The evolution of James Bond into the suave super-spy we all know continues, and the studio is taking no chances with their secret agent reboot by building on their already-successful foundation.
Picking up almost exactly where Casino Royale left off, James Bond (Daniel Craig) brings in Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to learn more about the secret criminal organization responsible for Vesper’s death. After discovering even deeper betrayals than previously thought, Bond’s investigation leads him to Mr. Greene (Mathieu Amalric) through a thwarted assassination attempt on Greene’s girlfriend, Camille (Olga Kurylenko). When circumstances put Bond both at odds with M (Judi Dench) and the CIA, Bond does what Bond does best: follow through to the very end.
The reboot of the 007 franchise with 2006’s Casino Royale established a James Bond who had just earned his license to kill but hadn’t yet become the “classic” Bond. With this new installment, the actions sequences seem bigger but the tone is subdued as Bond begins to establish his code of ethics and strengthen M’s trust in his intuition and ability. Fans hoping to meet an Austin Powers-inspired super villain and see Bond armed with Q-Branch gadgetry will still be disappointed, but the evolution of the SPECTRE-like organization behind the villainy is also building, and we now know that “Quantum” is its new name.
There’s a lot to like about this new James Bond because he has reasons for making the decisions he does, and we get to watch him learn to justify those choices. Quantum of Solace features Bond showing his strength of resolve and code of ethics beyond the disposable women and contacts of the “classic” James Bond. Whether he’s comforting a dying friend in their last moments or talking an assassin through their first kill, Daniel Craig has been blessed with writing that raises Bond above “a misogynistic relic of the cold war” to an assassin who can see past the confusing gray political areas to make the live-or-die decision that others cannot.
There’s still plenty of time to introduce a necessary version of Q-Branch in a future film (although Bond has been very good about using mostly-existing technology thus far in his work), and future so-called super villains may have already been cleverly identified in this most recent film. By the time we meet a Goldfinger or a Blofeld kind of character, it should already be well established what kind of power this villain wields long before Bond shares a drink over a monologue about “ruling the world.” While its easy to say that the Bourne spy movie franchise is responsible for the latest incarnation of Bond, no less than a dozen other film franchises that have created realistic replacements for their fantasy characters should receive credit as well.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)