James Bond goes dark in Quantum of Solace
Like tuxedos, cigars and Sinatra, James Bond never goes out of style. The character who defined cool for most of the last 46 years returns in Quantum of Solace, every bit as dashing as he ever was. If you turn out for this film, you know what you’re in for: Fast cars. Beautiful women. Dastardly villains. This one has it all, and more. But Quantum 007 is no throwback. He’s a product of modern times. As a result, the 22 nd Bond movie is one of the bloodiest, most cynical and, at times, saddest of the franchise so far. Much has been retained from Casino Royale, the excellent 2006 series reboot that put little-known Daniel Craig in the iconic lead role. Casino brought the increasingly wacky and gadget-centric franchise back to earth with a solid story about 007’s early days as a British superagent.
This Bond was less droll, less pretty and absolutely captivating. Quantum of Solace finds him burdened with regret over the events of the previous film, which resulted in the death of his girlfriend Vesper. Here he struggles to maintain his icy faÃ§ade in the wake of a startling revelation: That his agency is not the only one in Britain with covert, deadly spies. The newly-revealed existence of Quantum, a stealth outfit with an unspecified number of members and unclear motives, shakes up old alliances and plunges Bond into a twisty, violent caper that ultimately pits him against British and American agents alike. This film brings in a new director in Marc Forster, who made his name with ruminative dramas like Finding Neverland and Monster’s Ball. As in many of his previous films, he excels at capturing the essence of his characters in their quieter moments (the conversations between Bond and Judi Dench’s M are particularly well executed). He brings a level of introspection to Bond that adds more depth to the character, though this comes at the expense of making 007 more melancholy than you’re probably used to. This might not be all that appealing to fans of the lighter Pierce Brosnan incarnation, but personally, I like this Bond more than the shaken-not-stirred variety. Working against Forster, however, is the fact that Quantum of Solace is the Bond franchise at its most fast-paced, and he’s not as adept at staging an action sequence as some of his predecessors. There are some solid scenes here, but nothing approaching the eye-popping construction site chase in Casino Royale. Forster’s camera is a bit too shaky too much of the time, and it makes the bread-and-butter moments a lot more work for the viewer than they should be. Still, I’d be lying if I said Quantum didn’t contain some real thrills — a car chase/ interrogation/foot chase kicks off the film with a bang, and the explosive finale is worth the price of admission. And in any case, the film’s strong points mostly make up for any shortcomings. Craig, once again, has turned in a fantastic leading performance as the laconic spy. He brings an intensity and an element of danger to this character that his predecessors rarely did. His supporting cast — particularly the everregal Dench, Giancarlo Giannini as Mathis and Olga Kurylenko as this year’s Bond Girl — round out a sturdy package. A warning, however: the plot takes a back seat to the action, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. The narrative makes some sharp turns that I found occasionally hard to follow, so go prepared to pay attention. If you can, you’ll find Quantum of Solace an installment worthy of the franchise name and, in its own brooding way, a thoroughly satisfying action flick. It might not be the
Bond you grew up with, but it’s a Bond you’ll be glad to know.
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