Some will watch Quantum of Solace and proclaim that the James Bond the world grew up with is dead. He of the glib one-liners and infinite martinis (shaken, not stirred) has been replaced by a being resembling a British version of the Terminator. There's next to nothing funny or tongue-in-cheek about the Bond of Quantum of Solace, and as such, the film might leave a few viewers feeling understandably alienated. Those like myself, however, will dig this offbeat step in the action icon's evolution, especially since the film itself is an engaging ride that trounces some of the original Bond outings by leaps and bounds.
As the picture begins, Bond (Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for the scoundrels behind his lady love's betrayal at the end of Casino Royale. His quest for vengeance leads to a complex criminal organization, whose members and activities are a mystery even to Bond's superiors. But they won't stay a secret for very long, as Bond is hot on the case, quickly connecting the syndicate to an environmental group run by the unsavory Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Bond also ends up crossing paths with Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a South American femme fatale with her own agenda that she needs Greene to fulfill. But the closer 007 gets to uncovering Greene's evil scheme, the more ruthless he becomes in his quest, overwhelmed by a growing rage he must keep in check before Her Majesty's government decides to rein him in.
2006's Casino Royale was designed to re-introduce James Bond to moviegoers, and the results couldn't have been better. Daniel Craig's Bond was a different sort of beast, a leaner and meaner man of action just getting used to his 00 status. But he still has quite a way to go before settling into his surroundings, and it's this that people should keep in mind whilst watching Quantum of Solace.
There's still no Q, Moneypenny has yet to put in an appearance, and Greene's devious plot is relatively minor compared to previous Bond villains' jabs at world domination. But Bond can't go from cold-hearted killer to pun-spewing secret agent overnight. Thus, Quantum of Solace emerges as the first true sequel of the 007 franchise, continuing a story in progress instead of starting anew with another adventure. Long-time series fans may be left feeling a little cold by this approach, as their hero is fueled more by his duty to the mission than by the latest black tie affair. But I always liked it when Bond movies got down to brass tacks, putting the superspy's promiscuity and ghastly wisecracks on the back burner in order to get to the action at hand.
However, I'll be the first to admit that in comparison to the juggernaut of sheer coolness that was Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace is a bit too buttoned-up for its own good. Its game face is almost too stubborn, allowing the bare minimum of escapist entertainment into the story. The action sequences are a little underwhelming, with an alright airplane chase as the highlight. Such scenes get the job done in grabbing one's attention, but this being a Bond film, you'd hope for something a bit more elaborate and ever so goofy than a mere car chase or two. Still, what Quantum of Solace lacks in inventive action it makes up for in the sheer badassery Craig's performance lends to 007. While not entirely humorless, Craig does a great job of exploring Bond's darker side, lightly taking viewers to the brink of Bond totally losing it and making the journey all the more compelling. Kurylenko comes across as a Bond Girl who serves as eye candy as much as she does a pivotal role in the plot, and Amalric makes for a subtle but sinister villain, a little untraditional but still effective enough.
Sure, Quantum of Solace is pretty serious as Bond flicks go. But considering where the series has gone when the silliness has been left to its own devices (Moonraker, anyone?), using a straight-laced attitude to keep matters grounded isn't entirely unwarranted. In any case, Quantum of Solace is a perfectly serviceable action flick the doesn't completely forget its roots. Bond isn't dead, folks; he's just getting warmed up.