Quantum Of Solace (2008)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 11/14/08
Director: Marc Forster
Music: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Gemma Arterton

The first true sequel in the James Bond canon, "Quantum Of Solace" picks up right where "Casino Royale" (2006) left off and continues to follow the same thread. James Bond (Daniel Craig) is blinded by grief and rage over Vesper and viciously tracks down any leads to the organization involved in her death. New information takes him to Haiti, where he runs into another vendetta driven person in the form of Camille (gorgeous Olga Kurylenko). It seems that a megalomaniac named Dominic Greene (creepy Mathieu Amalric) is buying up precious natural resources in South America and sparking global political unrest, and he is a key player in both Bond's and Camille's agendas. Plot-wise, there's very little going on here as the film focuses more on the characters and the heart pounding action scenarios they get themselves into.

First and foremost, the action scenes are exciting and well staged, but nearly ruined by some of the worst editing I've seen in recent years. It's extremely frustrating to watch because you know something cool is happening, but the jerky camera work and choppy editing make it impossible to see what's going on and make any sense of it. From what I could tell, the fight choreography is quite good, but again, the bad editing spoils the effect. The film also opens with a very nice (but again, poorly edited) car chase that evokes memories of the equally bad editing in "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004). I can only fantasize about how cool this would have been in the hands of someone who cared about the outcome. But let's not dwell on things that most people don't seem to care about, or even notice.

With "Casino Royale" effectively reinventing the series, "Quantum Of Solace" seems like an even further departure from what the franchise once was. There's really nothing "Bond" about it, apart from a couple of winks here and there. Daniel Craig continues to impress and seems much more comfortable in the role this time. He's dark, brooding, and hard as stone, which makes the scenes where he shows tenderness and compassion all the more moving. Olga Kurylenko also continues to impress, and is easily the best Bond Girl since Michelle Yeoh in "Tomorrow Never Dies" (1997). She's fierce, feisty, and beautiful, and as deadly as she is vulnerable. She also seems like an amalgam of all the best Bond Girls that preceded her (Michelle Yeoh, Carole Bouquet, Barbara Bach, Daniela Bianchi, and Claudine Auger come to mind). Her action scenes are wonderful and she handles herself with grace and conviction. She is riveting and effortlessly steals every scene that she's in.

The film has top-notch production values and is shot in some beautiful locations. Definitely a lot of bang for the buck. One review I read referred to the film as "travel porn." David Arnold's music score is serviceable, but the truly awful theme song by Jack White and Alicia Keys is reminiscent of Madonna's equally terrible contribution to "Die Another Day" (2002). The opening credits evoke memories of past Bond films, but are visually and emotionally uninteresting. Nitpicking aside, "Quantum Of Solace" is an excellent action film, but much like "Casino Royale" it's not really a James Bond film. Ultimately, where does Agent 007 fit in today's cultural, political, and entertainment landscapes, and is he even relevant anymore?