Casino Royale's reboot of the Bond franchise was a task simultaneously simple and complex. Eon had many of the elements needed already in place, including a Bond in Daniel Craig who, despite initial resistance, had received both critical acclaim and universal acceptance. However, with a polished and revitalised franchise starting on the highest of highs, maintaining that level of success in Quantum Of Solace was still to be a tall order.
Quantum Of Solace picks up literally moments after the end of Casino Royale, with MI6 agent James Bond (Craig) racing through the streets of Italy with Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), a member of criminal organisation Quantum, captive in the boot of his car. Still dealing with the death of Vesper Lynd, the love he lost during the events of Casino Royale, Bond is soon on the trail of another key member of Quantum, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), whom the secret agent suspects is involved in corrupt international deals.
Since the film's release in 2008, it seems to have become fashionable to bash Quantum Of Solace as a weak and inherently "bad" entry into the Bond franchise. This could not be further from the truth. Whilst I concede that film has its flaws, there is certainly a lot here to like.
Craig's return to the role of 007 is confident and assured, bringing an even greater intensity to the role than that seen during his first outing. If Casino Royale allowed Craig to take hold of the character, Quantum Of Solace sees him making Bond his own. The returning supporting characters of M (Judi Dench), Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) and Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) all bring reliable quality through their casting, littering Quantum with enjoyable performances. Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes is excellent, although her character feels as though she dips in and out of the plot a little too haphazardly at times. Amalric as Dominic Greene again puts in a strong performance, although his Bond villain admittedly lacks the subtle theatricality or unsettling nature of Casino Royale baddie Le Chiffre.
The plot is an area which many seem to have a problem with, but to me it's probably one of Quantum's biggest strengths. It's cerebral and complex, but not much more intricate than that seen in the preceding installment of the franchise. The goings-on within the criminal world here may lack the flair of a high stakes poker game, but the story does have some superb highlights, including Bond crashing a Quantum conference call in an unexpectedly dramatic locale.
The main thing that lets Quantum Of Solace down is its shortfall in one area implicit to the Bond franchise: a sense of humour. By and large this is a humourless affair with Craig brooding and scowling through much of the run-time; this gives the action sequences a pleasing feel of grittiness and intensity, but can leave other parts of the film feeling somewhat dour. Where the jocular 007 spirit does make a rare appearance, it's incredibly refreshing, but also serves to highlight how straight-faced the vast majority of the film is.
Quantum Of Solace never manages to reach the heights of Casino Royale, a film it is destined to be compared to for ever more. But neither does it deserve the harsh criticism that it seems to receive more and more, especially following the release of succeeding Bond film Skyfall. Quantum Of Solace is in its own right an excellent action espionage film, and whilst it might not be the comprehensive success that Daniel Craig's first time donning the tuxedo is recognised as being, it is undoubtedly a worthwhile and well-made entry into the Bond franchise.