Outside of its title, "Quantum of Solace" offers little solace for fans of the venerable James Bond franchise. All dressed up with no particular place to go, this 22nd Bond film tries hard but ends up an underachiever.
That's especially disappointing because several of the key players, including star Daniel Craig, have returned from the last Bond film, 2006's "Casino Royale," which seemed like such a promising retooling of the antediluvian franchise that dates all the way back to "Dr. No" in 1962.
For while star Craig, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade along with Paul Haggis, and stunt coordinator Gary Powell, among others, are unchanged, the film's director -- and its direction -- have been altered, and that has made a difference.
For the first time, a Bond film has been envisioned as a pure sequel, with Craig's Agent 007 ferociously fixated on getting revenge for the death of the woman he loved, the languid and treacherous Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, who did not make it to the closing credits of "Casino Royale."
Bond's superior, the redoubtable M (Judi Dench), is worried about the consequences of Bond being blinded by inconsolable rage. "If you could avoid killing every possible lead," she grouses at one point as only Dench can, "it would be appreciated."
It's not only M who should be worried about Bond, it's audiences as well. For the vengeful secret agent is dangerously close to an automaton, a creature of such icy single-mindedness that even an actor of Craig's great ability has trouble making him recognizably human.
That tendency toward detachment is enhanced by the change of directors. "Casino Royale's" Martin Campell, an expert at this kind of glossy adventure filmmaking, has been replaced by Marc Forster, a cooler director who likes intense emotions ("Monster's Ball") but had trouble warming up even a natural heart-tugger like "The Kite Runner."
"Quantum of Solace's" script also seems rather tired and uninviting, and while it's true not even critics go to a Bond film for the emotional moments, the story has to involve us for the elaborate action sequences to resonate the way they should.
Though the title of the film and a lot of initial talk on screen have to do with the super-secret (and uncompromisingly evil) organization that led to Vesper's demise, in fact the Quantum of Solace itself is kind of a red herring, conveniently disappearing for great chunks of the proceedings.
What we get instead is a very standard-issue plot involving the inevitable attractive girl (former model Olga Kurylenko) and a devious and heartless villain, in this case one Dominic Greene (French star Mathieu Amalric), a gentleman who has the temerity to masquerade as an ecological warrior while planning to plunder the Earth. The nerve of some people.
While name actors Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright return from "Casino Royale," they don't make the impression that a young beginner with notable presence named Gemma Arterton does in a small role as a British operative in Bolivia. If "Quantum of Solace" is remembered for anything -- and it may not be -- it just might be for her.