Quantum of Solace" is a kind of ambiguous phrase that would probably make more sense as a title for a painting or rock album than a James Bond flick.
Between the car chase and the foot chase and the boat chase and the plane chase, there's actually little "solace" to be found in this high-speed action romp. But maybe that's the irony.
If one had to make a guess, the title may be referring to the small measure of consolation the hero seeks in resolving some unfinished business from the previous film. This one starts off with agent 007 (Daniel Craig) and his British secret service associates tracking down the dastardly villains responsible for the death of his girlfriend Vesper from "Casino Royale."
After a botched interrogation leaves the latest leads either missing or dead, Bond is left with only a cold scent of a trail in Haiti. It's there that he meets Bond girl Camille (Olga Kurylenko) and a man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Giannini), an eco-conservationist whose real agenda is to assist military coups in exchange for resource-rich land.
Turns out the wealthy villain is cooking up some diabolical scheme in Bolivia, having something to do with a desert and possible oil reserves. (It's no secret moon fortress, but what are you gonna do?)
Critics unfavorable to the movie will be eager to point out all the ways in which this latest installment departs from the classic (some might argue "campy") Bond tradition - and there are many. As in "Casino Royale," there's no Q giving Bond a grab bag of cool gizmos.
But the most noticeable difference is the protagonist himself, who not once utters the charming "Bond, James Bond" line. Craig's character is no-nonsense, defined more by his stone-cold expressions and ruthless killings than the schoolboy sexual innuendos of yester-sequel. He looks as sexy as ever in his dress shirt and khakis but slows down only once for a roll in the sack.
The dead ex-lover, while nothing more than a name and face on a photograph, plays a crucial role as the lurking motivation behind his relentless - but never quite certain - pursuit for revenge.
Even British boss M (Judi Dench), a typical hard case, has trouble understanding her agent's true motives, failing more than once to keep the reins on his actions.
Craig, in turn, embodies the dark complexity of the character with superb ease and subtlety. Bond can take care of himself all right, but there are fatal consequences to his impetuous actions that he must come to terms with, or at least be faced with.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn't hold up as well in the action department. Taking the helm of a Bond movie must have been a bit of an odd job for director Marc Forster, known more for expert dramas like "Finding Neverland" and "Monster's Ball."
His chase sequences (again, there are many) are more-or-less incomprehensible messes of close-ups and rapid editing that can leave the viewer confused about who is who.
After the incredible reinvention that was "Casino Royale," it isn't surprising "Quantum of Solace" falls a bit short of filling its predecessor's shoes. But Craig's performance is still intriguing, offering an entirely new perspective on what has long been a static, predictable character.
Flynn Espe is a former reporter for the East Oregonian.