Originally published in the February 2016 issue of Total Film.
Quantum of Solace has got a lot to blame Michael G. Wilson for. The veteran producer may have ably guided the franchise since Moonraker in 1979, but he’s also the man responsible for its most ridiculous title to date. For a series containing Thunderball and Octopussy, that’s an impressive achievement.
The question of just how much solace is in a quantum kept audiences clueless in the build-up to release, and the film’s nearly wordless, context-free opening car chase didn’t help matters. But then Bond opened his car boot to reveal Mr White, announcing the franchise’s boldest move yet: its first direct sequel.
Bond had appeared alongside recurring heroes and villains before, but they were never linked by a continuing narrative. Casino Royale took Bond back to basics, and now Quantum was picking apart his consequence-free lifestyle as he dealt with the grief from Vesper’s death.
It was a daring change of direction for a series so preoccupied with the cheap thrills of globetrotting and casual sex, gadgets and blowing stuff up, and one that wasn’t popular with critics. Many reviewers were disappointed that Quantum deviated from the usual formula, with Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman asking, “Shouldn’t a Bond film worth the name be simply enjoyable?”
Quantum may be less fun than past Bonds, but then this isn’t the time for jokes and Daniel Craig isn’t Roger Moore. Bond has just lost the love of his life and thankfully this new incarnation isn’t so quick to throw around sleazy innuendos. Quantum should be applauded, not criticised, for daring to do something different with the franchise and to show some real development in Bond’s character.
Quantum is hardly a wild departure anyway. There are still plenty of great action sequences; they’re just presented in a more modern way. The rooftop chase in Siena may have been edited to within an inch of its life, but it has a battering physicality and pendulous physics inspired by the Uncharted videogames as much as any rival blockbusters (cough Bourne cough).
The criticism of Quantum Of Solace largely amounts to one long anguished shout of, “stop getting Bond wrong!”, but with a franchise formula so repetitive it’s overripe for parody, things can only be improved by taking a few risks. If you want to live in the past and watch a ‘classic’ Bond film then go ahead – you’ve got 20 near-identical offerings to choose from. Or, you could appreciate the way Craig, director Marc Forster and writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade continue the work begun in Casino Royale by delving deeper into Bond’s past and psychology.
Quantum Of Solace is certainly better than many of the series’ previous efforts, and, for that matter, it sure roughs up the soporific SPECTRE, which perplexingly re-embraced the kind of gadgets and flamboyance (read: camp theatrics) that the Craig-era Bonds had previously worked so hard to leave behind. Or is it just me?