Quantum of Solace (2008)

It can safely be said that I don't really know what I want from James Bond. Having grown up with the jokey, hokey Roger Moore version, I was okay with the slightly less comedic but suaver Pierce Brosnan Bond. I like the new, leaner, meaner Daniel Craig Bond quite a lot, although he may have gone a bit too far over to the dark and brooding side. Can we have a little levity and suavity back, or is it all about exercising that license to kill now?
Quantum of Solace breaks with another Bond tradition -- it's not a standalone film, but an actual sequel to the previous film, Casino Royale (2006), which rebooted the Bond franchise (now on film number 22!) with the rougher, tougher new Bond. Quantum of Solace begins with a pretty nifty car chase -- over swervy mountain roads and through narrow, traffic-choked tunnels -- picking up exactly where the last film left off. Bond is pissed off, believing that he has been betrayed by Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved, for whom he is also grieving, since she recently met an untimely end. Bond's MI6 boss M (Judi Dench) is worried that 007 might be too motivated by revenge to do his job with objectivity, whatever that means in this context. When the bodies start piling up like cord wood, she worries even more. It's a bit amusing that she continues to express surprise and outrage at Bond's homicidal tendencies, given how consistently he finds it necessary and/or convenient to kill people.
The title, which means, I suppose, something like "measure of comfort," but is meant to sound more gadgety and high tech -- because you wouldn't want Bond just settling down by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa and The Carpenters Greatest Hits would you? -- says very little about the plot of the movie, but does imply that this is a revenge story more than anything else. There is a multinational syndicate of evil called Quantum, and there's a villain named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is plotting to overthrow the government of Bolivia in order to plunder its precious resources. He's cleverly disguised as an eco-philanthropist, so it's very handy that his name is Greene. He's in cahoots with General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio), the murderous would-be beneficiary of the incipient Bolivian coup. The Bond girl (there's always a Bond girl -- or two, as the case may be) is Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who, for her own vengeful reasons, wants Medrano dead, which means she's involved with Greene and, eventually, with Bond. The other Bond girl here is a cutie pie named Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), who serves as the sexual plaything du jour, since 007 and Camille are not particularly lusty for each other, but are rather consumed with their mutual and interconnected lust for revenge. The new Bond has mostly replaced sex with violence, which is definitely a break with the old Bond, who always found time for both in his busy schedule.
The plot is fairly complicated (and never quite explains exactly who those Quantum folks are or exactly what they're up to), and has Bond hopping from Italy to Spain to Haiti to London to Bolivia to Russia. Racking up the frequent flier miles seems to be the primary activity of movie spies these days. MI6 should look into developing an eco-friendly hybrid personal aircraft that serves as its own flotation device. They'll want to avoid hydrogen fuel cells, since
Quantum of Solace pretty much confirms that said fuel cells are highly flammable and extremely likely to blow up when James Bond is around. 007 tangos once again with Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), and with CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), both from the previous movie. Quantum of Solace also features skeevy, amoral Americans, and (of all things) Canadian spies. I suppose they have spies in Canada, although they are woefully neglected in the world of movie spydom. At any rate, the Canadian spy is extremely polite, which is to be expected.
There are vehicular chases of all kinds in
Quantum of Solace -- on land, sea, and air, by foot, by car and motorbike, by motorbike *onto* boats, and through walls of flame and showers of bullets. Vehicular-jacking and mayhem aside, gadget-wise, this is a fairly disappointing Bond, with nothing new to report on the spy tech front. Director Marc Forster has taken a page from the Paul Greengrass book on *Bourne*, and filled Quantum of Solace with pretty much continuous, fast-paced action and lots of brutal combat, and with a quick, relentless, and cat-like 007 leaping across rooftops and padding nimbly along ledges. Indeed, 007 now has more in common with the robotically combative yet brooding Jason Bourne than with prior iterations of Bond. He's clever, but not very witty, and rather short on charm. Craig's Bond is more coarse than cool, but also more soulful than suave -- a more emotionally complex 007 is a good thing, although Quantum of Solace is a grim and mirthless bit of business that pretty much starts and ends with grief and rage. That quantum of solace is a tiny measure indeed. Which is just to say that Bond could lighten up a little, to distinguish himself from the rest of the new millennium spy pack, which is pretty much all-brooding, all the time.