Just as Nolan jettisoned the suave playboy for the obsessive dark knight, Forster has opted for a humorless Bond. Quantum of Solace is a retooled Bond movie, its conventions altered to depict a world of shifting global politics that serves as a tableau for a crackling, violent tale of revenge and obsession.
Bringing in Dan Bradley from the latter Bourne films as second unit director smartly updates the action, granting a more lethal kind of cinema than its predecessors. And Quantum of Solace puts you straight into the thick of things, literally in mid-car chase, with harsh edits and tight camera work.
You have scarcely recovered from the adrenaline rush before Bond is giving chase to a double agent who has taken a shot at his boss (Judi Dench as M) and is escaping through (and over) the streets of some picturesque Italian city. It's breathless, frightening stuff. You can be pretty sure of the outcome, but somehow the direction lends Bond, bounding along like a jungle cat, a paradoxical vulnerability, as if he could be killed in the first 20 minutes of the film.
Quantum of Solace could be described as an unruly outgrowth of its prequel-and not simply with the violence an octave higher and Bond wound a turn tighter. Immediately following the events of the previous movie, Quantum of Solace (unfairly) depends on your powers of recollection to make sense of some major plot lines. James is still raw from the death of Vesper Lynd, the previous Bond girl, for whom he had momentarily hung up his cufflinks and quit the agency; and revenge for her death is the ugly undercurrent running beneath his almost psychotic pursuit of the secretive cabal, Quantum, that had blackmailed her.
Yet the slickness and glamour-still a feature in Casino Royale-are all but left behind here. This isn't a Bond who seems at home in a tuxedo.
In our modern, cynical age, the labyrinthine plotting and clandestine politicking of the global players seems perfectly ridiculous, yet somewhat plausible. Dominic Greene, the Bond villain with the maniacal look (Mathieu Amalric has said he fused the smile of Tony Blair with the craziness of Nicolas Sarkozy), pretends to be an environmentalist CEO but orchestrates a coup in Bolivia for a former military dictator at the behest of Quantum and with the approval of CIA. It is an age of compromised principles and unscrupulous pragmatism, which finds Bond's Britain floundering amidst the sea change in global power dynamics.
There will undoubtedly be complaints that Bond is no longer the camp and amusing agent of old. Even the requisite Bond girl, the hard-edged Camille (played by the sultry Olga Kurylenko), no longer plays the paramour, but is a confidante Bond can identify with over their respective vendettas of revenge. Maybe Daniel Craig's Bond will mellow after his grieving (the action disguises how much the character has evolved in the space of the past two films), but for now, and after a score of Bond films, this ambiguous yet earnest Bond is a perfect fit.
Quantum of Solace
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench
2008. PG-13 106 mins.