Just like last time, this one is easy because the short story “Quantum of Solace” has absolutely nothing to do with the film adaptation aside from the title. The plots have no intersection, no similarities, and the only character who appears in both is James Bond himself. Let’s take a quick look at how they stack up, shall we?
The Book Version
Reading the story, it’s easy to see why “Quantum of Solace” has been adapted to film in name only. There’s no action at all. No espionage to be carried out, no shots to be fired. Instead, Bond attends a dinner party as a polite gesture before he can return home following a mission. The dinner party nearly bored him to tears and now he must continue to make nice with the Governor by staying for drinks afterward. The Governor tells him the story of an unhappy marriage to get across his theory that any relationship can survive so long as the participants maintain even a small degree of compassion or respect for each other (as he would say, every relationship requires at least ‘a quantum of solace’ in order to continue). Once that is gone, all that is left is bitter anger and resentment.
Not to suggest that a Bond story can’t be “talky,” but there doesn’t seem to be much point to this story. If Fleming had taken the opportunity of a dialogue-heavy short to explore the questions of morality 007 frequently flirts at without actually exploring, that would have made sense. Instead we have a relationship saga whose only purpose seems to be to teach Bond a lesson about being quick to judge the people he meets–that dismissing a person as boring discounts the whole swaths of that person’s life you know nothing about.
No, a dialogue-heavy Bond story could definitely be made to work. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.
The Movie Version
The Daniel Craig Bond movies ushered in a new era of continuity in the franchise. Traditionally, continuity was treated like something to be avoided at all costs. Quantum of Solace changed all that by deciding to pick up where Casino Royale left off. I suspect producers decided to use the title “Quantum of Solace” to pick up on the thread about how a relationship can only survive so long as the participants hold onto a sliver of compassion for each other (it also has the moody tone of depression they seemed to be going for). With the betrayal of Vesper Lynd at the end of Casino Royale, Bond was left furious. She was the first woman to get under his armor and she played him for a fool. The quantum of solace, it seems, was lost. And now she’s dead, having refused his attempt to save her, so he can’t even get any resolution on the matter. Well, except to hunt down the mysterious organization behind her betrayal (conveniently named Quantum, although it later gets retconned into being a front for SPECTRE). Along the way, Bond meets and teams up with Camille, a woman who has her own mission of revenge to pursue with Quantum.
Unfortunately, Quantum of Solace is so self-serious and determined to be depressing that it can’t help but be one of the all-time worst Bond movies. There are also some serious plot holes (outlined in this full rundown of the movie).
Which is Better?
Oof. Both are a hot mess. The story is talky and out of left field. It doesn’t really feel like a James Bond adventure at all, namely because there is no adventure. I suppose that gives the edge to the movie, except I would never really recommend the movie at all. It takes itself far too seriously and is determined to be depressing. Like poking a bruise. Honestly, I’d just skip this one completely and move onto the next.
For more, check out my Bond page–which has movie recaps and best-ofs. Up next, we’ll compare the film and book of Thunderball.