Welcome back to the third and final (for now) entry in the short story segment of the Bond vs Bond series. Last week we got into the short story and movie that shared it’s name, For Your Eyes Only. And it was a short that actually shared some elements with the movie, albeit changed in many different ways. It was a pretty interesting comparison honestly, much more interesting on that level than the first weeks look at From A View To A Kill. This time out, we get into the third short collected in the collection titled For Your Eyes Only, the story titled Quantum of Solace. And while this short has almost nothing in common with the second Daniel Craig movie, there is an interesting thematic thing going on between the two. This one should be pretty interesting capper to this first chunk of this series dealing with shorts. So let’s hop into the drivers seat and get into it.
To see the write up on Casino Royale, click here.
To see the write up on Live and Let Die, click here.
To see the write up on Moonraker, click here.
To see the write up on Diamonds Are Forever, click here.
To see the write up on From Russia With Love, click here.
To see the write up on Dr. No, click here.
To see the write up on Goldfinger, click here.
To see the write up on From A View To A Kill vs A View To A Kill, click here.
To see the write up on For Your Eyes Only, click here.
Quantum of Solace
Getting into the third short in this collection of shorts, there’s a sense of Fleming experimenting a little bit. The first one (From A View To A Kill) was a condensed version of one of his novels, a mystery that gets solved without a big plot hidden beneath the surface like the novels. The second (For Your Eyes Only) is a thriller in short, focusing on two set pieces of tension. Just a quick job to show what a regular mission for Bond is without the over the top villainy. Getting into the third, I wasn’t expecting a story to be as out of the norm from the series as the one we got in Quantum of Solace. Of the two that preceded it that also had their titles gentrified for the better neighborhood of Hollywood, the usage of the stories below the titles was split between changed completely to similar but built upon and changed. And with Quantum, it falls in the middle of those two somehow. For it is nothing like the movie at all, but there’s some thematic connection in a weird way.
The Quantum of Solace story barely features Bond at all. This is the most experimental and unBond like of anything before it. No mission is being enacted. Bond is resting after a successful job in Cuba, taking part in a dinner party with the head of the Government house in Nassau, Bahamas. He is having a bored time of it all, not feeling at home at all and finding all the rich types too boring for himself. As the night is ending, the Governor and Bond are by themselves. Bond makes a remark about marrying a stewardess if he was to ever get married, which prompts a story from the Governor. A damn near 20 page story. One that has no action at all. The Governor tells him of a man who worked under him many years ago, a good man named Masters. Masters was a good worker but a bit of a Beta male, thanks to being essentially abandoned by his divorced parents. Sex never interested him or even crossed his mind until he met Rhoda, a Stewardess, who woke something in him. A month after the meeting they’re married and living in Jamaica and the tragic story starts to unfold. He basically does everything she wants because he can’t believe she chose him. But she only chose him because his life sounded exciting and she just wants the high life. And when she finds him too boring, she carries out an affair without hiding it, rubbing his face in it. His work and personality take a nose dive. After a stern talking to from his superiors and being sent on an assignment to Washington for a few months, he comes back a new man. He tells his Rhoda that they are to be divorced within a year when he is to be reassigned to a new post and she isn’t to bother him, for he has evidence of her cheating ways. While in Washington, Rhoda was dumped by her lover and was looked down upon around the area as a dirtbag. So she can’t fight him. He gives her 20 pounds a month allowance. And when it’s time to end the relationship, she begs him for one kindness. Some money to get back to England. He tells her to sell her jewelry and he’ll let her sell the car and his radio. But when she goes to do those things, she finds out he was in massive debt to the car salesman and she has to deal with the issues. He gave her one final fuck you. All because, as the Governor puts it, she ended the Quantum of Solace. She showed him no humanity and he broke, showing her no humanity back. In the end, Masters would retire and go back to Africa where he was once happy. Rhoda though? She ended up marrying a rich Canadian man. And the twist? Rhoda and her new husband were sitting next to Bond the whole time. Bond is enraptured by this story and leaves feeling like normal folks have the crazier lives.
None of that stuff is in the movie. At all. The movie is, like the story, a singular entry in the Bond franchise. It’s the first true sequel of them all. Not only continuing the continuity, but by literally starting off where Casino Royale ended. Bond is on the trail of the shady organization that turned Vesper and killed Le Chiffre. The movie opens with a car chase that reveals, before the title sequence, that in the trunk of the car is Mr. White. Mr White, who Bond had shot in the leg at the end of Casino. From there the movie is a breakneck movie that finds Bond going up against a bureaucrat (Dominic Greene) in the organization whose name is Quantum. All of this occurs when Bond goes to investigate a connection in Haiti that they find in connection to the MI6 agent who worked for Quantum. All the while, Bond crosses paths with Camille, who was a Bolivian spy who went undercover in Greens ranks to eventually get in contact with a General in Bolivia who had killed her family. So basically, the whole movie finds Bond inadvertently helping Camille get revenge on the General, all the while he is grieving Vesper’s death and seeking vengeance on the group himself.
So the short and the movie have literally nothing in common besides a name. But there is a weird connection and that is in itself the meaning of the title that we get in the short. It’s not given in the movie, because the title is just used as a means to make the group named Quantum because they didn’t have the rights to Spectre back. But in the book, the idea is that when one loses the comfort in a relationship, the basic human decency that anyone should be afforded, they are broken. This happened to Bond in Casino Royale. Quantum managed to break all the comfort Bond had in his relationship with Vesper. Not only did they kill her, but they ruined her in his eyes. She was a turncoat, the one woman he allowed himself to love, and she betrayed him by circumstance. So in dealing with his search for Quantum to seek revenge on the system, he is an animal off his chain. He doesn’t follow MI6 orders and kills without thinking, getting minimal info thanks to his itchy trigger finger. Only in seeing Camille’s search for vengeance being fruitless, as the years long revenge quest being completed still doesn’t sate her grief for her parents, Bond can move past his pain. So for a movie as maligned as this, it’s a lot smarter than it gets credit for. The execution isn’t perfect, but the ambition is there.
The book itself is an interesting experiment from Fleming and it’s pretty much a well executed experiment. By not trying to do a shorted version of his novels, he crafts a much more interesting story that works very well. It’s not exactly thrilling and it’s not pulpy, but it’s pretty thematically interesting from a man who generally writes thrillers and pulp. Leaving those elements behind fits him. And he loses almost all of his weird racism and misogyny (there’s still one weird slight against black women for terrible birth control). But by confronting Bond’s ego about his thrilling life, Fleming tells us all that the stories he’s telling are just escapist entertainments. Real life is much more interesting and dramatic than any spy yarn, for the stakes in them are much more dramatic and understandable. And he has Bond learn a lesson too, taking all that away from the story the Governor tells. It’s really well executed. I can’t say that completely for the movie.
I like the movie. It’s a perfectly enjoyable action flick that has some peaks and valleys. It’s a choppy movie that moves too fast and convolutes the plot, making it feel like a puzzle. The writers strike of 2007 is responsible for that, but the finished product must be judged on it’s own merits. And it’s not perfectly executed. The thematic stuff with James is there, learning to move past his grief. But the stuff around it, the plot and some of the acting leaves alot to be desired. Dominic Greene’s plot boils down to juking the prices on water. Camille is not very interesting, not helped by the bland performance by Olga Kurylenko. The plot hinges too much on coincidence. It’s a shame because some tuning could have made the movie really special, building upon the masterpiece that is Casino Royale to make a moving character arc for Bond while still keeing the movies Bond. The most interesting thing about the movie is to compare it to how Bond dealt with Vespers death in the book Casino Royale. He acts the same and also makes a vow to bring down the group (SMERSH) that took her and corrupted her. And in the proceeding novels, Bond does relish any chance he gets to take down SMERSH. But in this movie, Bond goes to go on a revenge quest and decides not to continue it by the end. It’s no longer personal for him. So much so that they aren’t even on the brain in Skyfall, and rear their ugly heads again to Bonds surprise in Spectre. It’s yet another way the movies twist some element from Flemings work to do something new.
If I had to choose which was the superior work, I’d have to go with the short. I like the movie a good deal, more than most, but it is a work that is weak on a good amount of levels. The short though sets out to do something and executes it perfectly. Luring one in thinking it’s a Bond story but actually telling us a thematically hefty domestic dissolution, he never makes the reader want to read something else. You get sucked in. It’s quite an accomplishment. The movie thrills but leaves one feeling unfulfilled in ways. Which, again, is a shame. For now though, we are done with shorts for 5 weeks. Next week sees us get back into the world of novels, and it’s a big one. The book that caused heaps of trouble for the cinematic franchise for 40 some odd years and helped contribute to Flemings early demise with a massive amounts of stress. Next week sees us dive into Thunderball. The second to last Connery movie in the Fleming chronology, this one is bound to be an interesting read even before we get to the book itself and the movie. I’ll see you guys next week.
Book Rankings: From Russia With Love, Diamonds Are Forever, Goldfinger, Quantum of Solace, Moonraker, Casino Royale, For Your Eyes Only, From A View To A Kill, Dr. No, Live and Let Die.
Movies Rankings: Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Dr. No, Quantum of Solace, Diamonds Are Forever,Live and Let Die,Moonraker, A View To A Kill
Up Next: Thunderball