CAUTION: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW FOR QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)
Without a doubt, Quantum Of Solace is usually regarded as everyone's least favorite James Bond film that stars Daniel Craig. While it is not one of this writer's favorite 007 outings, the film does receive more hate than it deserves.
Can anything top Casino Royale?
Again, we have a film that you are going into with HUGE expectations after the critical and financial success of Casino Royale (2006), Daniel Craig's debut as James Bond. We do have a right as Bond fans, non-Bond fans, and movie fans to expect great things the second go around, but we also have to keep those expectations in check as well. It's an interesting dichotomy: while we always want great things out of a sequel, we easily come to terms with it if it's not as good as the first, because it's a sequel after all. Yet Casino Royale was a massive hit and is generally highly regarded, not just as a Bond film but as a film in general. You just can't get another Casino Royale right after Casino Royale, it's just not possible. Even Skyfall (2012), as good as it was, is not quite to that first film's pedestal. Sometimes lightning can strike twice, but even if it does, it just doesn't strike in quite the same way. This is not to say that you can't expect another good movie after a hit, but you do have to keep in mind how high Casino Royale raised the bar, even if it was for positive reasons.
Most people's Quantum qualms are summarized in that it "felt too much like a Bourne movie." Granted, Jason Bourne is not James Bond, but as most of us know, The Bourne Identity films (2001-07), at least the original trilogy up to that point when Quantum was released, are thrilling action spy movies, so the comparison really could be taken as a flattering compliment.
But usually what people mean by this comparison is that the film was too Bourne and not Bond enough, with the shorter runtime (the shortest runtime for a James Bond film yet: 1 hour and 46 minutes) and especially the use of shaky cam in the action sequences. Quantum is also unusual in that it is a direct sequel to Casino Royale, that takes place hours, maybe even minutes after the last film ended. This had not been seen before in the longstanding James Bond series, and it offered more tension, suspense, and intrigue throwing the audience right back into that situation in arguably one of the best car chases and Bond pre-title opening sequences ever. The intro sequence after the opening titles is not too shabby either. While some might say the film is too packed with action, which can sometimes be a downfall of a film, I think here it helps the film, building and heightening intensity until the film's thought-provoking resolution, that doesn't wear out its welcome because of its roughly 100-minute runtime.
Quantum Of Solace has some top-notch aspects
Quantum Of Solace also boasts one of the most memorable and unsettling villains with Mathieu Amalric as Dominic Green. He does not have as much screentime as Bond, but his moments are bone-chillingly haunting, a friendly face with a deliciously evil mind behind those eyes. The returning musical score of David Arnold brings us right back into the modern day world of 007 with pulse-pounding beats and brass blasts, along with more sentimental and reflective string and piano themes like that of the returning Vesper's (Eva Green) theme. The Bond women here, Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes and Gemma Arterton as Strawberry Fields, are not to go unmentioned, because while they are not in the film maybe as much as we would like or have as strong of a presence as much as we would like, they both still pack a punch and bring their A game in every scene. Kurylenko especially shows us a more tragic Bond woman who has more of an emotional backstory than we are typically accustomed to with the females in Bond movies. Quantum also has several more tender moments often overlooked, and often unseen in Bond films before Daniel Craig took over the role, like a couple of quieter, heartfelt scenes between Bond and returning double agent Rene Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini).
Quantum of Solace is not on the level of Casino Royale, Skyfall, or Spectre (2015), but it does, I think, deliver an alternative perspective of a James Bond action film that in itself is worth experiencing. It does feel like Bourne, but not in a bad way; it's a Bourne-style Bond and there's nothing wrong with that. That's one of the attributes that is so great about this franchise is the multitude of directors that get to have their own hands in the 007 cookie jar. Director Marc Forster might not have screamed James Bond to audiences when he was first announced, but for this writer he did deliver a fun James Bond film with still stellar performances, top-notch action, and a fantastic slam bang finish in the middle of the desert, and was a follow-up that despite much criticism made us want to see where James Bond would go next. Who could ask for more than that?