QUANTUM OF SOLACE

Daniel Craig returns as England’s toughest spy in Quantum of Solace, and he’s taking no prisoners. In fact, M even tells him at one point that they might find out more information if he didn’t insist on “killing every lead we have.”

I grew up on Sean Connery as James Bond, and I liked them best when it was Bond the Secret Agent rather than Bond the Gadget Guy. Roger Moore had his run, as did Timothy Dalton’s rather limited engagement. For a while, I really enjoyed Pierce Brosnan as 007. Golden Eye was spectacular.

But Craig has brought that old hard-as-nails secret agent back that Connery brought to life. I have to admit, Connery had more of the devil-may-care flair and wowed the ladies more believably, and I have to say that he seemed just as deadly.

Craig is like a sledgehammer, though, and I think that makes him the perfect Bond who’s just starting out at MI-6. This revisionist history, with a nod to Ian Fleming’s original stories, is fantastic. I know there are a lot of fans out there that are probably bemoaning the loss of Q and all the gadgets, but take a look at all the computer tech that’s constantly on-screen.

I wanted to halt the command center sequences just so I could look at the sets and all the possibilities. I loved the touch-screen tabletop operations (and, people, that is going to be coming to a restaurant near you not too far in the future) and thought about how cool it would be to work at something like that. But I digress.

The movie opens with manic action as Bond is pursued by a team of heavy hitters through the hills of Italy. The twisting mountain roads and the desperate maneuvers through traffic really put an edge on the seat and I found it. The action was a little hard to follow, though, and I got lost in all of it more than once, but I was Bond. I’m forgiving where 007 is concerned.

Quantum of Solace also ties directly into Casino Royale. Not much story time has elapsed since that last movie, only an hour. Bond still burns to kill the people responsible for Vesper’s death, and his cold rage is like a tidal wave that pulled me along into his current mission. However, that barely made up for the thin plot that the action sequences hung on.

Judi Dench has never been better as the tight-lipped M. She had more screen time this movie, and she put it to good use. I love the relationship that’s developing between Bond and M, and the throwaway remark 007 makes that M thinks of herself as his mother is very telling. This is great stuff.

The Bond girls in this one were glamorous but not out of reach as so many of them have been. Olga Kurylenko provides a great look and a thirst for vengeance that’s a match for Bond’s own as Camille Montes. Gemma Arterton plays British agent Strawberry Fields (though her name is only given as Fields in the movie). Gemma had such screen presence that she is almost wasted in the rapid-fire backlash of the accelerating script, which is another area where a true plot in the film might have helped. I truly hope she gets another chance at a Bond film or something with equitable exposure on an international scale. She exudes innocence and independence all at the same time.

The villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), continues the new trend of having everyday villains instead of strangely warped ones. This is a big difference in the movies, but I’m all right with it so far. However, 007’s final fight with Greene at the end of the movie seems overwrought given that Bond has taken on multiple attackers at once earlier in the film. I had trouble believing that 007 would have trouble with one guy after riding roughshod over so many. However, the action was intense and there was a lot of emotion on another front.

Jeffrey Wright returns as Felix Leiter, and his budding camaraderie with Bond continues. Again, this is another relationship that’s fun to watch develop.

Marc Forster makes the most of his direction and the countries he was allowed to shoot in. Gorgeous countryside and old cities speed across the screen, all carefully orchestrated to ratchet up the tension. Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade concocted a killer plot that’s kind of believable (Bond films really haven’t been so much in the past) and filled with references to the world we all live in regarding natural resources and what’s currently dividing the world.

The film is sleek as a bullet and shot through with action sequences (most of them literally!). The frenetic pacing threw me off at times because the switchbacks simply came too suddenly and I couldn’t stay up with the plotlines. Conflicts rose and fell, M was constantly caught in the middle of things, and James was playing his own game and changing it after every rock he turned over.

Nope, a real international spy would be loath to blow up as many things as 007 does, and definitely wouldn’t have the body count, but this is espionage fantasy at its finest. Leave the critic at home, grab a big bag of popcorn, and settle in for one of the most action-packed 007 films of your life. You’ll leave with a smile on your face and an impulse to drop a heavy foot on the accelerator!