Quantum of Solace (12A)

Macho Bond is fun-free

We all know what it is to be bored to death, but have you ever been entertained to death? That is the paradoxical experience offered by the new 007 picture Quantum of Solace, whose "thrills" spring off the screen with such mechanical efficiency and metronomic regularity that you could almost set your watch by them. I glanced at my own perhaps more often than the film-makers would have anticipated; it's amazing how the more rumbustious are the action set-pieces, the less attentive the mind becomes. But then there's nothing so fatiguing as a movie that won't stop trying to excite you the whole time.

This is Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond after the generally well-received Casino Royale, whose climactic moments saw Vesper Lynd, the spy who loved him, die before his eyes. Apparently, this woman was so important to him that he's made it his personal mission to track down the man who arranged her death. His boss, the increasingly mumsy M (Judi Dench), deplores this self-indulgence – "you are so blinded by inconsolable rage that you don't care who you hurt" – but our James won't be told. It appears to be an effort on the part of the screenwriters to humanise 007, to make of him more than the suavely dispassionate killer that Ian Fleming created. Yet the film's attachment to a new violent realism keeps pulling it in the opposite direction.

It begins in familiar style with Bond flooring the accelerator of his Aston Martin and looking quite unperturbed as he weaves in and out of the oncoming traffic on a precipitous mountain road. Behind him, men are firing machine guns at him from their car windows. Business as usual. Craig's expression of flint-eyed concentration never wavers, even after he climbs out of the car, his pursuers a smouldering heap of molten metal in his wake. The only thing this lean, mean killing machine can't crack is a smile. Craig can pout for England, seems to do a lot of his own stunts, and wears the clothes better than any Bond since Connery. Yet the tight-jawed intensity that was his calling-card in Casino Royale has morphed here into a one-note machismo, and a very humourless note it is. You can blame the screenwriters (Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) for this: I can't think of another 007 film that's so short of wit or even just witty remarks. It's as if someone at Bond Inc is trying to make up for all those daft one-liners Roger Moore used to spout. Well, pardon me, but I rather enjoyed Rog's one-liners. They weren't just a nod to the essentially fantastical blague of Bond; they also lent him that vital British air of self-deprecation.

Even the Bond women seem to think he's a bit of a stiff. When he becomes involved with a Bolivian beauty named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), she almost rolls her eyes as he orders her into his car. "There's something horribly efficient about you," she says. But efficiency is practically all he's got. Charm has disappeared from the repertoire, and his seduction technique looks in severe need of a rethink. When fresh-faced Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) shows up on assignment in La Paz, the first thing Bond does is book them into a deluxe hotel. As she stares wonderingly around the suite, he invites her into the bedroom to look for some "writing paper". Oh dear. Is that really the best they can do? Bond, legendary swordsman of the boudoir, reduced to feeble misdirections about writing paper? (Basildon Bond, we presume.) It doesn't help that Craig is a rather unsensual actor: he looks much more at ease leaping off balconies than he does leaping into bed.

When he is leaping off the edges of buildings, mind, during a chase on foot over the rooftops of Siena, director Marc Forster does his best work. The editing is whip-sharp, the pace is breakneck, the adrenalin is flowing. The one tiny fly in the ointment is that we've seen it done before, and done better, by Matt Damon sprinting over the rooftops of Tangiers in The Bourne Ultimatum. It's the Paul Greengrass films that Quantum of Solace is anxiously checking over its shoulder, as well it might. Perhaps we'll eventually sicken of the Bourne series, too, but at present its kinetic energy and fleetness, unhampered by the baggage of four decades, are leaving Bond way behind.

The villain of this film also accords with the new spirit of realism in Bond. Mathieu Amalric plays Dominic Greene, who sounds like a Foxton's estate agent but is actually a megalomaniac environmentalist – and only marginally more disagreeable. Again, the point of the Bond baddie ought to be his choice line in camp unpleasantries ("Take care of Mr Bond. Make sure he comes to some harm" – Michael Lonsdale in Moonraker), but Amalric isn't rewarded with a single memorable phrase or quip. One might have hoped the writers would treat us to some verbal duelling between the two adversaries, maybe a little stroke of one-upmanship where Bond corrects him on the best vintage of Chateau Latour. Such triviality has been banished. Craig's Bond displays no interest in connoisseurship – he hardly drinks, and he's never seen to eat. Actually, he displays no interest in anything much beyond getting the job done, as ruthlessly and unsmilingly as possible.

It's a pretty dour modus operandi, and, in one instance, a pretty disgraceful one. Having coaxed an old MI6 friend (Giancarlo Giannini) out of retirement, Bond is later required to deal with his corpse – which he duly commits to a dumpster. When Camille expresses her disgust at this, he replies that the dead man was "not the sort to care". Such callousness discredits him: didn't the ties of friendship and loyalty oblige Bond to care? It's a coarse note in a film which, eager to continue repositioning its famous hero, abrades any sense of fun.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam