The first scene of "Quantum of Solace" consists of a high-speed car chase. Autos careening down the highway as their occupants exchange gunfire. We see that Bond (Daniel Craig) is driving one of the vehicles. However, we don’t know who is in the other cars, nor the motivations of the parties. As the vignette proceeds, we can’t even follow which car Bond occupies or the spatial relationship of the vehicles. It’s an action packed scene, but one which proves frustrating to watch.
This prologue is followed by the opening credits, which lack the visual panache of prior Bond films. Worse yet is the opening song, “Another Way to Die,” a cacophonous rendition by Alicia Keys and Jack White. It is the first duet in the history of the franchise and certainly its weakest ever.
This is the first time that the storyline of a Bond film follows directly from its prior installment rather than function as a stand alone entity. The viewer must remember that in “Casino Royale,” Bond’s lady love, Vesper (Eva Green), had been murdered. Much of Bond’s motivation in “Quantum of Solace,” stems from his appetite for revenge. However, it is often difficult to understand how Bond’s actions in this film relate to her murder.
In an early interrogation scene we learn a secret organization, Quantum, has accrued significant international power. Inexplicably, MI6’s head honcha, M (Judi Dench), knows nothing about it. She’s even unaware that her assistant of many years is a double agent, who is working in concert with Quantum. Another chase scene ensues with Bond hoofing after M’s perfidious underling. Once again, the scene is visually titillating, but it’s hard to divine what is transpiring.
The film then shifts to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. There, we meet Dominic Greene (bug-eyed Roman Polanski doppelganger, Mathieu Amalric), a leader of Quantum. He’s assumed a cover as a concerned environmentalist and philanthropist. In reality, this Machiavellian figure is forever scheming how to make more money. He resorts to unscrupulous methods. However, unlike prior Bond villains, Greene’s ambitions are far less grandiose than world domination.
Bond travels to Haiti, where he commences a problematic relationship with a comely Bolivian woman, Camille (Olga Kurylenko). Since Camille is supposed to Latin, Kurylenko is covered with makeup, which renders her complexion dusky. The film tries to rationalize her character’s incongruous Russian accent as resulting from the fact that her mother had hailed from that part of the world.
Daniel Craig is easily the best Bond since Sean Connery established the iconic screen character. He evidences a steely resolve and convincing physicality. Both qualities had been egregiously missing from the portrayals by Connery’s successors. Unfortunately, Craig’s efforts are subverted by mediocre direction, a muddled screenplay and horrible editing.
Marc Forster is a curious choice to helm a big budget action film. Previously, he has directed art house faves, “Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland,” and most recently, “The Kite Runner.” Forster is particularly ill-suited to the genre, since the screenplay, co-written by Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”), tilts far more heavily towards non-stop action than any prior Bond film. There is no breathing space for character development, which is Forster’s forte.
The editing by Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson favors the dizzying, hyperkinetic style, which was used in the “Bourne” trilogy. As a result, “Quantum of Solace” is more a jumbled litany of eye-popping stunts than a quintessential Bond film.