Plot Quality: Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale left off. Bond is being chased through Italian mountain roads. In his trunk is the man he shot at the end of Casino Royale. He is taking the man to an MI-6 safehouse where he will be interrogated. However, the man will escape with the help of M’s bodyguard. Bond kills the bodyguard and learns the man has a contact in Haiti.
Bond, meanwhile, gets Réne Mathis to help him follow Greene to Bolivia. When they arrive in Bolivia, Bond is detained so M can take him back to Britain. Bond, of course, evades detention and goes after Greene. He then discovers that Greene is trying to gain control over all the water in Bolivia by replacing the current government with a military coup who will give him the water rights. Mathis is killed and Bond is blamed. He is now hunted by the British, the Bolivians, and the CIA, who have cut a deal with Greene to turn a blind eye to his activities in exchange for what they believe are oil rights. With the help of Felix Leiter, however, Bond escapes and finds Greene at a desert resort, where he is meeting with coup leader General Medrano.
This film is beautifully shot. It has the travelogue feel too. Austria is opulent, the Bolivian desert is desolate, the Italian alps are amazing and even Haiti is compelling. Bond is fantastic as the relentless, cold-blooded killing machine; this film feels like Taken before Taken. Greene is a fantastic villain. Mathis is a compelling and likeable character, as are Camille, M, and Felix Leiter. The plot is very strong, being a focused revenge film combined with a film in which Bond must actually spy. The stunts are realistic. The action is brutal. Some have described this as the most violent Bond film ever, which is possible. The film is clever too. The dialog is sharp. The meeting in Vienna is highly original on an order we haven’t seen since 1970’s films like The Conversation or The French Connection. This is a great film.
Bond Quality: This is Craig’s second outing as Bond and he’s excellent. The Bond character generally requires a combination of suaveness, cold- bloodedness, and humor. Few Bonds had all three. Craig does lacks the humor, but he makes up for it with a plot that puts the focus entirely on his cold-bloodedness, something he excels at. Indeed, his Bond is a relentless killer who will do whatever he needs to do to complete his mission. This is something we haven’t seen since Connery.
The one flaw with Craig is that he’s never jovial, as Connery often was. But with this being a darker plot, you don’t miss that aspect... plus you see hints of it with his relationship with M, with Mathis, and with Leiter.
The Bond Girl: This one has an unusual Bond girl. Olga Kurylenko plays Camille, who is a Bolivian Intelligence agent with a vendetta against General Medrano. Kurylenko handles the role well and has strong chemistry with Craig. What makes her unusual is that she has no love scene with Bond, yet you don’t miss it. Indeed, this seems to make her a stronger companion for Bond than other Bond girls because they are bound together by their mission rather than Bond’s sex drive. All in all, she’s probably the best companion Bond has ever had. (Gemma Arterton is a Bond girl in this too, but she’s pointless.)
Even better, unlike the villains of the past, Greene has the perfect cover: he’s a renown environmentalist! When was the last time you saw one of those as the bad guy? Further, this is the kind of character detail that makes his scheme seem so dangerous because no one will believe that a man who wants to help the world is really trying to dominate it through a succession of puppet regimes. What’s more, his plan is working. Look at how he plays the CIA and the British with promises of oil – they don’t even comprehend what he’s doing. Greene is perhaps the most real, and yet most powerful and most cold-blooded villain Bond has ever faced, and he’s the perfect match for Bond.
All in all, this is an excellent film that deserves its high rank and which I think will one day be higher ranked. Right now, it falls in the category of misunderstood, but as we’ve seen with cult films (of which this has many attributes), they have a way of becoming understood once they find their audience. With the Bond franchise (and public tastes) headed in the direction of smaller, darker, more visceral action films, I think this one will eventually find its audience. In the meantime though, the public perception that this was a let down from Casino Royale will keep this one at only No. 0011 of 0023.