There goes the reboot. Picking up where its predecessor left off in terms of plot but not skillfulness, Quantum of Solace squanders most of the potential generated by 2006’s Casino Royale, providing a brisk, grim story that might as well have been called Monotony of Tone. Tormented by the death of lover-betrayer Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), 007 (Daniel Craig) goes in search of the culpable criminal organization, an undertaking that M (Judi Dench) fears is driven by revenge but which Bond claims is merely the relevant mission at hand. While Bond’s brutal demeanor implies that his motives are indeed personal, the one-noteness of his brooding fuzzes-up any serious scrutiny of, or emotional interest in, the super-spy, whose impenetrable, leaden grimacing quickly turns him into a bore. Whereas Craig’s previous, superb outing as Bond mixed battering-ram ruthlessness with a necessary measure of that old signature suaveness and charm, here only the former exists, which fits with the character’s grieving disposition yet drains him of the engaging nuance that helped elevate Casino Royale over its Pierce Brosnan-headlined precursors, a situation largely caused by a script that fails to properly dramatize his sorrow in even modestly absorbing ways.
Unsure of how nasty to make Bond (sometimes he murders, sometimes he’s just framed for murder) or, for that matter, even how to provide him with a clearly delineated arc, the film doesn’t so much develop character as simply have its star maintain a granite-stern expression throughout his derring-do. Speaking of which, Quantum of Solace supplies the series’ requisite centerpieces with borderline incompetence thanks to a director, Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland faux-teur Marc Forster, who wouldn’t know how to helm action if Steven Spielberg were standing next to him offering pointers. Save for a rope-hanging scuffle and a shot of Bond flipping a motorcycle with one hand, rarely have Bond’s physical exploits been more blandly envisioned or incoherently shot, with Forster failing to stage his fights and chases with any visual lucidity or thrilling flair and, worse still, regularly lacing them with pretension (such as a silent gunfight scored to Tosca). Consequently, these sequences are of a piece with glowering Bond, his new adversary – a wimpy, featureless businessman (Matthew Amalric) whose underwhelming diabolical scheme is to (gasp!) seize control of Bolivia’s water utilities – and, by extension, the film in general: dispiritingly drab and disposable.