Redeeming Quantum of Solace

First, watch Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace back-to-back.


Wasn't that an improvement? I think they make a solid double-bill. The join between the two is seamless; Casino Royale is by far the better-received film and Quantum can coast on that good feeling for a good percentage of its running length. Casino Royale was always a little bloated with that fourth act, whereas Quantum of Solace is well-understood to be very rushed both in production and the final product. Knocking out the wall between the two evens things out.

Now let's go one step further and see if we can completely fix this thing: move the fourth act of Casino Royale to the start of Quantum of Solace.

What we have are two new films:

Casino Roya—

In his first outing as 007, James Bond tracks down and matches wits with a man named Le Chiffre, "private banker to the world's terrorists". Bond defeats the man at poker, ruining him and leaving him with nowhere to run but into the arms of MI6. Le Chiffre captures and tortures Bond, but is himself killed by the mysterious Mr. White, who leaves Bond alive.

Smitten with Treasury agent Vesper Lynd, Bond leaves the Secret Service and they both live happily ever after.

This film ends after around 122 minutes, in the brief beach scene with Bond and Vesper. The last few minutes of the film drag out rather, but you can definitely see a couple of places where the credits could feasibly roll. Ending it early makes Casino Roya' a fairly conventional outing for the rebooted James Bond - he beats the bad guy, he gets the girl, everything is wrapped up neatly.

Le Quantum of Solace

The sequel is the destruction of James Bond. The fairytale ending was too good to be true and in this film he pays the price for believing it.

Vesper and Bond sail into Venice, while Bond emails his resignation to MI6. All is well until Vesper steals the winnings of the pivotal poker game of the previous film. Bond pursues her as she delivers the money to the mysterious Mr. White. White escapes and Vesper kills herself. It turns out Vesper had a boyfriend this whole time; White's organisation, Q.U.A.N.T.U.M., was holding him hostage.

Just to clarify: Bond said to Vesper, "Whatever's left of me, I'm yours." Then, Vesper killed herself.

The remainder of Quantum is a blizzard of meaningless action because that's all that's left of James Bond; the plot is delirious, mirroring his mental state. Bond sets out to find the truth. He pursues Dominic Greene, a senior member of Q.U.A.N.T.U.M. who is attempting to acquire indirect control of the nation of Bolivia by monopolising its water supply. Bond defeats Greene and learns from him - among many other things - that Vesper's "boyfriend" was simply another Q.U.A.N.T.U.M. agent who seduced her to gain leverage.

So by the end, everything that Bond has ever known to be true is a lie, except his duty. 007 resigns himself to his fate as a personality-less, country-protecting automaton.

And Mr. White escapes through the cracks in the plot.

Okay, it's not completely fixed, but it's closer.

So... why bother trying? A lot of people didn't like Quantum of Solace for a lot of valid reasons. We all know these reasons; there is no point in reciting them.

The thing is, I don't like not liking films. I want every film to be good. I know that that's ridiculous and impossible. But every film takes a huge amount of earnest effort from a huge number of people and I'd like it if that effort could be not wasted. So let's focus on the positives. If a film is bad, but there's a way of viewing it which makes it good, then let's find that angle.

Some people watch bad films on purpose because they gain enjoyment from the badness. If you gain enjoyment from a film, then doesn't that make it a good film by definition?

The adjective for Quantum of Solace is "rushed". The film runs for 106 minutes and its plot has suffered badly from excessive editing and from the Writer's Guild strike. There was a great interview with Craig on this topic, apparently no longer available, but some bits and pieces still exist. (Oh wait, here it is!) You can see Craig and Forster trying to improvise something coherent and meaningful without backup.

And there's a lot that I do still like about the film. It's beautiful to look at, great to listen to, and it does things to Bond that have never happened before. I think the water plot is an intelligent take on "world domination" - if successful, it would have given Q.U.A.N.T.U.M. a seat at the international table, which raises all kinds of interesting possibilities. And I love Mathieu Amalric as Greene. Sure, the character has no bizarre physical defect, but instead he is a little short and pathetic and strange to look at and talk to. He comes off as almost uncanny-valley phony, smiling exclusively when it's politically wise to do so. Look at his eyes: all the way through the film, Greene is crazy in the eyes. This worked for me because Amalric could very easily have played him as genuinely pedestrian and conventional, just another man-in-a-suit.

And there's the final fight scene. You know, in the exploding hotel, when Greene goes nuts and screams and tries to kill Bond with a fire axe. During that scene he actually feels murderous and wild and properly crazy, in contrast to other Bond villains who have always been relatively measured and calculating even in the final confrontation. Bond is a character who drives people crazy by persistently not dying, and it's a nice touch for the villain to be human enough to actually crack.

But anyway. What I'm saying is that the seeds of a good film are somewhere in Quantum of Solace, more obviously than they are in many films. It's obvious that things could have gone another way, and I don't think it's a waste of time paying attention to what makes a - let's not say "bad" - an unsatisfactory film unsatisfactory, any more than when we look at what makes a good film good.

And if we gain enjoyment from trying to patch a film up retrospectively, that must be worth something, right?

Discussion (13)

2013-06-12 19:59:23 by gwern:

> The film runs for 106 minutes and its plot has suffered badly from excessive editing and from the Writer's Guild strike. There was a great interview with Craig on this topic, apparently no longer available, but some bits and pieces still exist. Oh, it's not so hard to find as all that. Just need to google some snippets and bob's your uncle: > It seems that the script is sometimes an after-thought on huge productions. > > ‘Yes and you swear that you’ll never get involved with shit like that, and it happens. On “Quantum”, we were fucked. We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do. We couldn’t employ a writer to finish it. I say to myself, “Never again”, but who knows? There was me trying to rewrite scenes – and a writer I am not.’ > > You had to rewrite scenes yourself? > > ‘Me and the director [Marc Forster] were the ones allowed to do it. The rules were that you couldn’t employ anyone as a writer, but the actor and director could work on scenes together. We were stuffed. We got away with it, but only just. It was never meant to be as much of a sequel as it was, but it ended up being a sequel, starting where the last one finished.’

2013-06-12 20:19:23 by qntm:

Noted, cheers.

2013-06-12 20:43:13 by qntm:

In my head, the opening credits of Le Quantum of Solace run immediately after "Bond. James Bond." - i.e., where the closing credits of Casino Royale used to be. This yields a pretty huge pre-credits sequence, but it sets up the whole film, and after that line there's no way you can't watch the rest.

2013-06-12 21:08:17 by Rafe:

See also "Machete Order" which maximizes the heroic arc of the Star Wars series.

2013-06-12 21:15:35 by jakep:

Have you heard of the Machete order? It's a way to watch the entire star wars saga in this order:4,5,2,3,6.Fixes many plot holes and makes the second and third film watchable. (There is no hope for the first one though)

2013-06-12 21:59:01 by Graeme:

I see two commenters have already beaten me to mentioning the machete order. If you're taking requests, can I ask for a re-cut of the various matrices? My own minor (and accidental) discovery in the 'do this thing to improve this film' vein was watching The Social Network and Zombieland back-to-back, thus turning the latter into 'Mark Zuckerberg attempts to survive the apocalypse'.

2013-06-12 22:44:29 by qntm:

Redeeming the Matrix trilogy might be harder than a simple cut. Even the first movie is showing its age now.

2013-06-13 00:07:26 by Jonathan:

I don't seem to recall Greene's eyes looking particularly cra- Welp.

2013-06-15 13:16:02 by LVN:

The very, very easy way to save the 4 matrix films is to: Watch The Matrix. This is the introduction to the world, Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Smith, Oracle. Enjoy it. Then, immediately, watch the Animatrix. Imagine this is Neo learning about the history of this new world. Not "the last flight of the Osirus". Then watch Reloaded and Revolutions back to back. Just skip the dance scene. Boom, done.

2013-08-09 14:30:04 by MugaSofer:

Well, everyone likes the first Matrix film, of course. The second and third films were intended as one film, which was stretched into two; simply watching them back-to-back helps a lot. Truly redeeming them, however, would probably require completely recutting them into one film, excising all the padding. (The original, proposed third film ended up as "the second renaissance", part of the Animatrix collection.)

2015-04-24 09:23:57 by dyDrawer:

I personally would place the end of Casino Royale at 2:07:00, when Mr. Mendel asks "Is there a problem, Mr. Bond?" while Bond looks at Vesper's cellphone which reads "Gettler: Meet in 30 minutes". This also generates suspense for the next movie (which is what they wanted to do I suppose). It also sort of completes Ian Fleming's plot structure, as Casino Royale isn't meant to have a happy ending.<br/> However, I can definitely see it ending at 2:00:09 (after they first kiss at the hospital), 2:02:24 (they kiss on the beach after Bond plans to leave the service), 2:02:47 (they sail into Venice) or 2:03:14 (Vesper smiles as Bond hands in his resignation). All four need a little further editing to make the score and scene transit smoothly into credits, but they should be easily doable and would make more sense for a classic happy ending Bond movie. <br/> The problem though is that if we seg the last part of Casino Royale into Quantum, the whole Bolivia, Dominique Greene, vengeful Camille Montes and military dictators thing even more detached. The whole thing will probably have to be scratched. But I think they should have plenty of room to work with following the death of Mitchell.

2015-04-26 01:33:45 by dk:

I enjoyed QS more then skyfall (SK), although the villan on SK did a great job and is a hell of an actor, for me the movie was cheese, specialy the multiple quick short smart lines with bad timing. example I always hated this place or house, before it blows up near the end of the movie. it seamed forced. On the other hand, the reduction of lines in QS made Daniel Craigs interpretation much deeper than SK. I specificaly liked Bond's reaction to mathis' death. In regards to the original post, I did see cracy eyes all over the movie, and the final uncontrolled fight sceane was an excelent ending for it.

2015-11-07 23:22:08 by iska:

OP: excellent thoughts on the movies. Thoroughly enjoyed the read and the ideas presented. I happen to just love every part of the movie. Yes, Im probably somewhat of scruffy looking nerf herder to you hardcore movie analysers, but lets not be too anal - its great to have some kind of continuation of the ending of Casino Royale. I only wish we had a third movie in the "series". Commentators: great to read your thoughts. (and hints of the Matrix series.

This discussion is closed.