So shoot me. I left the action rush of this follow-up to the terrific 2006 Casino Royale feeling bummed out by James Bond. Well, not by the Bond of Daniel Craig — he's still one nasty-ass dude, with the kind of rough-edged style that the 007 franchise hasn't seen since the glory days of Sean Connery. But the character fun seems to have gone out the window in Quantum of Solace, a fancy-shmancy title (the only thing borrowed from Ian Fleming's short story) for a movie that pours crude oil all over the subtle pleasures and sexy beats that came before.
The new movie picks up a few minutes after the last one. Big car chase (all together now: eww!) as Bond, barely recovered from the death of his lady love Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), burns rubber all over Italy with the wiggling body of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) in the trunk of his Aston Martin. Cut to Mr. White's interrogation by M (Judi Dench), who finds herself surrounded by traitorous MI6 agents now working for Quantum, an agency bent on (what else?) world domination. So it's Bond on the march, killing everything that moves.
I know, it sounds juicy, but it isn't. Things go on the fritz early — even the new theme song, "Another Way to Die," sung by Jack White and Alicia Keys, sucks. Bond seems to have come down with a serious case of Jason Bourne penis envy, leaping across rooftops from Bolivia to Haiti like a jug-eared Matt Damon.
Put the blame on Marc Forster, a sensitive filmmaker (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland) who has no experience as an action director and appears to be seriously overcompensating. In Casino Royale, Martin Campbell — a real action man — stopped to savor the distractions in the script co-written by Crash Oscar winner Paul Haggis. Remember the poker game and the sexual teasing in that train scene with Craig's Bond and Green's Vesper trying to guess each other's past histories? Haggis is back, but the mischief is gone. There's a flicker of interest when redhead Gemma Arterton shows up as Fields, an MI6 agent not averse to bonding with Bond, but she's soon gone like the ghost of good times past.
Instead, we get pouty Ukrainian model Olga Kurylenko as Camille, perhaps the dullest Bond girl ever. Camille treats 007 like he has an STD, but she screws the villainous Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, bugging the eyes he only blinked in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) to get to Bolivian general Medrano (JoaquÃƒ?Ã‚Ân Cosio), who did evil perversities to her and her family.
It could have been a hell of a revenge tale about two people, Bond and Camille, who know you kill most effectively when you don't take it personally but who can't help taking it personally. That story is written all over Craig's haunted face. But Quantum of Solace won't trust its own darker instincts. It delivers the popcorn goods, but it ignores the poison eating at Bond's insides. Killer mistake.