The movie's success, both financially and critically, set a very high bar for this second film, "Quantum of Solace". To add to the risk, the producers chose to do something never attempted before in a Bond film; making it an actual sequel, as it picks up minutes after "Casino Royale" left off, with Bond in his Aston-Martin fleeing the bullets of pursuing henchmen through the streets of an Italian villa.
In the trunk Bond has placed the mysterious Mr. White, captured at the end of "Casino Royale" for his involvement in the blackmail and robbery scheme that caused the betrayal and death of his beloved Vesper Lynd.
The plot-line of "Quantum of Solace" is simultaneously complex and simple. Complex in the form of a confusing shadowy organization that Bond is pursuing, evidently headed by Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, Louis from "Munich"). Another in the long recent line of ruthless businessmen bad guys employed in Bond films, Greene's nationality, alliances, and motives are extremely murky. He's trying to control things; but what? He's a truly evil murderer, but still has a sense of "chivalry" towards a wayward compatriot named Camille, played by the latest hot Bond girl Olga Kurylenko ("Hitman", "Max Payne").
While the plot, written by Neal Purvis and the Oscar winning writer of "Crash", Paul Haggis, may be hard to follow, Bond's motivations and methods are not. Plain and simple; Bond wants to bring down anyone and everyone that was involved with Vesper's death, and his bulldog tenacity brings him into conflict with not only the bad guys, but also the CIA and his own MI-6. "M" (once again magnificently portrayed by Dame Judi Dench), feels that she cannot trust Bond to act out of duty instead of revenge, and throughout most of the movie, that question is in the audience's mind as well, as Craig does an excellent job in showing the ambiguity and the not-so-well-hidden rage during his quest.
In fact, the performance of Craig once again shows that he is beyond any doubt the best James Bond since Sean Connery. But it would have been nice if he had been able to show some of the charm, wit, and humor that he was able to sneak into "Casino Royale". It is sadly missing here, and for that I blame the writers and director Marc Forster. Perhaps it can't be helped due to the limitations of the sequel. With Bond hellbent on vengeance, the lighter side of Bond might have seen out of place.
What does work in Craig's interaction with the two leading ladies...and I am not referring to "the other Bond Girl", Gemma Arterton, who only exists to show that Bond can still get any beautiful young woman to jump right into bed with him...usually with bad repercussions later on. No, I'm talking about something totally unexpected with his dealings with both "M" and with Camille.
Judi Dench was a wonderful choice when the producers decided to make "M" a woman in Pierce Brosnan's first foray into the tuxedo with 1995's "GoldenEye", and it was a perfect decision to keep her on once Craig took over. "Casino Royale" set up the new direction they've decided to go, with "M" being not only a boss and mentor, but a pseudo parental figure. "Quantum of Solace" takes it much further, as you can readily see the growing respect and admiration "M" has for Bond, along with Bond's protective efforts on behalf of her.
With Camille, they have also created a totally unique Bond Girl. Camille is very much in the mold of Halle Berry's Jinx from "Die Another Day"; skilled in combat, intelligent, and driven, along with the obligatory drop-dead gorgeous. Unlike Jinx, though, Camille is also obviously psychologically scarred to go with the physical scars on her back. She is driven by vengeance against a Bolivian general working with Dominic Greene, as the general was responsible for the murder of the rest of her family. She becomes a very willing and almost equal partner to Bond as they try to solve the mystery that they hope will lead to the payoff they desire. There is also another first when it comes to this Bond girl as well. I won't spoil it here, but if you are a fan of Bond, you'll know it at the end of the film.
Due to all of the limitations placed upon it by the sequel, "Quantum of Solace" is not as good of a movie as "Casino Royale". It can't be, as it just expounds upon the tale, restricted by its own set of rules. On the other hand, it isn't a bad movie, by far, and the action sequences that I loved in "Casino Royale" are even better here.
I find myself rolling my eyes at some critics who seem to miss not having the foolishness that was seen during the Roger Moore years. Those days of Bond almost becoming a spoof of itself are (hopefully) long gone, and never to be seen again. Later in the evening after watching "Quantum of Solace", I was flipping through channels and ran across the last 30 minutes of "Die Another Day". And while I'll admit to enjoying that film at the time, it just seems so...stupid...now. The aforementioned invisible car driving through the Ice palace that's being melted by the aforementioned Laser Beam From Space. The pursuit by the lead henchman with bits of diamonds permanently buried in his face. The final battles on the jet with the Korean general's son who had himself surgically transformed to a Caucasian. The god-awful puns. The unrealistic fights and stunts.
This is much better. And don't believe some of the critics when they say it's become too much like Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. Bond is still Bond. "Casino Royale" showed how he started, and now "Quantum of Solace" shows how he got through this first crisis to become the super-spy we all know and love. And with Craig and Dench anchoring the franchise, I cannot wait for the next chapter in the series.
My Rating - Frank Ryan (3 footballs)
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