Discussing the newest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, is almost impossible without discussing that which came before it. The fact that this movie picks up literally moments after the first one ended makes it less a sequel and more an extension of the first movie, an extended coda that follows Bond's path in an attempt to exact revenge on those that were responsible for the events of the first movie. As a result, this is less of a movie that stands on its own and more of one that must be watched in conjunction with "Casino Royale" to fully understand its complexities.
Unlike "Casino Royale", "Quantum of Solace" is less layered and more straightforward from a character perspective. Instead of watching Bond slowly learn to love, only to have it all stripped away from him, his demeanor changes very little throughout the course of this movie. The plot on the other hand is just as involved as the first, alluding to the way corporations can control things by obtaining natural resources as opposed to with powerful violence. I think the story wants to be a little more political than it actually is, but it was nice to see Bond being brought into the 21st century and given 21st century villains.
Given that I've only seen a few Bonds prior to Casino Royale, I'm less inclined to concern myself with who or what Bond is supposed to be, but there was a little hesitance over the way Bond was portrayed in this movie. As I'm sure the comparison is being beaten to death already, I won't go much further than to say Bond has a lot in common with Jason Bourne, only with more style and a little more support. That's not to say this is a bad thing; on the contrary, the fight scenes were extravagant and exciting and there was nary a dull moment throughout the entire 110 minute run time. But there is a certain style about Bond that I believe he should have that, while not completely missing from the film, seemed to be somewhat lacking a bit.
The dynamic between Bond and M, though, was probably the most central relationship throughout. Judi Dench plays M with a very specific concern about Bond and trusts him almost implicitly, even though she disagrees with many of his methods and understands that sometimes she has to make hard decisions that are counter to what Bond is trying to accomplish. There was much more of a connection between these two characters than there was between Bond and either one of the more conventional female companions he had. Granted, the fact that he was still so concentrated on Vesper made it almost impossible for him to connect on any level with another female, so this did make sense from a character standpoint.
On the other hand, the character of Camille (Olga Kurylenko) had a story that sufficiently dovetailed Bond's but I never felt a real connection with her beyond her physical appearance. The performance was good and she was written well enough, but there just seemed to be something lacking overall despite the fact that her presence does mirror Bond's in such a way that it enhances his story somewhat.
Director Marc Forster crafts an intense action movie that truly shows his versatility in what he's able to accomplish. Some complaints have been made about the length of the movie in that it's much too short, but while I would have enjoyed seeing a few more character moments, the movie keeps moving along at a brisk pace with exposition scenes punctuated by exciting action scenes that come together to form a well-balanced, coherent whole.
While the movie is certainly entertaining in its own right, I'd go so far to say that if you haven't watched Casino Royale, preferably recently, then so much of the connection will be lost on you. There's a feeling that this is all one giant movie, split into two parts. As it stands, there is certainly a closure that happens with Quantum of Solace that allows the character of Bond to be explored in new, exciting ways in future installments.