After a harrowing car chase around an Italian lake the car drives into a secret location. The boot opens to reveal an unwilling passenger inside.
“It’s time to watch Quantum of Solace,” I tell Mel.
When we moved house last month I came across the cinema tickets from when Mel and I went to see Quantum of Solace in 2008. Mel was in the third year of her law degree by then. Although two years had passed for us, no time had passed for James Bond. I was about to turn 30 and Mel turned 21 just after we got back from Egypt, where we visited The Spy Who Loved Me location the Temple of Karnak. With her 21st birthday imminent, I kept Mel entertained all holiday by singing Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon every day. As the only line I know from the song is, “Girl, you’ll be a woman soon,” I would occasionally mix it up with Britney Spears’ More than a girl, not yet a woman.
The film picks up immediately where Casino Royale left off. Bond is being pursued by goons having shot and snatched Mr White from his lakeside home. I really like the car chase, but Mel winces every time she sees the Aston Martin gets damaged.
“This upsets me deeply. That is the dream car.”
The theme song, Another Way to Die strikes up with Jack White and Alicia Keys providing the vocals. I ask Mel if she likes the song.
“Meh… I know that you like it.”
I do like some of the lyrics – “Another heaven-sent dirty money honey turning on a dime” is a great, lyrical description of bad-girl-turned-good Bond ladies. When I was checking the lyrics online I found that there is some disagreement over what they actually are, especially the second line.
“Another one with the golden tone voice and then your fantasy.”
while Metrolyrics.com has it as:
“Another one with the golden gun poison in your fantasy.”
So I suppose it shows that there’s another way to sing Another Way to Die.
Bond and M are preparing to interrogate Mr White. M has a photo of Vesper with Yusef, the boyfriend that Quantum had apparently kidnapped to ensure her compliance during the mission against Le Chiffre. Turns out his death has been faked.
“That is a really realistic reaction. James Bond barely looks at the other man in the photo.”
“Daniel Craig barely moves his lips when he speaks. He would make a great ventriloquist.”
M’s personal bodyguard, Mitchell, betrays his employer on a word from White, and tries to kill M.
This always makes me think this would have been a great twist, with more impact, if Charles Robinson in the original Bondinuity had been working for a baddie.
007 chases his treacherous colleague.
“Daniel Craig loves rooves doesn’t he?” asks Mel.
After killing Mitchell, Bond returns to the UK and meets M at Mitchell’s flat. She’s angry that an organisation they don’t even know about has managed to turn one of her agents.
“I want to be fierce like M when I’m older,” says Mel. So that’s something for me to look forward to in my dotage.
Mel is quietly absorbed in the movie for a while, while Bond follows a lead to apparent philanthropist Dominic Greene. Having failed to have her killed, Greene gives his girlfriend, Camille, to General Medrano to ‘sweeten the deal’ he is trying to cut.
“Urrghh, Minging. ‘Sweeten the deal’. He’s giving her away like she’s a possession.”
Bond follows the trail of Quantum to a production of Tosca in Austria. There’s a great scene when Bond cuts into the villains’ conversation, causing them to leave so that he can photograph them. Mel recognises one of the Quantum members.
“It’s Dad from Friday Night Dinner,” she realises. ‘Shit on it!'”
We like Friday Night Dinner, it’s that rarest of beasts, a television programme that we both enjoy.
Shortly afterwards Bond is at the airport, and meets another actor from British sitcom with a quotable bon mot.
“The Job Lot! ‘Team work makes the dream work!'”
Bond re-teams with Rene Mathis from Casino Royale. On the flight to Bolivia Mathis finds Bond drinking Vespers, the drink he invented and named for his former lover.
Mel is impressed. “That’s a lot of booze,” she says. “Eighteen shots of gin, that’s about a fifth of a bottle… and that’s without the vodka.”
In Bolivia, Bond and Mathis are met at the airport by MI6 agent Fields, played by Gemma Arterton.
Mel says, “I hate her so much.”
I ask her why.
“I don’t know, but I do,” she replies.
I tell Mel that I once read that Gemma Arterton was born with an extra finger on each hand.
“She could have been a James Bond villain instead!”
Do you think she’d be a Bond girl if she had still had her extra digits?
“No, they wouldn’t have that.”
Maybe she could still work for MI6, I suggest. She’d be really fast at typing. Bond would text for information and he’d get a reply straight away. He’d be like, ‘Bloody hell, that was quick.’
Bond doesn’t like the look of the hotel Fields has booked them into, and takes them to a much swankier one across town.
“I did that once. In Blackpool,” Mel says.
Bond asks Agent Fields to help him finds the hotel stationery in his room.
“She’ll find his pencil,” Mel says.
In the next scene Bond and Fields are post-coitus.
“Oh, yeah. She’s slept with him already,” says Mel. “She’s just met him. That’s why I hate her.”
I resist the temptation to say Bond has ploughed Fields. Instead I ask if Mel stills finds is as distasteful that women jump into bed with 007 straight away, in the context of having seen all the other Bond films now. It happens to him all the time.
“I still don’t like it. If I served you mushrooms a hundred times you still wouldn’t like them.”
I’m noticing watching the movie this time around that there are lots of references to water trickled throughout, hinting that this is what Quantum are actually after in Bolivia, rather than oil.
Mel is not saying much, she’s quite into the film. She says, “I’m not giving you much am I? I am actually enjoying this a lot more this time.”
Mathis dies in Bond’s arms.
Bond dumps Mathis’ corpse in a skip.
Mel says, “That is brutal. I don’t like that.”
Later, Bond and Camille hire a plane to check out the area of Bolivia that Quantum are getting as payment for helping General Medrano to power. Camille asks Bond if he is offended by her sleeping with Dominic Greene to get to Medrano.
“No, not in the slightest,” replies 007.
“He’d be a bloody hypocrite if he did,” says Mel.
When they get back to the hotel, M is waiting. Agent Fields has been killed, and is covered in oil, lying on the bed in the style of Jill Masterson in Goldfinger. She’s become an oil Fields.
M accuses Bond of going off on a revenge mission, instead of doing his duty.
Mel says, “She’s wrong. He is doing his duty.”
While still headstrong, the single-mindedness has been focussed to a fine point. He’s a guided missile now, a bullet – aim and fire. Kills take a third of the time, there’s not an ounce of doubt left in the man, no hesitation. But at the same time he’s now a beast of duty, and as such nowhere near as impulsive as he is mistaken for. His tragedy, ultimately, is that he is required not to kill men he might, in other circumstances, desire to. Duty comes first, and that means leaving alive those he wants dead – and, conversely, killing some he would have preferred to leave alive.
I recommend Mr Ellard’s Tweetnotes on movies and TV shows, which are always interesting and insightful.
Mel is quiet through the finale at the desert hotel, other than during Medrano’s attempt to rape the waitress, when she urges Camille to “rip his —-ing face off.”
“I think the fact that I want Daniel Craig to win shows that I like his James Bond. I wasn’t bothered about the old ones. Too smarmy.”
Bond and Camille share a kiss before they part company.
Mel says, “I think that it wasn’t sexual for once. He just wanted a moment of human comfort.”
Bond jets off to Russia, where he interrupts Vesper’s ex,Yusef Kabira, winning the affections of a Canadian Intelligence agent.
“I love it,” says Mel. “He totally did a catfish.”
“An MTV Catfish moment. They reveal cheaters, ‘He’s not who you think he is.'”
I look confused.
Mel sighs. “On Catfish you have two people who’ve been dating over the internet for ages, but he won’t meet her. And they’re, like, ‘Right, let’s see what’s going on.” And he’s married with three kids. I like the showdown.”
After we finish Quantum of Solace we watch a random episode of Catfish on telly (season 4, episode 15). Andria has been ‘dating’ David for ten years. He’s been making excuses for why they never meet. The two Catfish presenters look David up on FaceBook and it turns out he’s a woman. It’s an odd programme, and taken totallly seriously by the presenters.
Mel will return… Watching Everything or Nothing.
Quantum of Solace trailer:
Order Quantum of Solace on DVD: