- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

You’d do well to rewatch “Casino Royale” before seeing “Quantum of Solace,” Daniel Craig’s second turn as James Bond, because the sequel offers little in the way of recap. Several supporting characters from the first film pop up, and “Quantum” picks up right where “Casino” left off - with Bond taking in Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) for questioning at the hands of M (Judi Dench) and the rest of MI6.

Mr. White reveals the existence of some sort of supersecret organization whose tentacles reach everywhere - including into M’s security detail. After his escape, Bond, M and the rest of the British intelligence community must figure out not only who Mr. White really works for, but also what it is they do and who else works for them.

In other words: everything.

It’s a little too much to fit comfortably into a movie that clocks in at an overly brisk 106 minutes, almost 40 fewer than its predecessor. In “Casino Royale,” we only had to deal with a money launderer and a card game; in “Quantum of Solace,” we uncover a shadowy international cabal intent on controlling the world’s water supply by organizing coups throughout the world.

Which scenario should take more time to tell?

Screenwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have crafted a story that is both complex and underexplored, never a winning combination. Fortunately, the performances are so good that one is willing to overlook the deficiencies in storytelling.

Mr. Craig continues his reinvention of the Bond character; his moodiness and caustic glares are like nothing we’ve ever seen from on-screen versions of Ian Fleming’s superspy. He oozes contempt for his enemies and the women he casts off while maintaining an obvious and burning passion for the one woman he ever loved.

When an old ally buys it in an alley, Bond stays with him until death, then unceremoniously deposits the body in a trash bin. Sentimentality has its limits in his world.

The heart of the Bond series used to be one of simple wish fulfillment - every woman wanted him; every man wanted his Aston Martin. Mr. Craig has changed all that, imbuing Bond with a darker sensibility and a more coherent understanding of his responsibility to himself and his country. The post-Sept. 11 world demands a Bond who takes things a little more seriously, it seems.

Olga Kurylenko plays Bond girl Camille with verve and smarts. Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) stars as Bond’s nemesis, Dominic Greene. Greene uses his philanthropic environmentalism as a cover to scoop up natural resources in the Third World in the hope of turning a massive profit by monopolizing their usage. (Don’t buy the hype that an “environmentalist” is a bad guy in “Quantum of Solace” - unbridled capitalism is still the real villain here.)

Mr. Amalric is an underused actor stateside; between this performance and his turn as the mysterious arms dealer Louis in “Munich,” one is hard-pressed to find a better snooty Continental who possesses a hint of danger. (Though the closing brawl between him and Mr. Craig does strain credulity; superspy vs. smarmy businessman is hardly a fair fight.)

“Quantum of Solace” feels more like a competent second act than a stand-alone film - Bond appears to have the revenge he craves, but larger questions loom with regard to Mr. White and Mr. Greene’s organization. The lack of resolution is a trifle off-putting, but it’s sure to stoke interest in the inevitable sequel.

★★★

TITLE: “Quantum of Solace”

RATING: PG-13 (Intense sequences of violence and action and some sexual content)

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