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Quantum of Solace

Many Unhappy Returns

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Dear Bond Loyalists,

Please accept our warmest thanks for helping to make Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s rousing debut as legendary secret agent James Bond, one of the most successful additions to the 007 canon. To ensure that Mr. Bond’s latest adventure, Quantum of Solace, will meet the standards you’ve come to expect, we have recruited Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) to direct and Mathieu Amalric, of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, to play soft-spoken eco-terrorist Dominic Greene.

While we regret to inform you that the much-celebrated rejuvenation of the franchise has been put on temporary hold, be assured that Quantum of Solace sparkles with all the wit and heart-pounding excitement of a movie that takes its name from a dated Ian Fleming story about cocktail-party chitchat. Needless to say, we’ve taken into account your preference for a tougher, more serious Bond, and we have replaced Fleming’s whimsical musings on the pros and cons of sleeping with stewardesses (as they were then known) with dialogue better suited to brooding.

For those of you still reeling from the shocking betrayal of our indestructible hero at the end of Casino Royale, we are pleased to report that Quantum of Solace is an honest-to-goodness sequel that finds an anguished 007 coping with the death of his not-so-indestructible beloved, Vesper Lynd. And by anguished, we mean ruthless! Bond has never seemed so thuggishly brutal as he ratchets up the body count coolly, efficiently and without a trace of remorse.

That’s right, Bond is mad as hell, and you will be too as you try to decipher an often incomprehensible story that takes him around the world in a little less than two hours, making Quantum his shortest adventure on record. But fear not. We pay respectful homage to the Bond tradition in a series of clumsily filmed chase scenes (by air, land and sea!) and a genuinely dazzling climax that puts 007’s smoke-inhaling capacity to the ultimate test.

Bond’s mission is serious business, so we’ve all but dispensed with romance this time around, pairing him with a couple of blandly uninteresting beauties played by Olga Kurylenko (Max Payne) and Gemma Arterton, as the cheekily named Strawberry Fields. If anything, Quantum concentrates on 007’s ever more complex relationship with M (Judi Dench), who has never seemed more exasperated as her favorite rogue agent hunts a vast secret society of conspirators that includes some of the world’s most influential power-brokers. (Hint: These aren’t the Skulls.)

Amalric, we’re pleased to say, is slightly more animated as a so-so super-villain than he was as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic in The Diving Bell, giving Craig ample reason to scowl, as he does early and often. Then again, who wouldn’t? Surrounded by colleagues and enemies whose motives seem distressingly murky, and cast under suspicion by his own government, Bond has rarely seen such unpleasantness. And that, 007 fans, is no laughing matter.

See you at the movies regardless,
Your Friends in Her Majesty’s Secret Service