He has a stolid face and solid musculature, which we know because he goes topless more than his leading ladies do. He has vigorous skirmishes on roofs, in cars and in hotel rooms. He takes as severe a beating--and shows as much emotion--as a crash-test dummy. He's a government spy whom his government wants dead, and he's mourning the violent death of his girlfriend. He so resembles another famous agent that you half-expect him to say, "The name is Bourne. Jason Bourne."
The hero of Quantum of Solace is James Bond, headlining the 22nd "official" film in the series, stretching back to Dr. No in 1962, based on the character created by Ian Fleming and overseen by the Broccoli family. But in movie history, 46 years is a long time--nearly half the life span of feature-length movies themselves--and a film franchise, like any organism, must adapt to survive. The 007 of Quantum of Solace is not your grandfather's Bond, the suave, larkish Etonian whose success as the movies' alpha male sparked dozens, possibly hundreds of imitators in the 1960s spy genre.
He may not be Fleming's Bond either. The early novels were intended as light entertainments; they inhabited a world in which an überstud with refined tastes (the right car, martini recipe, cigarette) also accessorized by bedding beautiful, willing, duplicitous women; it's no coincidence that 007 and Playboy were the prime male icons of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era. Bond occasionally engaged in fisticuffs with a brigand, but that was just a different kind of workout. As played by Sean Connery and Roger Moore from the '60s through the '80s, Bond greeted each new threat to his life with an upper-class smile.
Daniel Craig plays Bond now, and his turn in Casino Royale in 2006 hit the reset button on the franchise. Like the Christian Bale Batman Begins, the Craig Casino showed a young man taking his first steps toward superhero status. He was stern and ferocious, similar to protagonists in the grittier, glummer, more violent action-adventure films of the past few years. The new 007 was the ultimate fighter, not the ultimate lover. And like Jason Bourne, who woke up one day having forgotten his identity, the Bond series acquired a selective amnesia that erased whole areas of the franchise. Gone were Bond's double-entendre jokes, his easy connoisseurship, the suggestion that life was a game in which he luckily held the high cards. Now it's kill or be killed. The evils of the world are too daunting to be met with a smirk.
Craig's Bond, already a noble thug in Casino, has a deeper reason for moodiness here: the love of his life has just died. Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) was a British Treasury agent whose motives Bond misinterpreted, leading to her selfless suicide. Quantum, the first true sequel in the series, begins an hour after Casino ended. Bond wins a frantic car chase, and in his trunk is a prize for his MI6 boss, M (Judi Dench): a board member of the outlaw cartel once known as SPECTRE, now called Quantum. Instantly, Bond is running in all directions: pursuing and eluding a Quantum biggie named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), hooking up with Bolivian siren Camille (Olga Kurylenko) and riding his own obsession to avenge Vesper's death.
Bond Villains, Bond Girls