Daniel Craig remains a compelling James Bond in Quantum of Solace, the 22nd entry in the series, but the film’s simplistic script leaves him less to work with than in Casino Royale.
Bond waffles between brooding and furious, but the character’s motivation comes from the events of the previous film. The result is a more action-oriented movie: essentially, a drawn-out conclusion to Casino.
The Daniel Craig reboot has attempted to establish a more down-to-earth, masculine and modern Bond after the series slid increasingly into camp. To that end, Quantum of Solace relies on the quick-cutting editing style and handheld camera shots made popular by movies like the Bourne trilogy.
Unfortunately, this proves to be more of a liability than an asset, particularly in the incoherent opening car chase and an early footrace. One of the givens in any James Bond movie is Bond’s invincibility, and as usual Bond spends solid minutes on screen bombarded with machine-gun fire. However, the editing and camera work suggest that Bond only narrowly escapes each skirmish.
This “realistic” action style requires heavy suspension of disbelief and noticeably clashes with Craig’s more grounded portrayal of Bond. Unlike in Casino Royale, where Bond fights viciously but usually only has to deal with one or a few opponents, here he is back to engaging airplanes, boats, cars and scores of enemies.
Each actor portraying Bond has brought certain qualities to the role (Sean Connery sweated; Roger Moore perspired; Pierce Brosnan glowed-Craig sweats profusely), but the one-liners, gadgets, cars, womanizing and martinis give all the films a common language.
In Quantum of Solace, Bond drinks as many beers as martinis, drives a Ford hydrogen fuel cell car as much as his Aston Martin and perhaps strangest of all, beds only one of the two Bond girls. Hardcore fans will balk at these changes, and in this instance, they may be right. While Casino Royale tempered the excesses of the series and attempted to root out some of its anachronisms, Quantum offers a vision of Bond with little to distinguish him from other generic, pissed-off action heroes.
Still, the film is buoyed by strong performances from Craig, Judi Dench as M and the two Bond girls, played by Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton. Those looking for an action fix will likely leave the theater pleased, as the film concludes well with several excellent action set pieces. But the series itself remains in limbo-the next film may resume where Casino Royale left off or continue in the cynical, violent vein of Quantum of Solace.