Spoilers : Really, all of the big Bond fans have seen the film already, but if you want to be surprised, don’t read this.
The original Ian Fleming short story, Quantum of Solace took place at the Governor of the Bahama’s home. Bond was disgusted at having dinner with what he saw as uninteresting rich people who had no appreciation for what went on in the world. After the guests leave, the governor tells Bond a story about a husband and wife: the wife has an affair, leading the husband to have a nervous breakdown. The husband is reassigned to more government work over seas. The wife ends the affair, and when her husband returns, he divorces her, abandoning her in the Bahamas without money or a means of support. Bond then learns that the wife was one of the rich people he had dined with that evening, having gained wealth through a new marriage. The term “quantum of solace”, meaning “smallest measure of comfort” was used by Fleming to refer to the smallest thread that holds some marriages together, after the love and passion has been depleted, and referred to the married couple in the governor’s story.
Like most Bond films borrowing titles from Fleming’s work, the plot has nothing to do with the written work.
Bond has captured Mr. White, and is preparing to interrogate him with M. They learn to their horror that White works for an international organization (which we later learn is called “Quantum”), that no one seems to know nothing about. As White puts it “we have people everywhere”; and Bond soon learns this is absolutely the truth: everywhere!
The rest of the film deals with Bond trying to learn the nature of this mysterious organization that is up to no good …. in addition to them being behind the death of his lovely Vespa in the previous film. Thus, while he attempts to keep things above board, the appearance is that Bond is out for revenge. The British government wants him reigned in, and so does the CIA …..
Bond learns that a Dominic Greene, who operates a company that buys up land for nature reserves, is deep into Quantum’s activities, and that he is getting ready to mastermind the overthrow of Bolivia’s government in return for a large swath of desert land in the nation from the military junta they are backing. Why would Quantum want worthless desert land? Yet another mystery.
As he investigates, he seemingly rescues the beautiful Camille Montes, an employee of Greene’s, only to learn that she has another agenda separate from that of Quantum.
In the end, Bond gets the answers he wants, Montes succeeds in her plans ….. but Quantum seems to still be in business.
I have withheld plot points because it is a dense plot ….. it would be too easy to write a lengthy 4 page plot summary, and I’m not even sure I would have all of the plot points correct. There are no really “light” points in the film. However, it should never be confused as a simple revenge film. That aspect of the film which has been played in the media, in my opinion, has been overplayed. Bond is more often than not doing his job, and put into tough situations where he needs to survive vs. let an potential suspect live.
As for what “quantum of solace” means in this film? I would suspect that it refers to the measure of comfort one gets from accomplishing something, especially when that something can be painful or ethically murky. It is what keeps you going in those situations; such as the work of a government assassin, or someone who has been brutally wronged.