No, Bond doesn’t turn coward in Quantum of Solace. It’s the narrative spine that’s lacking. Like Daniel Craig’s Casino Royale, it doesn’t have much of a plot. Unlike the previous movie, it doesn’t have a strong personal arc to compensate.
The Story: Within an hour of the end of Casino Royale, Bond is driving his prisoner to M, dodging bad guys along the way. In the interrogation, the prisoner laughs at how little British intelligence knows about them and gloats they have people everywhere. And to prove it, M’s bodyguard suddenly tries to kill her and Bond. Surprise, he loses!—though M grumbles about Bond killing the man instead. M then delivers the film’s best line, “When someone says ‘we’ve got people everywhere’ you expect it to be hyperbole—florists say that!”
The bad guys’ trail leads to Haiti where Bond meets Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and his mistress Camille (Olga Kuryenko). We learn Greene’s organization, Quantum, is negotiating with a Bolivian general to put him back in charge of his country, in return for mineral rights to a stretch of worthless desert. As proof of his bona fides, Greene states Quantum organized the overthrow of Haiti’s President Aristides when business interests took a dislike to his policies. Camille’s working against Greene (we later learn she’s a Bolivian government agent), who decides to have her killed. Bond, of course, saves her and later has a shoot-out with Quantum. One of their people is high in the British government, so M revokes Bond’s passport and credit cards.
Bond makes it to Bolivia anyway and discovers, with Camille, that Quantum is using the land to dam up Bolivia’s water supply. Once the general makes them the water contractor for the nation, they’ll have a monopoly on water resources. The CIA has signed off on the takeover under the assumption Greene’s found oil in the desert and will cut them in. Fortunately Bond’s on hand and when the general and Greene meet in a desert hotel powered by hydrogen fuel cells, a lot of people die explosively. Bond mines Greene for Quantum’s secrets before abandoning him in the desert. With his new knowledge he hunts down the boyfriend Vesper betrayed him for in Casino, exposes the man as a Quantum agent and turns him over to M. His lover avenged, Bond’s back in action for good.
Why It Didn’t Work: As with the first film, there’s no immediate threat here. The plan to control the water supply is a threat, but it’s not an urgent one. It’s also a very real, down-to-Earth one (there are third world countries dealing with oppressive privatized water utilities now) but while that works for John LeCarre, it’s kind of flat for Bond. It’s true Live and Let Die had an equally low-key premise (massive drug-dealing) but it also had strong villains (Yaphet Kotto, Geoffrey Holder) and the wildly sinister voodoo stuff (racist though it is, it’s more interesting than Quantum). Greene, like Le Chiffre, is deadly dull—maybe it’s a Quantum job requirement?
The movie tries to give Bond another personal arc, but it doesn’t fly. Unlike Connery’s determined pursuit of Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, Craig doesn’t come across any harder than he is already. And the ending just feels incredibly forced, a convenient twist to give him closure over Vesper.
The end result is that Craig’s sophomore effort is more on the level of Man With the Golden Gun than From Russia With Love.
And now just one movie left! Back next month (unless time-travel films soak up all my viewing hours) with Skyfall.
(All rights to poster image belong to current holder).
The spineless Bond: Quantum of Solace, with spoilers (#SFWApro)
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