The second James Bond film with Daniel Craig as the famous British secret agent continues the refreshingly serious tone of Casino Royale but whether it will cause the same excitement and buzz as the last film remains to be seen.
It would be fair to say anticipation for Quantum of Solace is running incredibly high after the successful rebooting of the franchise in 2006 – not only did Craig silence a lot of sceptics but the raw, stripped down approach really worked, making it the biggest grossing Bond ever.
Beofre the screening I went to in London tonight the head of Sony Pictures UK told the audience that this was the first screening anywhere in the world, so everyone was fairly excited at what was in store.
Unusually for the franchise, the plot here takes off immediately after the events of the last movie, as 007 is searching for the man who fatally betrayed his lover Vesper Lynd.
After an opening sequence in Italy, the trail leads him to Haiti – the back to Italy – and eventually to Bolivia where he encounters the mysterious Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a key player in the Quantum organisation that blackmailed Vesper and is now involved in destabilising regimes in Central America.
Also involved in Greene’s web of intrigue is Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who – like Bond – has personal issues and scores to settle.
The most immediately striking aspect of the film is the breakneck pace of the first 40 minutes or so, as it opens with pre-credits car chase and before things even settle down Bond is pursuing people on the rooftops of Siena before jetting off around the world.
Like Casino Royale the action and stunts are well done, but I do wonder if Marc Forster was quite the director to bring these sequences fully to life.
Whilst engaging, the lensing and editing don’t quite get the adrenaline pumping like the more recent Bourne or Batman movies.
That said, Forster is on much surer ground with the characters and their emotional involvement with one another.
The interplay between Bond and the characters closest to him such as M (Judi Dench), René Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and Camille are all handled with a nice amount of humour and genuine feeling – another aspect that marks this Bond era out from the past.
In fact I would have traded some of the action for more character-based material as it is where the director seems more comfortable.
Whilst some of the stunt work is technically impressive, it is the dialogue and interplay between the leads that is more satisfying, especially with actors like Craig and Dench.
Whilst Almaric is a great actor (he was phenomenal in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly last year) his villain here feels a little underwritten – perhaps because he isn’t the true number 1 of the organisation?
Another aspect of the film which will get people talking is the more contemporary, even European, attitude on display here – which I suspect is the influence of screenwriter Paul Haggis.
Whilst it isn’t as despairing as his last film In the Valley of Elah, the underlying politics of the story are clearly suspicious of the CIA – instead of the traditional Cold War allies we have a much more amoral organisation who can’t be fully trusted.
In fact trust is a big theme of the film as the Quantum organisation have, as one character puts it, ‘people everywhere’.
Even MI6 isn’t immune to a world full of deception and mistrust and in some ways this atmosphere is more effective than a lot of the action set pieces.
A lot of people are going to wonder how this shapes up to the last film and in a nutshell I would say that it continues the good work of that film whilst having a more stylised visual approach.
The locations – especially in Italy and Bolivia – are great to look at and some of the sets even seem to be referencing those Ken Adam constructed in an earlier Bond era.
I think some audiences might miss the gadgets and old-school appeal of the earlier Connery and Moore films but I think that the filmmakers have wisely preserved the cool, stripped down approach of Casino Royale.
It will have a massive opening and will no doubt satisfy Bond fans but whether it will surprise me if it does as well as Casino Royale.
This feels very much like the second film of a trilogy with the wider story still to be concluded.
> Quantum of Solace at the IMDb
> More details about the plot and photos from the press conference launch at Pinewood
> Final trailer of the film
> Peter Bradshaw review at The Guardian
> James Christopher review at The Times
> BBC News review
> Telegraph review
> Sky News report on the screening last night
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