It's also the 22nd film in EON Productions' James Bond franchise, in case you've been living in a hole for the past year and a half. However, other than a few oblique references to the idea of "a quantum of solace," there's not all that much in it to do with the short story at all.
Released on October 31, 2008, Quantum of Solace is the second Bond film to feature Daniel Craig in the title role. While there have been worse Bonds than Craig, he's certainly no Sean Connery and not even a Roger Moore. But then again, the fact that he has only one facial expression in his repertoire doesn't matter too much, as Bond happy-gallaghers round a plethora of different locales, meets interesting people, and alternately shoots them or beats them senseless, sometimes with his shirt off. But thankfully, he doesn't attempt an Ursula Andress with a pair of very short swimming trunks like he did in Casino Royale. Just as Patrick Swayze acts from the waist down, so does Daniel Craig act from the neck down. His interpretation of Bond is a well-built man kicking the shite out of folks. No more, no less.
The plot (SPOILER ALERT) follows on entirely from the end of 2006's Casino Royale - Bond's shot a henchman called Mr White in the leg, grabbed him, and is attempting to find out who he works for. White, of course, doesn't say, only that it's a large, shadowy organisation that nobody's heard of, but has people everywhere. Literally, as Bond and M, played once again by Judi Dench, find out when a fellow agent pulls out a gun and starts shooting people indiscriminately. Soon enough, Bond engages in some suitably visually appealing rooftop chases, jetting around the world to obscure destinations, on a one-man quest for revenge against the folks who killed off Vesper Lynd in the previous film. On the way he meets Gemma Arterton who plays an MI6 paper-pusher who Bond shags and is later drowned in crude oil, and Camille, who was the daughter of a high-up in a previous kleptocratic régime in Bolivia (played by Olga Kurylenko, who's from the Ukraine. They rationalised her accent by claiming that her mother was a dancer from Moscow.) Eventually it transpires that this organisation, known as Quantum, is run by a man who's a cross between Nicolas Sarkozy and Al Gore called Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric), who runs a huge power and utilities company in hundreds of countries round the world, who also engages in huge philanthropic activities designed to get him on the side of environmentalists - like buying up and preserving patches of rainforest, or chunks of the Atacama Desert. However, it turns out that he's engineering a coup in Bolivia to restore the former military dictator General Medrano to power in return for this patch of desert - which has under it a huge subterranean river and it turns out Greene only wants it for the water, which supplies most of South America with water. Or something like that.
Though to be fair, the plot is pretty thin actually. I know, I know, it's only James Bond, but all the same... it doesn't feel like a James Bond film. Most of the gadgets are real-life kit, and M has a spiffier lair than Dominic Greene, whose lair consists of a hotel in the Middle of Nowhere that runs on hydrogen fuel cells (necessary because he's posing as being all eco and the like), which looks like a block of council flats. There's also two subplots that I felt weren't properly developed. One was Camille's desire for revenge on General Medrano, who apparently killed her father, raped her mother and sisters, and then burnt the house down round her. The other was the intervention of HM Government into Bond's activities with Greene; thinking it was all about oil, and to deal with Greene would be in the national interest. I can't help but feel that this was given short shrift.
I wish they'd given product placement short shrift though. Every car was a Ford and was filmed nose first so we could all see the blue ovals on the front. Not only that, but they all had "hydrogen" plastered across the bonnet so we could see that Ford were being Nice and Responsible and Trying to Save the World From Itself. Ugh. Spare me. I don't care about whether Ford's cars are environmentally friendly or not, I just don't want to have their ethical cockwaving slapped in my face every few scenes. And every computer was a Sony - and every phone also. Ugh.
Girls? Neither of them were particularly memorable or effective. Gemma Arterton played a bureaucrat called Strawberry Fields (honestly), who Bond shagged (though all we really saw of this was afterwards when he was kissing her arse - literally, that is.) The other was Olga Kurylenko as Camille, who had been hyped beforehand as a "new" sort of Bond girl who would do some beating into submission of folks on her own account as well, but this didn't really materialise too much - and in the end she still relied on James to get her out of some sticky situations though. Though she did get to stab General Medrano in the balls.
That being said, the action was pretty visceral and intense and all round fun. Lots of Really Big Explosions here, though nothing as visually epic as the parkour chase scene in Casino Royale. And the final battle with Dominic Greene was pretty good as well, because they deliberately didn't make him a master martial artist or a dead shot or anything. He was simply an average bloke swinging a fire axe round and not caring what he did with it, as his lair burnt down around him. In some ways this made him more dangerous than had he been Oddjob or Jaws. I was also a fan of the dogfight between Bond, in a clunky old cargo plane with no guns, and a Dastardly Henchman in a slightly less clunky fighter plane with lots of guns. Which, of course, Bond won by being, well, James Bond.
To be fair I liked Quantum. But I still think Casino Royale was better. This film felt a bit rushed, dare I say it. The focus was more on the action and less on the character of James Bond, who seemed wooden and two-dimensional. It doesn't help that Daniel Craig has one facial expression on constantly (refer to poster). Also, the main villain, Greene, just didn't seem sinister enough. Think of the great Bond villains of the past or even recent past. Blofeld with his shaven pussy that he constantly strokes. Scaramanga. Even Le Chiffre from Casino Royale, who was a suitable creephat for the part, with his one eye and deathly pallor and scars. There was a man who you could see squatting in a basement, calculating how to take over the world. Not Dominic Greene. He was just a dodgy businessman at heart. I feel they ought to have played up his lust for power some more. There was one scene in which he threw a massive party celebrating the launch of his environmental preserves. He was to give a speech exhorting the Great and the Good to be worried about the devastation that humans were allegedly wreaking on the Earth Mother Gaia, but it was lackluster and short. He seemed less like a self-appointed messiah and more like some rich get pretending to care. More believeable, maybe, but not Bond.
What do I give it? Six and a half out of ten. Loses points for being too action-focussed and not emphasising character development and so forth enough. Casino Royale proved you can do both of these things. Why couldn't Quantum?