An official sequel to 2006s Casino Royale, the new James Bond film picks up an hour or so after the conclusion of that film, with 007 (once again played by Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) interrogating the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), who was kneecapped by the British agent at the end of Royale. White reveals to the Brits that the organization which blackmailed and was responsible for the death of Bonds lover, Vesper Lind (Eva Green), is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined, operating unbeknownst to MI6 and the CIA and casually quipping that they have people everywhere.
When one of those people proves to be a member of MI6, Bonds investigation and quest for revenge goes global, where he crosses paths with a Bolivian agent named Camille (Olga Kurylenko) with a revenge agenda of her own, and an environmentalist named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Another member of the secret organization White belongs to, Bond uncovers that Greene is conspiring to take total control of a major Bolivian natural resource while forging a deal with an exiled General (Joaquin Cosio) to overthrow that countrys government.
Casino Royale worked as well as it did because it had a great cast, a solid screenplay and a director (Martin Campbell) that understood that it was character and story development that drove the movie, not just stunts or pyrotechnics (although there were plenty of both of those). The level of professionalism on display in Royale brought the spy franchise back from the dead (thank you, Die Another Day) and in the process set it apart from the past, promising to take things in a new, exciting direction (having the white-hot Eva Green in the film didnt hurt either).
Unfortunately, the oddly titled Quantum of Solace didnt have Royales director back calling the shots. There are many filmmakers working in film today that might have been able to make Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis screenplay work (after one or two more script polishes). But Marc Forster, director of art house fare Finding Neverland and Monsters Ball, is not one of them.
The producers of this film may have felt that Forsters ability to work well with actors and extract genuine emotions out of the plot and characters would make him an ideal substitute for Campbell, who turned down the chance to direct. To his credit, the Swiss filmmaker does find the emotional strength in the films quieter scenes and does a fine job directing his cast. But when it comes to the action elements of the production, the man is creatively in way over his head. As shot by Roberto Schaefer and edited by Matt Cheese and Richard Pearson, the action scenes remind one more of the Jason Bourne series than it does a Bond film. This attempt to keep Bond modern and relevant fits the series about as well as a tuxedo that is three sizes too small.
Take the pre-credit car chase, or the sequence set during a performance of the opera Tosca. Both probably looked great on paper, and in the right hands could have been set pieces worthy of Fleming. Yet both are hindered by Forsters inability to properly pace the scenes, making it nearly impossible to figure out who is chasing or shooting at whom. Remember the Madagascar chase that opens Casino Royale or the ski chase from On Her Majestys Secret Service? They had a nice flow to them and you could actually make out what was going on. Action in a Bond film should be exhilarating and fun. The action in Quantum of Solace isnt thrilling nor is it fun; its borderline grim and headache-inducing.
Craig excels once again as Bond, nicely conveying the agents loss and quest for revenge without turning 007 into a well-dressed, manic-depressive terminator. After only two films, its quite clear that this is the true heir apparent to the 007 throne of Sean Connery. French actor Almaric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) makes for an ideal, unsettling villain, while Kurylenko makes for a decent sidekick for Bond without coming off as your typical Bond bimbo (that dubious honor goes to the very cute but underused Gemma Arterton). Dench, Jeffrey Wright (as CIA agent Felix Leiter) and Giancarlo Giannini (as former operative Mathis) make the best out of their all-too brief role reprisals from the last entry.
Quantum of Solace is a passable, if minor, entry in the Bond cannon. While it is by no means a bad film, one cant help but feel that it is a major step down in quality given what came before it two years ago. The next time our favorite British agent returns (as the credits promise he will), hopefully he will be more Bond, James Bond and less Bourne, Jason Bourne.