Without question, the last Bond flick was better. Though Casino Royale may not have been a perfect film, it easily ranks in the top three of the 21 movies from this 45-year-old cinematic series. Daniel Craig’s debut (as Bond, James Bond) opened with an unexpectedly brutal splash in which 007 earns his license to kill, ending with the familiar graphic of the spy firing into the scope, unleashing a tide of bathing blood. The rest of the film followed this schematic: introducing the new, vividly intense model while exploiting all the essential, familiar iconography: exotic tuxedo locales, red-herring expendable women, gadgetry, and fine gourmet dining.
Bur Quantum of Solace, though often gorgeous and sometimes quite subtle, is less likely to make anyone’s top 10 list. It begins with that most annoying of all contemporary action-film developments: a chase scene in the attention deficit disorder-paced style of films like The Bourne Supremacy and Transformers. Elliptical highlights of events replace actual narrative sweep, and two-second cuts actually begin to feel epic in length. This particular gratuitous chase abruptly becomes the movie’s title sequence. The audience was audibly puzzled, as the dazzle sets up a mood in which you may feel like the story is rushing over you.
The biggest mistakes are made by new director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland), a middlebrow auteur who made this sequel arty for its own sake. Forster plays with sound design, and offers double exposures and event-anticipating crosscuts, such as a gunfight played against the tragic scenes of the opera Tosca. Buffs will catch tricky references to Goldfinger, but in-jokes and camera processes don’t naturally improve the Bond we’ve known for all these crazy years.
All the same, I liked Quantum of Solace. Craig remains chief inheritor from the young Sean Connery, who didn’t always get great plots and directors either (think Diamonds Are Forever). This film pits political cynicism against rogue revenge and, in the end, it’s his superiors who decide that the personal trumps the expedient. Bond looks at M triumphant, but it’s the fans who need assurance now. “I never left,” he says. We’ll see.