This is definitely the most artistic 007 movie, with “local color” emphasized wherever Bond finds himself. In fact the acknowledgement of ordinary people in Bond’s world (still extraordinary no matter how injected with grit) threatens to take you out of the film more than once.
Forster’s M.O. for keeping up with the standard established by Casino Royale was evidently “More is more” so he intercuts his action scenes with a counterpoint of some kind or another. For example, the second action sequence, a subterranean chase, is intercut with a horse race on the dirt streets above; a later skirmish outside an opera is juxtaposed with the pageant on stage; and Bond’s climactic fight with the villain is intercut with his female counterpart’s fight with her own enemy. It is the closest we will get to imagining if Peckinpah had directed a Bond movie, but the result often doesn’t feel like a Bond movie. Whether previous Bond films are a good or bad standard depends on the viewer.
Yes, Greengrassian cutting is employed but Forster is not dedicated to his cameras being handheld. Many times we find the camera mounted firmly to an object — the fender of an Aston, the side of a boat, the inside of a cockpit — keeping the foreground stable so it is only the background that spins out of control. Personally I like this technique because it gives the eye at least something to hold onto in the split second required to make sense of a shot.
Perhaps most surprising is how the iconography of early 007 films is being reinvented for this new continuity. The most notable instance is quite arresting so I won’t spoil it, but I’m still conflicted over its self-consciousness. I think it the moment is saved only because it is taken in stride by the characters without a wink at the camera: after all, the characters aren’t aware of being in a rebooted franchise that is recapitulating classic tropes like mile-markers on a highway. Indeed, the recapitulation of conventions is the rightful formula of every Bond film.
This movie purports to wrap up the loose ends of Casino Royale (unfortunately the answers get short shrift) while gently incorporating the most basic elecments of classic Bond, from female silhouettes — rising like Eve from the dust — during the opening titles, to the story culminating at (in?) a more chic version of a villain’s lair. I’m willing to bet that Q and Moneypenny will be introduced in Craig’s third outing, just as it was Connery’s third film that established what became the essential Bond conventions.
To close with the beginning, I think Jack White and Alicia Keys’ Another Way to Die is closest in spirit to McCartney’s Live and Let Die: highly syncopated with changes of tempo, but bound to grow on us over time. Like the song, the rest of the movie is not as good as the near perfection of Casino Royale (Bond found time for actual conversations in that one) but despite the long shadow of its predecessor, Quantum of Solace is still an impressive addition to the 007 filmography.