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Nov 08, 2008 at 07:34pm IST

Masand's Verdict: Quantum of Solace

Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric

Director: Marc Forster

Casino Royale may have given the James Bond series a shot in the arm, setting new standards of realism, but watching Quantum of Solace, the new film in the series, how you wish they hadn't drained out all the sexiness and the humour that is so vital to Bond's appeal.

No longer is James Bond a glamorous British spy who devours gorgeous women for breakfast, lunch and dinner; no longer is he the sharp-witted fellow who's got a smart repartee for every occasion.

No, James Bond -- played once again by Daniel Craig -- is a disillusioned killing machine who lost the woman he loved and still has a bunch of important questions left unanswered. He's an emotionally damaged Bond, and while that certainly makes him more real, it also makes him so much less fun. In fact, to put it fairly, that's what's missing from this Bond adventure -- the film's grim tone seems to have taken a lot of the fun out of it.

However, let me not alarm you, when it comes to action and stunts, there's still no one who does it better than Bond. There are hand-to-hand fights in Quantum of Solace that make your eyes water, and old-school stunts involving motorbikes, speedboats, jet planes and expensive cars that will make your jaw drop.

In fact, the film hits the ground running, opening with a frantic car chase along a dusty mountain road, your pulse racing with all the screeching and swerving around oncoming trucks and tractors.

Now the film's plot picks up shortly after the end of Casino Royale when Bond confronted the mysterious Mr White. Quantum of Solace immediately throws him into a round-the-globe hunt; he's trying to track down the murky organization he holds responsible for the death of Vesper, the woman he loved and who died at the end of the last movie.

That hunt leads him to corrupt businessman Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric) who bids to control the water supply of the entire continent of South America and is successfully trying to persuade the powers-that-be that his motive is purely ecological.

By way of Bond girls, there's Ukranian actress Olga Kurylenko who stars as the hard-as-nails vendetta-seeking Camille, a refreshingly different kind of female companion for Bond, even if she comes with a rather limp back-story. The more traditional Bond girl role is filled by British actress Gemma Arterton who plays Agent Fields, and is the recipient of Bond's famous romantic attention in a swanky hotel suite.


But the real tough chick in this film is M, Bond's boss, played impeccably by Judi Dench. Watch her in that scene in which she's preparing her bath as she gives orders to agents around the world to curb Bond's movements -- it's one of those scenes that instantly establishes her unflappable character.

At a running time of 105 minutes, Quantum of Solace is the shortest Bond film yet; and stripped of "Casino Royale's" humor and elegance and old-school stylishness, there's very little left except its plot -- which, let's face it -- is quite silly to say the least.

There are two reasons and two reasons alone this film still makes for an engaging watch. One, that relentless string of high-adrenalin action scenes -- influenced no doubt by the Bourne films -- which keeps you glued to your seat. The other, of course, is Daniel Craig who carries the film with his angry, icily unsentimental performance as Bond. Craig succeeds in making the character his own, even though this film barely gives him any breathing room between those dangerous stunts.

Directed by Marc Forster, Quantum of Solace is a thrilling film, no question about it, but the clever classiness of Casino Royale is clearly missing. Still I'm going with three out of five for Quantum of Solace -- what it does have above all is energy. You won't be bored for a minute.

Rating: 3 / 5

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