Put me down as a major fan of the James Bond reboot that started with 2006’s Casino Royale — the Bourne-ification of the series, if you will. The new film, Quantum of Solace, owes even more to the Jason Bourne series than the previous one, and you’ll get no complaints from me.
Gone are the invisible cars, jet packs and watches that double as machine guns. Gone, too, are villains with dastardly plans to cut the world in half from outer space with a laser or wipe out the planet’s human population with a virus. The new villains are in it simply for the money, and Bond battles them using simply his brawn and his wits.
Daniel Craig’s Bond is by far the most physical of the series… you can feel the punches he lands, and even more so the punches landed on him. And he’s the first who really drives home what it means to have a license to kill. Watching Bond stare coolly into the distance while pinning down an adversary until he bleeds to death, you grasp how truly dangerous he is. But at the same time, Craig is the most vulnerable Bond, because the arc of the first two films makes him the victim of a doomed love affair that wounds him more than any bullet or knife.
It’s wonderful to see Craig tackle this character as an acting challenge… a challenge both physical and emotional. The earlier films increasingly turned Bond into a cliche — one part action hero, one part debonair lover, one part stand-up comedian. The new Bond does love women, and he does slip in a joke or two, but he’s entirely a man of action driven to complete his mission by any means necessary.
The mission in Quantum of Solace is ostensibly about bringing down an evil businessman intent on buying up half of Bolivia for mysterious reasons. But Bond’s true mission is to avenge the death of Vesper Lynd (played beautifully by Eve Green in Casino Royale). The Bond-Vesper relationship lifted Royale to another level, one that’s missing here, but the memory of that pairing does work to sell Bond’s ferocious despair.
Gorgeous Olga Kurylenko plays a Bond girl with a revenge plot of her own and Gemma Arterton plays Strawberry Fields, a more traditional Bond girl who falls into bed with Bond about 15 minutes after meeting him. Jeffrey Wright returns as Felix Leiter, and I look forward to him playing an increasingly large role in this series. Most appreciated is the expanded role of Judi Dench’s M., and the mother-son, um, bond, she shares with Bond.
Quantum of Solace doesn’t have the revelatory impact of Casino Royale, but it establishes beyond a doubt that the producers are doing the right thing with this series. I look forward to watching Daniel Craig in this role for years.