CAPSULE: Picking up just after where CASINO ROYALE left off, James Bond is involved in trying to find the people behind the death of his beloved Vesper. This is a decent spy thriller on an adult level. The tone is downbeat, but it is still one of the best in the series. Marc Forster's action scenes could be more coherent, but he is better with the dramatic material. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
The reinvention of James Bond films continues with QUANTUM OF SOLACE. The old James Bond had incredible luck and nearly always did the right thing. This Bond bungles his way into situations and is as likely to foul up someone else's plan as he is to fix it. The tension between M and Bond always seemed a little disingenuous since Bond was clearly MI6's super-weapon. The new Bond as of the last two films is more of a loose cannon and is dangerous to both sides. This makes for a much more believable story. Bond super- villains used to have nonsensical goals like starting World War III or otherwise wiping out humanity. Dominic Greene (played by Mathieu Amalric of THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY) has a rather nasty plot in the current film, but it is not very different from plots that have been hatched in the real world.
The new Bond no longer has the incredible luck at gambling the old one did, that kind of luck would have severely damaged the story of CASINO ROYALE, but he does have some unaccountable skills like the old one did. In the new film Bond seems to know how to pilot a 1950s vintage cargo plane. But the new Bond is no longer the guy every schoolboy wanted to be. The old Bond, when he loses the love of his life, drowned the man responsible in a mud bath. The new Bond drinks, and mourns, and strikes out only sometimes at the people responsible. Most of the glamour is gone. So are the gadget-weapons (with the exception of one in CASINO ROYALE). And the insistence that his drinks be shaken and not stirred is a relic of the past. Just about everything that made the series childish have been done away with. Rather than the romantic setting of previous films like Istanbul, this Bond is not afraid to spend much of the film in a Bolivian slum. The film's colors are subdued and faded to give the film a downbeat feel.
The new film starts uncharacteristically without the usual gun- barrel and blood logo. Never fear, fans, the trademark logo has been relocated to the end of the film. Instead the film starts with three long and mindless chases as well as the worst Bond title sequence in recent memory over the worst title sequence song. With those out of the way to placate the wrong kind of Bond fans the film settles down to a reasonable pace and a more acceptable--even complex--story. Vesper it seems had gotten involved with a highly secret yet ubiquitous international criminal organization, a sort of a latter-day S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Daniel Craig as very probably the best of the Bonds rushes in to find the new organization and get revenge. He is not quite equipped with all of the facts. Bond follows the trail to Haiti. There his masquerade as someone else brings him into contact with Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who is on her own mission of vengeance. Greene, a member of this secret organization--it is called Quantum--is working a deal with a Bolivian general involving politics, power, and a stretch of worthless desert. (By the way, calling the organization Quantum is an insult to the viewer. The title would have made perfect sense if the word "quantum" was never used in the film. It was like putting the mine in ENEMY MINE rather than explain the title.)
Director Marc Forster has had a very mixed bag of films to his credit. He directed MONSTER'S BALL, FINDING NEVERLAND, STRANGER THAN FICTION, and THE KITE RUNNER. That is a very mismatched set of films. While this film has one of the worst title songs of the whole Bond series, it also has some of the best music. Sadly it was not music written for the film, but rather for Giacomo Puccini's opera TOSCA. One of the film's few funny moments had the leaders of Quantum hashing out their plans electronically at a performance of TOSCA. This bit of extreme boorishness, talking over the transcendent music, had to be a new low point for Bond villains. The film takes some swipes at the United States (as they did in previous films like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE) and for the first time in my memory took a little swipe at Israel (claiming one of the villains is ex-Mossad). Also the evil Dominic Greene masquerades as an ecology advocate spouting cliches.
QUANTUM OF SOLACE has one of the more complex and satisfying of the Bond film plots. The character of Bond has more depth than he does in some of the more pulpy entries in the series. It is one of the rare Bond films that can be appreciated on an adult level. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0830515/
This is my ranking best to worst of the Eon Bond films (subjective and subject to change).
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper