Directed by Marc Forster
"Quantum of Solace" sees Daniel Craig return to the limelight as the unrefined, hard-hitting brute of a Bond chiseled in Martin Campbell's 'Casino Royale,' the on-screen adaptation of Ian Fleming's tale of 007's ascension to secret agent status.
Quantum of Solace picks up right where its predecessor left off 's it quite literally starts in fifth gear, with Bond hurling his Aston Martin at breakneck speed through a mountainside tunnel under a hail of semi-automatic gunfire.
The action seizes your attention from the very outset, but also points it immediately at one of the film's weakest points 's the directing of the sequences themselves. Marc Forster 's director of "Monster's Ball," "Stranger than Fiction" and "The Kite Runner" 's was selected to direct the 22nd Bond installment some time ago, but he makes a rather odd choice for the role.
Forster certainly has a few notches on his belt, but as his acclaim stems from powerful plots, deep characters and emotional performances, you'd be forgiven for wondering what on earth he's doing at the helm of a Bond film.
"Quantum of Solace" features a rather elaborate plot, one which not only sees 007 sent around the world discreetly engaging in his usual espionage-turn-bloodbath routine, but also has our cold-hearted protagonist confronts the death of Vesper, his lover from Casino Royale.
It's possible that Forster's direction was intended to instill some emotional depth in Craig's icy performance, but his talents seem somewhat squandered here. His ability to conjure deep performances is diluted by efforts to adeptly inject and direct the ever-essential action scenes.
A few minutes in and you already get the impression that he hasn't quite got a handle on it. The opening car chase is cut with such frenzy that anyone seated in the first 10 rows will be lucky to recall anything more tangible than a screaming blur of speeding cars, gunfire and explosions.
After a two minute recession into dialogue the adrenalin kicks in once more, but is again impaired, this time by the unnecessary use of CGI animation. Despite Bond's revamped physical presence he's not a Marvel Superhero (yet), and the inclusion of tastelessly exaggerated CGI stunts only erodes the allure of 007's fallibility.
But enough quibbling, "Quantum of Solace" may be 'damaged goods' (as Bond himself is dubbed in the film), but as is the case with our beloved secret agent the virtues definitely outweigh the vices.
The first of these virtues is Craig's exceptional characterization of the young and rough-cut Bond, who fortunately doesn't develop anything more than a hint of a sensitive side and remains more like a ruthless mercenary than the suave secret agent stylized by Sean Connery all those years ago. Bond's darker side adds a much-needed extra dimension to a very formulaic franchise, and provides scope for character development instead of simply preserving the 'shaken, not stirred' status-quo.
What sets "Quantum of Solace" apart from stock-standard Bond films is that 007 undergoes an emotional journey. Granted, it's not a particularly expressive one, but you definitely get the impression that something profound is taking place behind Bond's steely-eyed visage as he contemplates love, attachment and loss in the perilous world of the secret service.
Through his trials and tribulations, the origins of the hedonistic but ultimately detached nature of the mature Bond is unveiled, as the secret agent comes to the realization that his line of work is incompatible with normal human emotions.
The younger and brasher Bond also allows for more playful interaction among the cast. The disparity between 007's crudely efficient methods and the meticulous work ethic demanded by M, his boss at MI6, forms a particularly entertaining subplot. M is superbly played by Dame Judi Dench, and her constant squabbling with Bond over his inability to stop killing suspects adds a very fitting comedic element to the proceedings.
The plot itself sits on the vaguer side of things and feels like it could have been made tighter, but when it boils down to it, the storyline is only there as a vehicle to propel Bond's self-development (and, of course, the action). That's not to say it isn't digestible, there just seem to be a few gaps and jumps in the proceedings which may leave you scratching your head a little 's especially if your memory of the last film isn't crash hot.
While this might leave some audiences feeling a wee bit unsatisfied, the real spectacle here is Craig's performance as an ethically perplexed Bond who finds himself inadvertently weighing national duty against the moral duty of exacting revenge.
Now showing Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia