Saw the movie tonight. I liked it enough, but it's no Casino Royale - a comparison I was mulling over even making, but after seeing the film, there's no doubt in my mind: comparisons have to be made. The story threads and its key characters are cut from the same mold, after all.
I didn't have a problem with the length of the film; it's lean, and felt about right for the story they were aiming to tell. I think that if one goes in with the mindset that Solace is the functioning second half of Royale, one can appreciate the brevity. Sort of like an extended finale. I liked one reviewer's sentiment that while Royale may have felt too long and Solace too short, if you combine the two together, you end up with a film that could be considered a singular whole. The general story beats are easy enough to follow, but the finer details delivered through the brief bits of dialogue got severely lost in the shuffle. Reading up on the central plot on Wikipedia after watching the film helped a lot, and I have a feeling that the plot and its motivating drives would be much clearer to understand on a second viewing.
Craig and Dench are the true stars here; twin pillars of class, and the scenes they share with each other are always show-stealers. I did like Kurylenko's Camille - her kindred motivations of revenge with Bond made for an angle that helped fuel the pivotal tone throughout. Arterton's Fields felt sadly tacked on, but did allow for a nice visual send-up from Goldfinger - and Amalric's Greene didn't quite have the villainy presence of past Bond flicks, but he does get one hell of a fight scene toward the end. Wright's Felix Leiter was a welcome return, but he should've had more to do. And Giannini's Mathis, equally welcome, provided the strongest emotional tie-over from Royale - specifically, Bond's dissolved relationship with Vesper.
Now here comes the biggest complaint: the direction of the action. Granted, the sequences do possess a viscerally kinetic charge that's undeniably exciting to watch, it's hard to excuse Forster's piss-poor editing and skewered quick cuts that simply doesn't allow one to appreciate what's going on half of the time. It worked for Bourne, but it really doesn't work here. The other problem is there's no emotive reasoning behind much of the action. They happen so quickly, so rawly, and so on the fly that you don't have time to connect to the circumstances or the characters involved. You're rooting for Bond when he's systematically tracking down an airplane bomber throughout Miami International. The feeling isn't quite so mutual when he finds a contact in Haiti and drops the poor bastard in under a minute.
One other thing that irked the shit out of me was that they constantly had Bond nonchalantly "tossing things aside." It worked swell in Royale after he deliberately slammed the SUV that belonged to the guy who thought he was a valet. But here, he does it to the cell phone when he's through speaking in the car. And the hotel room key. And the handle after he broke it off the door. It's like they're trying to emphasize his cool "I don't give a damn" attitude, but having him do it over and over made him look like a jackass.
The movie does tie up the avenging-of-Vesper story arch, which does leave one guessing what direction they'll go for the next movie. And another one there will be: is there any doubt when the end credits explicitly states in big bold words, "James Bond Will Return"?