Despite clocking it at around half an hour shorter than any of the recent Bond films, Quantum of Solace actually proves one of the most exhausting to view, feeling like a single protracted action sequence in which the adrenaline never really lets up. The downside is that neither the story nor characters are given a chance to breathe. Given the scant fragments of the former that is perhaps not an issue, but the latter leaves this film an underwhelming experience.
Picking up shortly after the end of Casino Royale, Bond [Daniel Craig] and M [Judi Dench] interrogate Mr. White, revealing an organisation called Quantum who blackmailed Vesper. Still motivated by revenge for her betrayal and death, Bond cuts a swathe of destruction as he hunts down Dominic Greene [Mathieu Amalric] who is buying up land to control the most important natural resources. Meanwhile Bond meets Camille [Olga Kurylenko], a woman with her own vendetta and a useful ally as a rogue Bond must keep ahead of the CIA, terrorists and even MI6.
It is telling that the film opens on car chase already in progress, but perhaps its style is moreso. The action direction leaves much to be desired, featuring a lot of lazily edited quick cuts that serve to confuse the viewer rather than let them enjoy the events. I thought we were beyond that. Some is clearly borrowed from Bourne, but adequately reproduced such as a lift escape scene. The noteworthy exception is a fight through a glass ceiling onto scaffolding which is expertly choreographed with a great tracking shot as they fall. This moment of brilliance ends up standing out since it is sadly not repeated.
Such is perhaps the trouble with a franchise that replaces its director each film. By contrast the cast, returning and new, are all impressive. Craig’s Bond will continue to delight all those who enjoyed him in Casino Royale, effortlessly cool with suppressed rage while his tense chemistry with M remains as compelling as ever. Unfortunately what arguably made the last film so compelling was character development in Bond, but since it had the entire arc, there was really none left. Olga Kurylenko does well in providing another strong Bond girl and could have filled this gap had she been given the time to do so. Meanwhile the villains felt surprisingly flat this time round. Real perhaps, but decidedly uninteresting.
One emerges with the sense this is the middle instalment of a trilogy — the plot already set up and largely action heavy — although those involved refuse to comment. The truth is that the relentless pacing actually fits the plot rather well, with Bond on a rampage of revenge while everyone else is after him. The problem is that the result is just not very Bond. There is more to a Bond film than simply action, and in failing to deliver that, Quantum feels untrue to the franchise in a way that Casino Royale, while a reboot in style and tone, never did.