Solace continues where Casino Royale left off. Determined
to uncover the truth behind the death of Vesper, Bond brings Mr.
White to MI6 headquarters to interrogate him. However, the organization to which
he belongs has even infiltrated MI6, and M's personal bodyguard, Mitchell,
attempts to kill her and Bond. He fails, but Mr. White escapes during the melee. Forensic intelligence links
Mitchell to a contact in Haiti, and Bond travels there seeking answers. However, a case of mistaken identity introduces
him to Camille, the girlfriend of enigmatic tycoon Dominic Greene.
The critics were not very kind to Quantum of Solace, and without question it is inferior to Casino Royale, which set a very high standard for the new era of Bond films. To my mind, Quantum's most glaring flaw is Marc Forster's frenetic direction, particularly during action scenes, which are so dizzying that it's virtually impossible to tell what's happening on the screen. Also, there are lots of small, niggling issues that potentially create one big ugly wound, such as an ill-timed airplane chase (and an escape that's too much of a stretch for this more grounded, believable James Bond; as Roger Ebert remarked, "Bond is not an action hero") and a rather ridiculously imagined "hotel" in the desert loaded with flammable fuel cells. Some lament the lack of a larger-than-life, "fun" villain (I am not among them) and storyline that more resembles The Bourne Identity than classic 007 fare. While I agree with many of the criticisms, I also find the film's positive aspects more than adequate to make up for its shortcomings. If anything, Daniel Craig is even better as Bond here than in Casino Royale, and his relationships with the other characters—particularly Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) are masterfully rendered.
Weeks before the movie was released, I caught a video of the opening title sequence and song, and while MK12's visual work was interesting, if less impressive than Daniel Kleinman's opening to Casino Royale, I hoped—fervently hoped—that the song, "Another Way to Die," was some prankster's idea of a sick joke. Sadly, no. Written and produced by Jack White and performed by White and Alicia Keys, it is the most inane, sloppily performed, and nondescript bunch of noise ever recorded for a Bond film, eclipsing Madonna's Die Another Day as worst Bond song ever. Apart from a noteworthy opening and closing riff, the song is memorable only for its astounding mediocrity. With their flat, tuneless, and occasionally cacophonous vocals, you'd think neither performer had ever emitted a tolerably pitched musical note in their lives. When the Casino Royale soundtrack release came out, I was disappointed that it did not feature "You Know My Name," the title song performed by Chris Cornell. I'm just about equally disappointed that this album does feature the title song.
David Arnold's score, however, is another step up from his previous Bond work, and for the first time in his 007 scoring career, I find the majority of the score pleasing to listen to. Of course, there's just no tempering his themeless, percussion-punctuated action pieces, such as "The Palio" and "DC3," but on this album, the surrounding compositions are often melodic and distinctive. A number of the themes conjure up the unmistakable atmosphere of a John Barry score, but without the overt mimicry of certain cuts in Die Another Day and others. The haunting strains of "Greene and Camille," "No Interest in Dominic Greene," and "Night at the Opera" don't just complement the cinematic scenes; on their own, they possess unique identities as well as an undeniably Bond-ish atmosphere. Similarly, several of the cuts feature a modified Bond theme, which I believe is essential in this film, considering how much the movie tends to break with established formula. A portion of the feverishly paced opening track, "Time to Get Out," features a riff of the theme reminiscent of "Bond Meets Bambi and Thumper" from Diamonds Are Forever, while "Inside Man" plays on the Bond theme with a deep, throbbing cadence that is very brief but effective.
I think it's a credit to the soundtrack that, having listened to it now several times, it actually increases my appreciation of the film. Some might say the movie needs all the help it can get, but despite its shortcomings, Quantum still stands up as a decent Bond film. I think it's safe to say that its weakest moments still rise many levels above the foolishness of entries such as Moonraker and Octopussy.
If only an artist with an ounce of talent had provided the title song...
Another player with
the slick trigger finger