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
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London