When Daniel Craig
was announced as the next 007, the collective groan from the Ian Fleming faithful was almost loud enough to drown out the uniform shrug of the post-modern moviegoer. Where once he was the mightiest of Cold War icons, Britain's own James Bond has been marginalized by a combination of contemporary moviemaking and PC social posturing. Every few years, producers retrofit the franchise to match the perceived interest level of the ever-shrinking demo. After the excellent reboot in Casino Royale
, Craig's second stint as the celebrated secret agent, Quantum of Solace, is as confusing as its title.
While still on the hunt for the people responsible for the death of his gal pal Vesper (this installment picks up mere minutes after the end of Royale), James Bond (Craig) discovers a plot by energy tycoon Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric
) to corner the market on the world's most precious natural resource. It is part of a much bigger scheme by Quantum, a notorious criminal syndicate, to influence events in the world. They include the overthrow of the current Bolivian government, the installation of former military dictator General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio
) there, and a continued stranglehold on world intelligence. Under the suspicious eye of MI6 director M (Judi Dench
), Bond sets out to uncover the plot, determine the purpose of Quantum, and get revenge. He is helped by a young Russian girl named Camille (Olga Kurylenko
). She has her own personal motives for getting even with these villainous bad men. Article continues below
It's finally happened. After coming close to catching the disease several times since Jason Bourne redefined the spy thriller, James Bond has finally succumbed to "AASS" -- ADD-inspired Action Sequence Syndrome. It's not the deadliest of cinematic diseases, but it can often be the most annoying. Quantum of Solace is so jam-packed with stuntwork, shootouts, and standoffs that the conspiracy-oriented plot can barely get a word in edgewise. Everything Bond does is followed by some battle or another. He gets a message at his hotel desk. He chases the bad guys. He prepares to bed a babe. He fends off unwanted assailants. M gives him yet another in a series of grand dame dressing downs. He whips out his trusty sidearm and starts firing (at oncoming criminals, that is, not his boss). This is one secret agent who can't just drive down the street and stop for a bite. Instead, he must avoid helicopters, rogue hitmen, and some equally lethal femme fatales just to get a sandwich.
Elsewhere, Marc Forster
(Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland) proves that he's not the directorial jack of all trades he pretends to be. The aforementioned action sequences run the gamut from quite effective to visually incomprehensible. At least Bourne's Paul Greengrass made no bones about shaking his camera all the way to Hell and back. Here, Forster sets his lens to "vibrate" and then allows his editing to make things even more incomprehensible. For every scene that works, two test our visual equilibrium. This may be the first Bond film forged with the small screen in mind. Several of the compositions look home theater-ready, not designed for the cineplex.
And who ever thought we'd miss narrative in a 007 story? Craig is so good as the no nonsense spy with an almost superhuman ability to anticipate and derail danger that failing to give him some downtime destroys the thrills. Like too much of a tasty meal, we grow bloated while waiting for a break in the smash-bang buffet. And Mathieu Greene is an excellent villain -- suave, seductive, and scary. With open ended elements clearly saved for yet another continuation of this narrative, Quantum of Solace feels like the middle act of a much larger cinematic statement. Let's hope the next section is tighter and less hyper than this storyline space holder.