April 23, 2017

007 Days of 007: QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Jake’s Take: One Image from Quantum of Solace (Marc Forster, 2008)

The most misunderstood film since OHMSS also has the best Bond woman in the entire series.

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“I don’t think the dead care about vengeance.”

After 22 films, we have finally arrived at the best of the Bond women. Rewatching Quantum of Solace the other night, I had the thought that—with a bit of obvious rewriting—Olga Kurylenko’s Camille could have starred in her own version of that film. That’s not something you could only say for many of the other Bond women, if any at all.

She is smart, capable, and has very much her own story apart from Bond’s. She is perhaps the most progressive woman in the series (save for Judi Dench’s M). For a film that is (falsely) accused of being all action and no story, Camille’s backstory is unfurled with tremendous care and subtlety. We see the scarring on her back early in the film, but not up close. Later, when Camille is giving Bond her backstory with General Medrano, she punctuates her tragic account by saying, “He left his mark.” Lesser films would have manufactured a way to cut back to her scars, but the film trusts that we will remember that detail from earlier in the film. And that trust ties me to the character even more in that moment. Camille is ultimately a mirror of Bond: two souls lost in a desert of vengeance.

Quantum of Solace now occupies the place that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service once held as the most underrated and underestimated film of the series, and I tend to leap to its defense at a moment’s notice. (Like right now, apparently, where I suspect I’ll lose a few of you.) Make no mistake, Quantum of Solace is one of the greatest Bond films ever. Some point to the Tennyson sequence in Skyfall as one of the series’ greatest sequences. I agree and would also quickly remind those people that the cross-cutting that sequence uses to such great effect is used by Quantum of Solace as an overarching storytelling strategy, generating the same kind of tension and enhancing Quantum’s already high storytelling efficiency.

The claim I mentioned earlier about the film being all action and no story is patently false. You can like the story or not, but claiming there isn’t story here means you are somehow experiencing this film without use of your eyes or ears. Likewise with the humor, one can debate its effectiveness, but it’s simply incorrect to claim that the film is humorless. I find it to be teeming with dry, intelligent wit.

The film’s villain is a simultaneous strength and weakness. Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric and his amazing eyes) proves to be a villain with more power than Le Chiffre, yet merely one player among many in the shadowy organization known as Quantum. Amalric infuses Greene with a savage violence shrouded in a benefactor’s smile. However, with no overly distinctive characteristics aside from wielding an axe like Monica Seles, the performance is far more memorable than the character.

I will argue for Quantum of Solace any day of the week, and I am confident that, with time, it will be reevaluated and critically rehabilitated. I will concede one point, however: this film is a great one, but not a particularly grand one. A grand one would be up next.

Rankings

1. Casino Royale

2. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

4. Quantum of Solace

5. From Russia with Love

6. GoldenEye

7. Thunderball

8. The Living Daylights

9. Goldfinger

10. Dr. No

11. For Your Eyes Only

12. The Spy Who Loved Me

13. Licence to Kill

14. Die Another Day

15. Octopussy

16. The World Is Not Enough

17. You Only Live Twice

18. Tomorrow Never Dies

19. Moonraker

20. Live and Let Die

21. A View to a Kill

22. Diamonds Are Forever

23. The Man with the Golden Gun

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN IN SKYFALL.