I never saw Quantum of Solace. I was abroad when it came out and never got the chance. Now that I’ve seen it, however, I’m curious how it ended up being the much-loathed film it is today. Sure, it’s a bit busy, but:
1.) The female lead gets to wear pants. And a tank top.
2.) Said female lead also gets to be competent, and have goals. She even gets to meet them! Guy kills her dad and rapes her mom and sister in front of her. She takes revenge, and gets to live long enough afterward to question how much good she actually did.
3.) Have I mentioned she doesn’t sleep with Bond? She’s got shit to do. Other than him. They make out, sure, but by that point they’ve shared enough that it makes sense. And then, instead if boning him in the Bolivian graveyard, she goes back to her life. As one does.
4.) As in Spectre, we see Bond in an unexpected moment of altruism. When the room goes up in flames and our heroine curls into a ball in the corner in shock, Bond folds her into an embrace–for, as he and we know, the flames, too, are part of her childhood nightmare. It is a kindness that he offers, before figuring out how to escape at the last minute. He offers shelter out of kindness.
5.) However obtusely, QoS does attempt to question the narrative of queen and country–or perhaps more relevantly to US audiences, the narrative espoused by Britain’s allies. “Yeah you’re right, we should just deal with nice people,” sneers the American CIA operative. “If we didn’t deal with villains we’d have no allies left,” we hear minutes later. And, “The CIA doesn’t care about another dictator as long as they get their end.” Heavy-handed, yes, but at least not blind to the injustices of the times. Our times. As with the overt ecological overtones of the villains’ threat–which should ring bells of Captain Planetesque familiarity for any child of the 90s–the message is overstated, but it came from a good place.
I’m sure there are those who hate the movie precisely for points #1-3, but they can’t account for everyone. And while those who say it can’t compare to Skyfall are correct, they don’t comprise the group of people who hated QoS long before its successor. A group which was pretty large.
And yet, of all the things QoS tries to do that bear merit even for the attempt, perhaps the most important is the effort to distinguish optimism from nationalism. “I don’t think you’re half so cynical as you act,” quips Bond to Felix, the American agent tasked with killing him–even as Felix gives him the information he needs to survive the encounter and escape to safety. Like a lot else in QoS, this doesn’t come off flawlessly, but even a cursory effort toward revealing the tangled web–rather than the direct route people imagine–between faith in one’s country and the integrity to question that faith; between confidence that good can be found in people and vain self-assurance that one’s nation is “good” by default–is surely worth something.
I realize of course that the prime target demographic for Bond movies probably aren’t terribly concerned with the moral integrity of nations, or with female leads who keep their clothes on. But I don’t want to sell the critics of QoS that short either. Because we all trooped out to see the thing, didn’t we? This despite the fact that this Bond’s awesome introduction also included a (mostly) competent female lead and a Bond capable of non-smarmy emotion. So what was the nail in Quantum’s coffin? Was it just the imbalance of fight scenes vs. content? Was it that we spent time somewhere other than Morocco or Diverse and Sundry European Snowscapes? Why did people detest it so much?