After years of lighthearted tomfoolery, James Bond tightened his gut and clenched his fist in "Casino Royale," the 2006 movie that introduced Daniel Craig as a meaner, steelier version of the British secret agent. The cartoonish stunts of past films were replaced by close combat, glib one-liners hardened into terse threats, there was less techno-gadgetry, more bludgeoning. It was an exciting if imperfect movie that promised a more serious, grown-up Bond.
" Quantum of Solace" is not just a follow-up but a sequel. Still smarting from the last film's bitter ending, Bond is so bent on vengeance that M ( Judi Dench), the head of MI6, revokes his license to kill. The oddest Bond villain yet shows up as an evil environmentalist named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), while an exotic babe named Camille (Olga Kurylenko) lurks, trying to assassinate a Latin American general.
Bond lives up to his new reputation by performing various acts of heartlessness, checking his watch while a gasping victim expires and, later, tossing a dead friend into a Dumpster. But from the start, "Quantum" marks a step backward into silliness. Chase sequences kick off with almost comic regularity and involve the usual sleek sedans, speedboats and airplanes. The acrobatics can be impressive - one lengthy ballet zigzags through a maze of moving scaffolding - but director Marc Forster goes for razzle-dazzle rather than realism.
What Bond needs in addition to his attitude adjustment are better scripts. This one, by the same trio that wrote "Casino Royale," is overstuffed with competing villains and storylines, making it incomprehensible even by Bond standards. (As for the movie's clumsily enigmatic title, your guess is as good as anyone's.) The action and eye candy may be worth the ticket price, but this Bond needs to get back to business.
PLOT James Bond returns to battle a sleazy environmentalist.
CAST Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE The supposedly tougher, meaner Bond franchise takes a step backward into silliness, but the action and eye candy should be worth the ticket price.
Bond girl's feisty and well trained
WHO Olga Kurylenko, playing Camille, the vengeful, well-armed and cunning "Bond girl" in "Quantum of Solace."
YOU KNOW HER FROM She has appeared in "Hitman" and " Max Payne."
BACKGROUND Kurylenko, 29, was born in Ukraine and modeled in Moscow and Paris before jumping into movies. She says she didn't "grow up on Bond," didn't see the films until she moved out of the former Soviet Union.
ABOUT HER CHARACTER "She's strong. She's not looking for Bond's help. She's feisty."
HOW SHE PREPARED "I trained for a month before shooting began - sky-diving in a wind tunnel, driving, martial arts, learning how to field-strip the little gun she hides under her skirt. Eight seconds was my record!"
DANIEL CRAIG SAYS "Bond sees Olga as a version of himself, someone bent on vengeance."
- The Orlando Sentinel