As Quantum of Solace makes abundantly clear, this isn’t your father’s — or grandfather’s — James Bond. Rather, new 007 Daniel Craig, in his second stanza, is not only a blond Bond, but a bleak Bond, in terms of being a fierce, ruthlessly efficient and dispassionate killing machine.
Having had his heart broken in Casino Royale, a more steely and stoic Bond is back to seek vengeance for his betrayal and his beloved’s death, while also penetrating a murky scheme by evildoers to control the world’s water supply. (Are they going to intercept raindrops, too?) And in doing so, he exercises his license to kill as if it’s open season on all baddies and borderline baddies, prompting boss M (Judi Dench) to quip darkly that if he’d find some way not to kill everyone in sight but to bring someone back alive for questioning “it would be greatly appreciated.”
Now, don’t get me wrong: This action adventure has amazing fight scenes which are blazingly executed (“executed” often being the word). But too often it feels like a pitiless array of chase-and-destroy segments, with no humor, romance, engaging drama or any other quality beyond Bond’s uncanny ability to withstand severe injury while inflicting immeasurable damage not only to his foes, but to every vehicle and building in sight. Indeed, in the name of his duty to Her Majesty, Bond inflicts a royal amount of devastation.
Still, for this sort of thing it’s as good as it gets, while pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating with its vicious violence. But “this sort of thing” seems more limited this time, as if the producers disregarded characterization and nuance and balance and just said, “To hell with it — let’s blow stuff up!”
Impressive? Yes. Enjoyable? Well, that depends on you. I found scant solace in Quantum of Solace, just a reminder that Daniel Craig is by far the toughest Bond ever, for what it’s worth. And in today’s desperate world, that’s probably quite a lot.