Quantum of Solace (6/10)


Hey, look, it’s the new James Bond film, opening with a whiz-bang car crash and more than a dozen minutes of action before the first line of explanatory dialog comes along. After this courtesy, a pissed off Bond wheels off to the next disaster he’s going to avert or cause. If theatres had a pause button, I’d have used this chance to wield my pausitory power. Because when you look closely at “Quantum of Solace,” it ain’t really a James Bond film. And coming from someone who appreciated Casino Royale’s take on the series – a re-vamp/start/newal that honored series traditions while polishing up some of the dusty ones, this ain’t exactly a compliment.
If there’s one things all the Bonds have had in common, all the way up through Craig’s blond boy antics in the last one, it’s that they knew how to have fun. Every woman wants Bond, and every man wants to be him – his martini-enhanced, shaken, stirred, oh-who-gives-a-damn sexual escapades and international evil genius thwarting activities are, despite some of their blantant flaws, cinematic escapism of the most glorious kind – who gives a crap if a guy can slice off someone’s head with his hat? It’s cool!

This Bond, though, is obviously not a girl, as he doesn’t just wanna have fun. Instead, he wants to stop a crazy environmentalist from thieving away a country’s water supply while also making sure the whole world knows how very pissed off he is that his only love Vesper died. (The film begins mere hours after the end of “Casino Royale” – so in that sense, it’s probably better to think of this movie more as “Casino Royale Part 2.”)

To this Bond, fun = action. Which, if done right and with the proper winky flash bang attitude, can be true. But the action scenes in “Quantum of Solace” seem void of that kind of self-referential knowledge. Manic violence splatters the celluloid with abandon and fierce energy, nearly nonstop – but there’s a monotone veneer spackled onto this surface of this new version of Craig’s bond, and this single-minded suit doesn’t fit our hero too easily – it’s clear he’s chafing in at least a few uncomfortable places. He always looks like he may have soiled himself, either that or he’s smelling someone else soiling themselves, and a “oops uh where is the bathroom” face is not something you want the world’s most famous secret agent to be wearing. Daniel Craig is still the most bad-ass Bond, but he’s dumbed down his acting here to seemingly only show Bond when he’s ultra-mega-pissed off.

“Quantum of Solace” works far far better as part two of “Casino Royale” than it does as a standalone movie – plot threads and strings are sprinkled throughout that tie it back to the original, but this doesn’t mean that it’s a great movie – “Casino Royale” was so good it didn’t need a part two, so why make one? A lot of what “Quantum of Solace” is saying about James Bond was already reviewed in the last film, and the story itself features one of the most boring villains in the franchise’s history, with the “world conflict” of a country’s water supply being stolen making it seem like the writers weren’t even trying to come up with something interesting. “Aw, man, another Bond villain? What haven’t we done yet? I know! How about water supply thieves! Doesn’t that make your spine tingle?” Nope, no spine tinglings. The thing to understand about this movie is not that the action scenes are bad – they’re terrifically filmed, breath-taking and gritty – it’s just that their ubiquitous presence and monotone quality detract from the overall effect. If you’re a Bond fan, there’s no question that this movies’ worth seeing, and if you aren’t, well, this Bond may actually speak to you more than previous ones have. Which is part of the problem. Any Bond movie where our hero isn’t able to utter his famous introductory lines: “Bond. James Bond,” is obviously not entirely faithful to the franchise. Make of that what you will.


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