Quantum of Solace
Really, this is the villain? I’m about as scared as Rosie O’Donnell is of cupcakes.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/14/2008 (USA)
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric, Jeffrey Wright, Gemma Arterton

Just to be upfront about things, I wasn’t a big fan of Daniel Craig’s first foray into the Bond franchise, “Casino Royale” (PowerSurgeon was kinder to it in his review than I would have been). I thought it had very little flow, went on way too long and strayed too far from the trademarks a James Bond film should have. That being said, I like Craig in the role and the physicality/sociopathy that he has injected into the character.

I was hoping that Bond 2.0, “Quantum of Solace”, would see a more streamlined story (it is the shortest Bond film ever at 106 minutes long) and a return to some of the corny, but necessary, elements that make the franchise what it is. No matter what, 007 should introduce himself one time as “Bond, James Bond”. No matter what, he should order a “vodka martini … shaken, not stirred”. And no matter what, the villain or one his/her henchmen should be some larger than life character that will leave an impression large enough to be remembered (Dr. No, Goldfinger, Scaramanga, Odd Job, Jaws).

Well, with “Quantum of Solace”, all of those classic touches are missing and that’s just the beginning of my list of problems (there are a few Bond films that don’t use some of these elements but not to such a glaring degree).

First off, there’s the script which, aside from leaving out key Bond signatures, meanders from action scene to action scene without much connection between them. There’s no visible thought process behind Bond’s movements, he simply just takes the clue and heads off to the next shooting location. Sure, it’s a worldwide manhunt which keeps the pacing at a brisk pace … but maybe if there was some evidence of a plan, the story wouldn’t feel so empty.

Then there’s the issue that this is a sequel to “Casino Royale”. (If you haven’t seen it, be forewarned that this paragraph contains SPOILERS.) Throughout “Quantum”, Bond is forced to realize that he’s on a revenge quest for what happened to Vesper last time out. Instead of it playing out like a sociopath whose heart has been broken, watching Bond trample from here to there and beat up bad guys is more like seeing a sleepwalking badass going through the motions. I will reiterate that I like Craig in this role but the passion and fire that should have been on-screen was instead just anger and insomnia (the story’s way of saying he’s being haunted by Vesper’s demise).

The action is good at times, Craig’s willingness to go full speed into every obstacle is impressive. How he didn’t break every bone in his body during the shoot is a testament to his work ethic and the expertise of the stunt team. However, director Marc Forster manages to lessen each scene’s impact by choosing poor camera shots and techniques to properly display what’s on the table. From the opening car chase (which is a waste of the Aston Martin), Forster keeps the camera zoomed in at maximum, apparently trying to emulate Paul Greengrass but failing miserably. The opening scene reminded me more of “Eagle Eye’s” pathetic car chase than “The Bourne Supremecy’s” far more effective jaunt through crowded Russian streets.

The hand to hand stuff is decent enough because of Craig and the actors but here again, Forster doesn’t allow for enough wider coverage to showcase their abilities. It all plays out like each action sequence was filmed in 87 parts and then edited together for maximum MTV playability.

Now, there are a few good elements to the film. Judi Dench’s role as M, the head of MI-6, continues to evolve with Craig’s insertion into the franchise. As the Brosnan era continued, it became far too much like a disapproving mother and son. With this new, more psychologically-unsteady Bond, Dench has had the chance to create a leader with far more layers than before.

Also, I will give this film’s Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, credit for providing a decent performance. Too often of late, the love interest for Bond has been nearly a waste of space and even within a sub-standard script, Kurylenko makes the best of it (which isn’t saying it’s fantastic … just better that I expected).

One last thing to mention, because this is a Bond film (sort of), is the opening song – this time done by Jack White and Alicia Keyes. (Amy Winehouse had been selected originally but if you read the tabloids, you know why she was dropped.) As the first guitar riffs echo from the speakers, evoking a 70s rock vibe, I was hopeful this would be a return to more classic Bond themes. Then Keyes chimes in about 2 keys (pun unintended) too high and while the graphics were decently done, I was hoping for an audio problem in the theater to save my eardrums. She’s a good singer but I blame the producers of the song for not realizing how grating it is from start to finish. Trust me, this is no “Goldfinger”, which is still the high-water mark of Bond songs.

The bottom line is this: Are you a James Bond fan? If so, I don’t see how this film will make you happy. The Craig reboot of the franchise is leading farther and farther away from what a Bond film should be and instead becoming just another spy franchise. If they want to make those movies, fine. Just don’t call it Bond.

That issue aside, the film needed to beef up the script, get a different director and opt for a new opening song. Only because of my enjoyment of Craig’s brutal physicality and Dench’s more textured involvement am I giving “Quantum of Solace” a 2 out of 5. If you really want a Bond film, pick just about anything else in the canon (no later than “Goldeneye”) and count yourself lucky you didn’t plunk down $96 dollars to hit the theaters for this one. It’s a bit of a mess.