The James Bond franchise was rebooted to great success in 2006’s Casino Royale, but almost hit a major roadblock with its 2008 sequel, Quantum of Solace, which was not very well received by critics or fans of the series. Luckily, it didn’t kill the franchise – but it did take the wind out of its sails until Skyfall came around four years later to straighten things out again.
Quantum is just one of many revenge flicks in the James Bond pantheon. It seems that every Bond actor gets one, where he’s stripped of his 00 status, gadgets, and license to kill and must go out on his own to settle a personal score. Sean Connery had Diamonds Are Forever, Roger Moore had For Your Eyes Only, Timothy Dalton had Licence to Kill, Pierce Brosnan had Die Another Day, and Craig was given Quantum of Solace.
With that said, I’m not the biggest fan of these revenge pics. They feel a bit at odds with the rest of the series, and while I don’t mind a change of pace and admire that the filmmakers are trying something new, I wonder if taking the spy and espionage elements out of a spy and espionage franchise is a smart move. Each film has varying degrees of formula shifting, most of them going back to basics at least halfway through the revenge narrative. Quantum is not one of those movies.
Like Licence to Kill, Quantum of Solace is a dark, angry movie. It also takes the “Bond has gone rogue” premise farther than any other film in the franchise, as he’s not only stripped of his 00 status but is wanted and hunted by both MI6 and the CIA, and blamed for several murders along the way.
It’s fascinating in the fact that it’s the first real direct sequel in the entire franchise, starting the same day that Casino Royale ended (as evidenced by the fact that Mr. White still has a bleeding bullet hole in his leg provided by 007). That both helps and hurts the film, in my opinion, depending on when you decide watch it.
I saw the film when it came out, and honestly forgot about 99% of it. It’s not a very memorable Bond adventure; the villain is forgettable, no answers are really given about Quantum, and everything Bond learns about Vesper’s death is pretty understated. Seeing the movie on its own isn’t a very rewarding experience. This time, seeing it directly after Casino Royale (the only gap in time being the minute I spent swapping out Blu Ray discs), I found it much more enjoyable, and admire that the writers and filmmaker decided to follow-up Vesper’s death in such a way. Her death is the first in the series that has really resonated into the next film. Even the death of Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was all but forgotten by the time Diamonds Are Forever came out, and there have only been minor mentions of it since then.
Though I enjoyed the ride more this time, I still don’t know if I’d recommend the film to the casual moviegoer. As I said, it doesn’t provide much value to the series as a whole (though it does feature Gemma Arterton dead and covered in oil on a bed, a nice nod to Goldfinger), and unless you’ve just watched Casino Royale, the emotional beats won’t be as resonating. With that said, it’s still a watchable film, has some great action pieces, a cool Bond girl in the form of Olga Kurylenko’s Camille Montes (who’s also on a revenge kick), and more Daniel Craig badassery. It’s not a bad Bond movie, it’s just not a memorable one.
We’ll see if its importance in Daniel Craig’s run changes thanks to SPECTRE, which seems to feature the reappearance of Quantum. Will the filmmakers merge the two secretive organizations? Or will they retcon things to show that Quantum was secretly SPECTRE all along?