Soundtrack Review: Quantum of Solace

Composed by: David Arnold

Conducted by: Nicholas Dodd

 

Following the successfully realistic take on James Bond in Casino Royale, Ian Craig found himself the star of a rejuvenated series. Quantum of Solace serves as a second half to Bond’s origin story and continues the grittier style of its predecessor. It’s possibly my least favorite film in the series, enslaved by modern action film conventions, the worst being the shaky cam which makes the action scenes unwatchable. The plot and the villains are uninspiring as well. There’s little to no memorability to the whole film.

 

Scoring Bond for the fifth time, David Arnold faced a similar obstacle when once again, as with Die Another Day, the title song was created without any input from him. “Another Way to Die” is a duet by Alicia Keys and Jack White. It’s a so-so song, and I personally don’t find it as horrible as nearly everyone else seems to believe. Unlike Madonna’s song from Die Another Day, there is at least some melody, but it features some un-Bondish wailing and voices that come across as a tad whiny at times. That being said, David Arnold does use pieces of it in his score, most notably towards the end of “Greene and Camille”, and the brief, but sexy “Field Trip”. However, while using bits of the song, Arnold also has his own six-note main theme (derived from the opening of a proposed song he made with none other than Shirley Bassey), a short piece introduced towards the end of “Time to Get Out”. As a result, his score has plenty of themes, but is not quite cohesive.

Most of the new themes are on the short and simple side, which does make them easy to insert. The main six-note theme is heard most clearly in “Talamone” and the beginning of “I Never Left”. Camille, the female lead, gets a simplistic ethnic woodwind motif. The theme for Quantum, the new evil organization which in a later film would be revealed as a wing of Spectre, has a mysterious quality. Its best appearance is “A Night at the Opera”, which can get a bit ethereal at times. It’s the best piece of score from one of the film’s few good scenes. There are several other motifs, but I won’t go into detail on them.

The James Bond theme is referenced frequently, but curiously never really gets an all-out playing. Perhaps David Arnold was pleased with how restrained he was with Casino Royale. One or two more full-on versions would have been welcome. Vesper’s theme actually returns for several tracks, once again on piano in “What’s Keeping You Awake” and “Camille’s Story”, and on strings in “Forgive Yourself”.

The action cues are competent, but none of them really reach the heights of Casino Royale’s “African Rundown” or “Miami International”. They also seem to get weaker as the album continues. The pre-title opener, “Time to Get Out”, is the strongest. It features an ominous build-up which enters into James Bond’s theme and a short action motif. The end is a statement of the six-note theme and a calm rendition of Bond’s theme.

“The Palio” is another exciting track and climaxes with the action motif from “Time to Get Out”. “Pursuit at Port au Prince” has the most electronics of the action cues, although the first half is mainly low underscore. It has a pretty cool ending where no less than three of the themes play one after another. “Target Terminated” has only one highlight, a bombastic version of the Quantum theme. Just like the finale it accompanies, “Perla De Las Dunas” is a major disappointment, featuring generic action bombast, though the second half with Camille’s dark woodwind theme and a few triumphant bars of the James Bond theme is pretty neat.

Quantum of Solace is a very solid score, but not as entertaining as Arnold’s other work in the series. The James Bond theme is a little underused and the only new theme that’s really strong is Quantum’s. David Arnold’s scores seem to do better when he’s able to work on the title song (or in Tomorrow Never Dies’ case, the end credits). Overall, it’s a good, competent score hampered by a paucity of full-fledged themes.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

Tracklisting

  1. Time to Get Out (3:28)
  2. The Palio (4:59)
  3. Inside Man (0:38)
  4. Bond in Haiti (0:35)
  5. Somebody Wants to Kill You (2:17)
  6. Greene and Camille (2 :13)
  7. Pursuit at Port Au Prince (5:58)
  8. No Interest in Dominic Greene (2:44)
  9. Night at the Opera (3:02)
  10. Restrict Bond’s Movements (1:31)
  11. Talamone (0:34)
  12. What’s Keeping You Awake (1:40)
  13. Bolivian Taxi Ride (0:49)
  14. Field Trip (0:41)
  15. Forgive Yourself (2:26)
  16. DC3 (1:15)
  17. Target Terminated (3:53)
  18. Camille’s Story (3:58)
  19. Oil Fields (2:29)
  20. Have You Ever Killed Someone? (1:32)
  21. Perla De Las Dunas (8:07)
  22. The Dead Don’t Care About Vengeance (1:14)
  23. I Never Left (0:41)
  24. Another Way to Die (sung by Alicia Keyes & Jack White) (4:23)
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