A rejuvenated James Bond is back for his 22nd feature film: Quantum of Solace. Building upon the blocks laid down in 2006’s Casino Royale, this movie further “evolves” the Bond experience — presenting itself strictly as a kick-ass, take no prisoners action movie, leaving in the dust the nuances that set 007 apart from being a Jason Bourne replica.
It only takes thirty seconds of viewing to come to that conclusion as Quantum of Solace starts off with an intense car chase through the Italian mountainside. Details and a cool focus on Bond (Daniel Craig) are a distant memory, replaced by frantic, sharp edits pasted together from multiple camera angles. There is so much going on at such a quick clip that if you sneeze, cough or blink you may very well miss the majority of an action sequence. Adrenalin junkies are going to love it though because there is a lot of these sequences (foot chases, car chases, boat chases and airplane chases) put in place of what I believe is a lack of a fully fleshed out, stand-alone premise.
And what I mean by that is there is little attention paid to the characters and their stories (which were staples in the plots of earlier works) — everyone is merely a stepping stone en route to make someone or something explode spectacularly.
The film itself is basically a hyped-up extension of its predecessor — Bond is smarting over the loss of his lady love, Vesper Lynd, and wants to exact revenge against those he feels is responsible for her death (a secret organization known as Quantum). His adventure takes him through various countries in the Carribean and Europe before he finally ends up in Bolivia as he hunts down Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the head of an eco-friendly corporation Greene Planet and a fellow Quantum member. It turns out Greene is involved with securing land rights in the Bolivian desert in exchange for seeing a coup through that would put the exiled General Medrano (Joaquàn Cosio) back in power. Involved with this subplot is Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who wants revenge against the General for the killing her family. Together, Camille and James form an uneasy alliance to see their outcomes met.
Back on point, whereas I would have at least expected to gain a further understanding into these main roles, very little is offered up. Mathieu Amalric brings a fair amount of harshness to the role of Greene but he was lacking a certain flair that would have made him memorable to me. Ms. Kurylenko brings the pain as Camille, popping in and out of the movie when it was convenient to write her in but I couldn’t fathom how or why she was there. Bond is more damaged and Daniel Craig does a good job straddling the line between right and wrong; he just needs to not play the man like a too tightly wound clock — Bond should never lose his refinement. “M” (Judi Dench) is the only character that comes to life on the screen. I noted when she first took on the role of head of MI6, I didn’t think she was a good fit. I take that back now — she finally brands the character as her own, mixing together the perfect amounts of motherly care with hardened decision making.
It’s clear the next Bond flick will continue down this story line (very little is answered in this installment), and while I’m not necessarily against that, I can’t help but want some of the old mainstays to somehow make their way back into the fold. Gone, just like the last film, is “Q”, the head of research and development for MI6 and the lone source for lighthearted and humorous pauses between the life and death struggles Bond found himself in. Gone also is the patent womanizing the Bond of old reveled in. It too was missing last time around but I was certain the casting of Olga Kurylenko was going to fix that. Putting her in as a Bond girl was a brilliant move, but not having her flash some skin or fall for one of Bond’s cheesy hook-up lines is criminal.
All said, I still found the film fun to watch. It was easy to overlook the storytelling blemishes because much of the action it links is some of the more entertaining I’ve seen recently — the stunt coordinators really deserve a round of applause for their work here. As a fan of the series, I’ll end by noting that while Quantum of Solace isn’t the best the franchise has to offer, it’s still a great way to spend $12 and fill 100 minutes of your afternoon. Welcome back, Bond.