Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Archive: 'Quantum Of Solace'

Movie Review
Quantum of Solace (2008)

Since when has James Bond (Daniel Craig) taken a job based solely on revenge? That seems unlike him, and it may very well be the underlying reason why this first-ever actual sequel in the Bond franchise feels like such a misfire. "Casino Royale" was a marvelously elegant reinvention of the franchise as it delved into the character of Bond like never before. After reaching such heights, "Quantum of Solace," a title that is shrouded in mystery and the only thing borrowed from Ian Fleming this time out, settles back into the usual routine. It's watchable and entertaining, yes, but it's not exactly the Bond we were waiting for.

The end of "Casino Royale" left me craving more, and in a sense, this sequel satisfies that request. Unlike other Bond sequels, which aren't directly connected to one another, this one is a continuation and picks up right where the predecessor left off. And that's where the trouble comes in because it doesn't feel like a stand-alone movie, but rather, just an extension of the first, and an unnecessary one at that. It's probably the reason why this is the shortest of all Bond movies, not even reaching the 2-hour mark. The plot involves Bond desperately tracking down anybody who may have been responsible for the death of Vesper Lynde (Eva Green). This motive of revenge reduces Bond to a loveless killing machine, and this is the most merciless we've seen him.

Bond's hunt leads him to a man named Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who I suppose is bent on world domination, but really he just wants to use up all of Bolivia's water supply. Through him, Bond meets the sexy but dangerous Camille (Olga Kurylenko) who eventually brings Bond and his enemy face-to-face. Meanwhile, M (Judi Dench) gets betrayed by a group of traitorous MI6 agents, and she starts receiving pressure from her superior to keep Bond's rage under control. This involvement allows M to get out from behind her desk, and Judi Dench is an ideally bittersweet match for the part. From here, the thin story twists confusingly around to a rather unrewarding resolve. Paul Haggis returns as co-writer, but here, his fine-tuned touches are masked. Unlike Martin Campbell, director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "The Kite Runner") is a sensitive director not used to handling action sequences as they are all hastily and almost incoherently cut.

Along the way, Bond travels from country to country, hopping along rooftops, blowing up a minimalist luxury hotel in the middle of a barren desert, and taking out anything that moves. On this mission, he seems oddly envious of what Jason Bourne does. The action is a lot more visceral and blunt and rather un-Bond-like. Even Q, with all of his gadgets, is entirely absent. And where's the quick-witted humor and one-liners so slyly tossed in between? Why doesn't Bond take the time to get cozy with his Bond girl, Camille? There's another Bond girl named Fields (Gemma Arterton), and the encounter with her feels like an afterthought. Even the James Bond theme itself is diminished to only subtle cues throughout the score and only fully erupts in the closing credits. The opening sequence, too, is disappointingly cheesy, along with the new theme song by Jack White and Alicia Keys, "Another Way to Die."

Holding it all together is Daniel Craig who is one of the best Bonds we've seen. He's handsome, tough, charismatic, and now, a very haunted man. This entry wants to explore that, but simply doesn't to the extend it could. Craig is an extremely capable actor because even when he's pinned down as he is here, he pulls off the remarkable feat of providing that same reimagined Bond we met in "Casino Royale," that Bond with a soul. It's just that, maybe for his 23rd outing, James Bond should be allowed to lighten back up a bit.

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