More than any movie this year, even more than The Dark Knight, I had high expectations for Quantum of Solace. Casino Royale blew me away and I wanted more of that Bond. I got it, expect that the Vodka Martini I got was neither shaken nor stirred, and somehow they forgot the lemon peel. Minor spoilers ahead. Very minor!
The movie picks up right after Casino Royale, and Bond is out for blood after the betrayal and death of his beloved Vesper Lynd. It seems that a mysterious organization that no one, including M or the Foreign Minister, has ever heard of was responsible. Sporting an appropriately mysterious yet hedge-fund like sounding name of Quantum, the organization seems to have people 'everywhere.' From there, we are taken in rapid succession from Siena to London to Port-au- Prince to Vienna, all in the short time frame of 15 minutes - not withstanding the Alicia Keys & Jack White duet.
Quantum of Solace is pretty much about Bond's pursuit of Dominic Greene, played to slimy perfection by Mathieu Amalric, to find out who and what Quantum is. In his attempts to get to Greene, Bond comes across Gemma Arterton's Strawberryfields who came and went rather quickly to the impossibly tanned yet hot Olga Kurylenko, who had a much meatier role to play than the throwaway roles she has been playing in Max Payne and The Hitman.
Other regulars return, from the memorable Judi Dench as the unimpressed M to Jeffrey Wright's doing one of the better renditions of Felix Leiter. Also making a return is the classic Walther PPK, for those of us who care about such things.
Like most Bond movies of yore, we are treated to exotic locations, beautiful women, international intrigue, dastardly villains and awesome action scenes. Unlike Bond movies of yore, we don't get to see the Bond seen through the barrel of a gun - you know the one where he is walking and suddenly turns around to shoot and blood comes down - until the very end, we don't get to hear him say Bond, James Bond, or see him order THE drink (although director Marc Forster had someone do it in a clever way), we also don't get to see any major gadgets other than a few obvious product placements. In case you are looking for Q of any kind, he just doesn't show up in this more brutal, grounded in today's world of James Bond.
The action scenes are brutal, crushing and all of the bad guys that cross Bond end up getting killed (that is why we go to Bond movies isn't it?) - which turns into a running joke with M who implores him not to kill off the leads. The car chase that suddenly opens the movie, like a lot of the actions scenes are replete with fast cuts, jarring camera pans and extreme close ups of Daniel Craig's craggy face, generally left me confused who was shooting at whom and who was getting their butts kicked. Maybe I am getting old and for a fleeting moment, I thought I was watching Jason Bourne and not James Bond; that is until I got yet another extreme close up of Daniel Craig's face on the big movie screen.
Since Quantum of Solace is a chase movie, the action scenes are pretty well strung together and the plot keeps moving forward; however the whole movie is propelled forward by the sheer personality and presence of Daniel Craig, which is a fortunate thing. While they are few and far between, while they are the more quiet moments, I keep wanting more of the Bond and M encounters, Bond and Camille, Bond and Mathis (an old friend of sorts) because it is in these quiet moments that we are treated to insights about what motivates Bond and what he is going through after the apparent betrayal by Lynd.
Quantum of Solace is also the second act of a trilogy, so the tone is appropriately dark and ends with a cliff hanger of sorts. Does Bond learn about what Quantum really is? Did Lynd really betray him or was there another reason or motive? Not all questions are answered in Quantum of Solace.
I liked Quantum of Solace - sort of. It could have been a better movie plot-wise, character-wise, everything-wise. There is a dept to the Bond character that was hinted at in Casino Royale, yet Quantum of Solace failed to explore that side of Bond. As it is, it is an action packed movie, not necessarily a bad thing but it could have been more.
This is a must-watch movie for Bond aficionados as well as for action movie fans. You won't regret it, but you will most likely walk out of the theater feeling that it could have been better.