you want to say Quantum has worse problems than continuity, that’s fine. But we don’t we’ve overstted the continuity issues. There wasn’t much effort to match up the ending of Casino with the start of Quantum. Thunderball has more severe continuity issues. But Thunderball wasn’t marketed for its continuity. Quantum was, it was the first “direct sequel,” etc., etc. Now, Daniel Craig says it wasn’t supposed to be but that’s what happened when he and Marc Forester rewrote the script.

  8. [...] quality? Check back with us after Skyfall. Marc Forester was a prestige hire. In our view that hire didn’t work out so well. (To read an opposing view, CLICK HERE to read an essay by Paul Rowlands.) “Directors for [...]

  9. [...] That led to 2006′s Casino Royale where Eon decided to start the series all over. The movie wasn’t so much Bond 21 as it was Bond 2.0. It was a big critical and commercial hit. But Eon didn’t exactly know where to proceed from that point. For Eon’s next movie, multiple ideas were considered, including Bond encountering Vesper Lynd’s child before opting for a “direct sequel” that didn’t really match up with the continuity of Casino Royale. [...]

  10. I’ve watched QoS several times, and I don’t remember any references to the story occuring in 2008.” Am I missing something? Because I’ve never had any trouble believing QoS was set immediately after CR, in 2006 (except for the change of suits and the new look for MI6 HQ, which unfortunately are a result of switching costumiers and set designers between films).

  11. @Sean: the invitations to Dominic Greene’s party are dated 2008.

  12. […] MAY 2011: QUANTUM OF SOLACE, A REAPPRAISAL […]

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