Forget about fan service

Quantum of Solace is determined to strike its own path

Anyone hoping Daniel Craig’s delivery of the iconic “Bond James Bond” introduction at the end of Casino Royale signalled the return of the classic Bond think again. When Royale rebooted the series it ushered in a far grittier world than the high glamour and occasional camp of the 20 films that preceded it and Quantum of Solace is firmly rooted in this new world.

Picking up precisely where Royale left off Quantum opens with a frenetic car chase through crowded streets and the action rarely pauses. Sometimes this urge to keep things moving detracts from the movie — both the car chase and a subsequent rooftop rundown take the fast-cutting shaky-cam school of editing to incomprehensible extremes — but on the whole the integration of plot and character development with action is well handled. Story developments occur rapidly often with little explanation leaving both Bond and the audience in the dark as to why things are happening. All is eventually explained but be warned: unlike most Bond films Quantum is truly a sequel not just a new instalment meaning Casino Royale is required viewing if you hope to make sense of the proceedings.

Craig continues to put his own stamp on Bond and it’s already enough to make you forget Pierce Brosnan ever existed. Craig’s Bond is ruthless by nature; when action is required he operates without hesitation and with little concern for consequences. He also exudes sexuality in a way that none of the other Bonds have managed — he’s not so much a seducer as an elemental force. Despite both these traits he’s also emotionally invested — espionage is more than just a game to him and as Royale proved he’s perfectly able to be hurt. This vulnerability is wonderfully balanced by Judy Dench’s take on M Bond’s boss and surrogate mother. Dench is wry charming and exceedingly professional everything the previous Bonds were and everything Craig’s Bond can’t afford to be. Their scenes together keep the film aloft no matter how weighty things get and things do get mighty grim. A quantum after all is the smallest unit possible — there’s not much solace to be found here.

Aside from the grittier portrayal the most significant change the Royale reboot brought was an unwillingness to cater to fan expectations just for the sake of tradition. There will likely be many longtime Bond fans bemoaning the continuing absence of Moneypenny and Q the general lack of high-tech gadgetry and the new Bond’s perpetually dour mood. It’s true that Quantum isn’t a Bond film in the typical sense but that’s precisely what makes it work. The series has been streamlined the fat of 20 previous instalments has been trimmed and the result is thoroughly engaging.