AND THE BOND PLAYED
published November 14,
Quantum of Solace
now playing nationwide
Yes, I know, there is no Q in the re-booted
James Bond series. But we mind nothing but our Qs (not even our Ps) in this review of the new flick Quantum of Solace.
Quandary - Having so effectively re-booted
its franchise with its last entry, Casino Royale, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson find themselves wondering where to
go with Quantum of Solace. Royale mixed the perfect vodka martini of action-film zest and tough-guy noir. With an electrifying
Daniel Craig, it looked like the series found the right balance between its traditional fantasy and the grittier modern style. So it’s kind of
disappointing to see Bond going the New Coke route, a product of thinking too much about the competitor’s virtues (The Bourne Ultimatum) and not enough about its own.
Quick – Among the shortest James Bond
films, Quantum banks on its light, quick editing. Action sequences are punchy and relatively short. The opening car chase really is
intoxicating, but characteristically abbreviated.
Quirky – describes the direction of Marc
Forster (Finding Neverland). The film looks artier than any other Bond film, as well as most action
films. I appreciate the way he varies the action style from scene to scene. Some action sequences are designed for a traditional vicarious
response. But a memorable opera house chase – with Bond fleeing and firing, intercut with a performance of Tosca – feels more like a
dream sequence. It’s lovely, and unexpected.
Questionable – is the script partly from
Paul Haggis. His script for Casino Royale played to his strengths – giving juice to the dialogue, working on character, and developing
some solid themes. Yet Quantum has some unfortunate “Haggis moments.” Storylines are obvious. Motivations aren’t clear. And if you want
to know the plot, Haggis will stuff it straight into the bad guy’s mouth. So much for spying, seducing, or having Goldfinger proudly blab over
a diorama of Fort Knox.
Still, the plot itself is novel and
intriguing. The new Bond enemy Quantum, led by a shady, bulgy-eyed businessman (Mathieu Almaric), tries to seize control of Bolivia’s water
supply by staging a coup to insert their favorite general. Try selling a water domination plot to a Hollywood executive under other
The film also treats Bond as an interesting
enigma. Is he looking for revenge for the death of his beloved Vesper, or is he doing his duty? It also has its share of witty lines, with
shades of dark humor, and Craig confidently delivers them.
Quietly – The film develops themes, but
does so quietly. It plays Royale in reverse, walking Bond back toward humanity. Images echo those in the first film. In Royale,
Bond ditched a bloody shirt out of guilt, rinsing his sin down with a drink. Here, he wears blood without a second thought. In Royale,
he comforted his love Vesper by holding her in a shower. Here, he comforts a dying man, then tosses the corpse into a dumpster. Royale
opens with Bond waiting in the dark for a kill. This film closes with Bond in the same place, but with a different outcome. The legendary Bond
gunbarrel sequence even appears at the end, rather than the beginning.
There also is more character development
here than it will get credit for. If Casino Royale is about the process of Bond closing
emotionally, Quantum is a story of his return to some semblance of moral responsibility. At the end, Bond will be forced to choose
between taking life and preserving it.
Quality – Nowadays, the quality of the Bond
series lies in its actors. Compare them to Bourne – Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, and Jeffrey Wright
versus Matt Damon, Laura Linney and Julia Stiles. This is, by far, Bond’s greatest advantage. Some of the most sizzling scenes in
Quantum involve their chemistry. The key is to take full advantage of this advantage.
The film’s biggest positive is Craig’s
complete occupation of the role. While the new Bond formula seems uncertain, the new Bond is perfectly formed, a dead-eyed, ferocious killer
with the glimmer of an inner life. Yet we do not get enough that lets Craig push his portrait, no scene like the-torture scene of Casino
Royale, which tested the resolve of the character and the limits of the actor. To reduce Craig to Matt Damon-level stiffness is Her
Qualified – is my approval for Quantum
of Solace. As an action film, it shouldn’t disappoint viewers. Yet Royale proved there’s more to this series than it is willing to
give here. It’s a sufficient placeholder while the Bond powers-that-be hunch over their storyboards and work on the future.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com