The New James Bond Turns Up the Violence in ‘Quantum of Solace’

Metro Goldwyn Mayer The New James Bond Turns Up the Violence in 'Quantum of Solace'

The thing about the James Bond movies before Daniel Craig took over the role is that their violence, no matter how over-the-top, always seemed detached from reality.

In some ways, 007-style violence wasn’t too far removed from Wile E. Coyote getting an anvil dropped on his head. The Roger Moore era especially turned the super-spy into more of a cartoon character than a living, breathing and, most importantly, mortal human being.

With 2006’s franchise-reviving Casino Royale, all that changed. From the opening scene – a brutal bathroom fight shot in glorious black and white – the movie makes it pretty clear this was going to be a brand new Bond. But there’s another thing factoring into this change: the Bourne series, which launched in 2002, the same year Pierce Brosnan played 007 for the last time.

While Bond was on yet another quest to disarm a deadly space weapon in Die Another Day, Jason Bourne was searching for his forgotten past in The Bourne Identity. It probably wasn’t lost on Bond producers that 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum was a better movie than every single one of Bond’s adventures of the past three decades.

Jason Bourne reinvented the action hero for the new millennium, and James Bond’s new filmmakers knew it. They even employed several of Bourne’s tricks in Casino Royale – from killing a man with his bare hands to relying on brains instead of some Q-approved gadget. And then there’s Casino Royale‘s unhappy ending, where Bond’s girlfriend dies.

And that’s where Quantum of Solace – which premiered on Oct. 29, 2008 – begins, as Bond zips through Italian backroads with one of the mysterious Quantum organization’s masterminds in his trunk.

Watch the Trailer for ‘Quantum of Solace’

The plot of the 22nd Bond film is typically and needlessly complicated – something about an evil environmentalist wanting to control Latin America’s water supply this time. But all that’s mostly secondary to Bond’s thirst for revenge in Quantum of Solace.

Along with this outing’s Bond Girl, Olga Kurylenko, he goes from Italy to Haiti to London to Bolivia, pursuing the evil Quantum baddies on land, in the water and in the air – all which lead to rooftop chases, fast-paced shootouts and ground-leveling explosions. They’re expected in Bond movies, and they’re piled on here, with the violence kicked up several notches. A 2012 study by the University of Otago declared Quantum of Solace the most violent 007 movie; it also happens to be the shortest film in the franchise.

Director Marc Forster, whose previous movies included Finding Neverland and The Kite Runner, wasn’t exactly known for action movies, so – despite the overload of violence – Quantum of Solace isn’t as exciting as Casino Royale or, for that matter, Craig’s other outings in the series.

But Forster is more than equipped to handle the twists, turns and double-crosses, and there are plenty of them here. And the frenetic editing of certain sequences at least keeps things moving, even if Solace isn’t the great sequel Royale deserved. But it helps set up the next film in the franchise, 2012’s excellent Skyfall.

Not that any of this would have had much effect on the box office either way. Quantum of Solace remains the fourth-highest-grossing Bond movie (the top three all star Craig, too) and secured the post-Bourne era’s focus on rawness, realism and, to an extent, acting – even though Craig doesn’t have much to do here besides scale balconies and leap from exploding planes. Some things never change.