Daniel Craig’s triumphant debut as James Bond in Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006) dragged the series out of a tired rut induced by run-of-the-mill glossy Pierce Brosnan excursions with grittier action and a more emotional 007. Expectations are high for this follow-up, the first sequel in the long-running franchise which starts almost immediately from where the last finished off. Bond is on the hunt for revenge as he seeks to find out why his one true love, Vesper Lynd, died. In doing so director Marc Forster, normally known for capturing drama for the big screen, delivers a surprisingly action-packed movie which brushes aside any gadgets, the dwelling on exotic locales or chatting to minor characters. It may not be the Bond we are used to, and verges on a Licence to Kill (John Glen, 1989) detachment from the super spy many might expect, yet provides another instalment where Craig continues his excellent form.
The first scene in Quantum of Solace sets up the relentless pace of the movie. Bond is in his Aston Martin pursued by villains who smash into his car and shoot off his passenger door before he despatches them without a quip to be heard. In his boot is Mr White (Jesper Christensen) who he wants to question over his knowledge of Lynd’s blackmailer. When Mr White reveals he works for a secret organisation who have double agents in even MI6, he escapes thanks to one of them being in the same room as Bond, M and he. We are all used to the pre-credits sequence being a set up for these films, well Quantum of Solace takes the manhunt and runs with it as Bond spends little time getting to know anyone in any of the lush destinations he finds himself in at any moment. Echoing the Jason Bourne series, there is a focus on keeping the audience entertained with chases, shoot outs and fights with only the slightest of plot details inbetween. This is the evidence of how Bond developed into an efficient killing machine, the vengeance he seeks for Lynd’s death driving him on. He barely toys with the girls, our favourite British secret agent is more of a one man army than ever. Some might bemoan the loss of one-liners and lack of even a single “Bond, James Bond” line, however Quantum of Solace proves they aren’t necessarily as essential as everyone might have thought.
This is the evidence of how Bond developed into an efficient killing machine.
Jumping over rooftops, a dog fight and destroying a villain’s headquarters all add up to a thrill ride that is the most expensive Bond movie ever, with just a sprinkling of girls and a very ordinary bad guy in the shape of shady businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric). Gemma Arterton’s brief appearance as Strawberry Fields harks back to Bond girls of the 1960s and references Goldfinger while Olga Kurylenko takes the bigger role of Camille who gets to battle away alongside 007. Dench puts in a weathered M performance as she tries to keep Bond from self-destructing completely as he kills informants before they get a chance to talk or acts without thinking about repercussions. It makes for a far-removed style than we are used to where any idea of the once-obligatory Q scene would be ridiculed for dumbing down a smart action thriller.
None of this means any offence to previous Bonds, Quantum of Solace is not trying to dismiss its heritage, the producers just seem keen to take a bold move by freeing Craig from the shackles of what has been holding the series back: failing to try new directions. At its conclusion there is an indication Bond has settled old scores and might start to enjoy his work when it takes him to posh hotels surrounded by beautiful women and maybe throw in a quip or two in the next outing. For now, his mission may not be the most coherent or even have a man intent on global domination threatening the world. What is does have is a fresh verve which will excite and confirms Craig has the potential to drive this character forward rather than spark him back into life before grinding to a halt as many of his predecessors have.