In a more balanced world, we'd all be relatively healthy and no one person would be much more important than the other. However in our world, we craft a few into gods while the rest of us are fat and unfulfilled. There's probably no more modern a wish-fulfillment superman than James Bond, back at his melancholy, bone breaking best in this, his 22nd official movie adventure. Presenting the most emotionally vulnerable Bond since George Lazenby's, Quantum Of Solace balances that human touch with enough synapse-zapping, high-octane action to challenge even teen videogame addicts, and a real-world, breathlessly paced plot that's as hard to hold onto as it is cruelly mundane. This is not bad Bond, but as Fleming's machine slowly morphs into a 21st century model, there are some kinks to work out.
Current Bond Daniel Craig's rugged features are by no means the suave type of handsome we used to associate with the character, but his steely eyes and pouting mouth amplify his take on the character. Vengeance, rectitude, consummate skill and true British resolve drive his Quantum engine. Secretly on the hunt for those who ruined his chances at love, (see Casino Royale) Bond manages to squeeze in a mission to foil a labyrinthine, global plot of eco-extortion so secret the British Secret Service has never heard of it, and so savagely mundane that it's probably already happening today. At the center of it all is oily, bug-eyed Dominic Greene, (Mathieu Alaric) founder of a dubious eco-friendly conglomerate that seems to be snapping up barren tracts of land (that may or may not be potent oil fields) with the tacit help of any number of other governments and quasi-official characters.
These dealings are so intricately constructed they barely hold up under the movie's whirlwind pace. If action is fast and furious, plot-points and bit-players are sprayed out like bullets from an Uzi. This is not for the worst, however, since Greene's secretive scheme ultimately lacks the zing of blowing up the moon or extorting Germany or whatever. What Greene's scheme has is the queasy gut-punch of crass corporate/ governmental reality mixed with a healthy dose of modern fear, and these things have been a hard sell lately, so to dress them up in briefly sketched onion skin layers works - to a point. However, violent, thrilling action sequences breeze by in such a flurry of microsecond edits and shaky camerawork they are at times unreadable. Undeniably breathtaking - with scenes such as a Haitian boat battle - it's frequently impossible to tell what's going on, or even who's been shot. Maybe director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball) feels uncomfortable with all the action, though some quieter moments - such as Bond weightlessly jumping over a railing to scamper briefly on a narrow ledge - are stunning in their smooth simplicity.
Craig comports himself neatly, barely letting on the extent grief may be clouding his vision. That he shows emotion at all as Bond is pretty nifty, but how he plays it so close to the vest not even M (Dame Judi Dench) can tell what's going on is the perfect mark. Dench elevates her role, 'Bond Girl' Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is serviceable and sassy, while bit 'Bond Girl' Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) makes a brief but noticeable impression. Alaric's the curious one. As Greene he seems more a conniving, creepy ex-frat boy up to acing you out for a promotion than a guy eager to rule the world. During a brief speech he turns into Adolph Hitler as filtered through Bret Easton Ellis, he's a reprehensible reptile, wholly convincing but lacking certain gravity necessary to be a great Bond villain.
Quantum Of Solace fails to make the leap from good to great as well. Breathtaking action is so blistering it's mostly illegible - thrilling but blinding. Craig and Dench excel while Alaric oozes, and a rapid-fire plot combining eco-anxiety with layers of malfeasance too complex to unravel all combine to make a Bond film that's ravishing and emotionally subtle, but chock-full of empty calories.
Disc Two packs in almost 90 minutes of extras, of - wait for it - varying value. First is about 25 minutes of vacation-envy inducing Bond On Location, mostly scouting and shooting in Italy and Latin America. Following are five approximately two to three-minute-long featurettes: Start Of Shooting and On Location are self-explanatory and slightly redundant. Olga Kurylenko and the Boat Chase gives the lowdown on the new 'Bond Girl' and what she went through during some dramatic action. Furthermore, Director Marc Forster and The Music feature cast members and Forster talking about his work, and composer David Arnold at work. Crew Files, at over 45 minutes, will appeal to hardcore behind-the-scenes fetishists, as crew member video blogs and other promotional bits reveal the true nitty gritty of working on elaborate action films. Lastly, Closed Captioning and English and Spanish Subtitles round out the extras.