DVD Review: Quantum of Solace

23 Mar

She’s back, and this time it’s personal. Judi Dench returns as M, head of MI6, in Quantum of Solace, the latest film that sees her pit her wits against a recurring character called James Bond who has appeared in each of her action films since 1995’s GoldenEye.

OK, OK, I’m playing with you, but you know the score by now. While Dench may be to the Bond series what Obama is to the USA’s global reputation, her pitch-perfect performances adding class to a franchise that regularly threatens to implode with scripts that veer from classy spy thrillers to over-inflated parody, often within the same 120 minutes, this is really Daniel Craig’s attempt to prove his mettle as 007 after a blistering debut in 2006’s Casino Royale.

With the death of Vesper Lynd, Bond’s one true love, still fresh in his mind (Quantum of Solace begins mere minutes after the triumphant ending of its predecessor), Her Majesty’s finest is on a mission to find out who killed her and what else they have up their sleeves.

Bond uncovers a conspiracy right at the very heart of the Secret Service, one that seems to reach around the globe, with friends in very high places.

Within the first 20 minutes we’ve witnessed both a high-octane car chase and the sight of Bond pursuing a baddie through the streets of Siena, spliced with footage of the Palio horse races. There’s no time to breathe, for our hero or the audience, and the film is all the better for the excising of any flab or talky bits that might get in the way.

Granted, the plot does start to drift slightly with the introduction of environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and Camille (Olga Kurylenko), their backstories just not interesting enough to warrant a place in an action epic,  but once again the guns and grit make up for this misfire.

Amalric, one of France’s finest actors, is given little to play with throughout the film, the potential for a new Goldfinger or Blofeld ignored. He’s the Le Chiffre of the piece, a pawn in the game of a master we’ve yet to see, expendable and destined to be forgotten in Bond history.

Craig seems more at home this time around, the fact that Bond has barely had a chance to sleep since we saw him last obvious by the scars on his torso and the lines on his face. Bond is less the sex symbol here and more the flawed hero who is being shaped into the blunt instrument we know from the novels.

The aforementioned Judi Dench is the perfect foil for Craig, the pair developing into something of a double act. M works better with this Bond than with Pierce Brosnan’s, though it’s still a shame there’s no Samantha Bond as Moneypenny to gaze longingly at 007.

Rory Kinnear tries valiantly as Bill Tanner (what happened to dear old Michael Kitchen?) but when he’s in a scene with Ms Dench there can only be one winner.

Quantum of Solace just about works as a film in its own right, though there’s a real “middle child” feeling in the air, the planned trilogy of films involving the Quantum syndicate leaving this as the one that has to get us from A to C (or is that Z?) while we wait for Risico (or whatever it’ll be called) in 2010.

Watched in tandem with Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace comes into its own, leaving the viewer almost as exhausted as Bond himself from the many set pieces and twists that are thrown in his path.

Daniel Craig has proven himself a worthy inheritor to the Bond crown and here’s hoping the scriptwriters reward him – and us – with the next movie, otherwise they’ll need a more than a small amount of compassion from James Bond’s legions of fans.

DVD Special Features

  • ‘Another Way To Die’ Music Video
  • Theatrical and Teaser Trailers
  • Bond on Location Featurette
  • Start of Shooting Featurette
  • On Location Featurette
  • Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase Featurette
  • Director Marc Forster Featurette
  • The Music Featurette
  • Crew Files
  • Behind-the-Scenes Clips
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