11.18.2008

Words About Bond: Part VIX

A few years back, as some of you may recall, I set about watching every James Bond film and posting my thoughts in an almost weekly feature. I included films outside of the officially recognized franchise, which is why my count is slightly higher. Be sure to check out the previous installments of this feature as well as my latest review below:

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Words About Bond, 1-3
Words About Bond, 4-6
Words About Bond, 7-9
Words About Bond, 10-12
Words About Bond, 13-15
Words About Bond, 16-18
Words About Bond, 19-21
Words About Bond, 22-24

25Quantum of Solace
Bond: Daniel Craig
Villains: Dominic Greene, Mr. White
Bond Girls: Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Strawberry Fields(Gemma Arterton)

Daniel Craig returns for his second outing as James Bond, and the first explicitly direct sequel in the franchise. Other films in the series have brought back elements from past installments, from Bond's slain bride to recurring foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but this sequel literally takes place an hour after Casino Royale left off, with Bond seeking revenge on Mr. White for the death of Vesper Lynd. The film doesn't waste any time throwing us into a deadly car chase, before Bond and M(Judi Dench) are questioning White, a session that doesn't last long before we're thrown into another chase not quite on par with the parkour sequence of the previous movie.

It's a fast-paced film, the shortest in the series, and just as it slows down for exposition, something blows up or someone is shooting. Some critics and fans have likened it to the Bourne franchise, which is both a fair comparison and hardly a criticism, at least not in my book. It may be the most “realistic” of the series as well. Apart from futuristic touchscreen technology at MI6 that's not that far off from present interfaces, there are no gimmicks or gadgets, no magnetic watches that deflect bullets or cars that shoot jets of oil, although oil does play a significant role near the end of the film. The plot is fairly straightforward. Bond's relentless pursuit of White, which he continually denies isn't personal, leads him to Greene, a businessman with a hidden agenda in the desert and a deceptive smile. Greene's girlfriend Camille is with him to get close to one of his contacts, a general responsible for the death of her family when she was a little girl. Bond and Camille soon realize their goals are the same, as Greene can lead both of them to those who've taken important people from their lives. The film's title has a double meaning, as quantum both refers to the small amount of solace brought by revenge as well as Quantum, the evil and mysterious organization served by the likes of White and Greene.

While the film dispenses with the now cliché Hollywood portrayal of secret agents with gadgets and mustache-twirling cat petting villains in oversized lairs, it does retain signature elements of Bond, from the theme heard at the film's end to the opening graphics. I enjoyed the graphics, which races Bond through a desert environment eventually revealed to be the topography of the female form, and the new opening song by Jack White and Alicia Keys certainly felt like your classic Bond song, although to my tastes lean more toward Chris Cornell's You Know My Name. And the movie does work in one beautiful and disturbing homage to Goldfinger that makes one villain's comeuppance satisfyingly appropriate.

Quantum of Solace is a very exciting and enjoyable ride, a strong action movie during a time of year when that sort of fare is hard to find in the theater. It falls very slightly short of Casino Royale, in that it focuses more on the action and less on the character development of Bond. That isn't to say that character development is totally absent, and Bond does reach some measure of progress by film's end. But Casino Royale spent a little more time in establishing Craig as the new Bond and, since that wasn't needed here, he's often a mystery. We can guess what he's feeling by his actions and the commentary of those around him, most particularly M who seems to have the greatest trust and understanding of her agent. The movie feels very much like the bridging chapter of a trilogy, and definitely leaves me anticipating another sequel.

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Words About Bond will return!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Rey said...

I got confused because I thought you had already done Casino Royale and almost got spoiled. CHANGE YOUR 25 to QUANTUM!

11/18/2008 10:11 AM  
Blogger MCF said...

Whoops. I was editing this from my last review and had updated the link, but not the link copy. Fixed now; sorry about that, hermano.

11/18/2008 11:47 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow said...

I enjoyed Quantum of Solace, but less than I enjoyed Casino Royale. As a fan of Fleming's books (at least, in my younger days; I haven't reread them in years), I like the Daniel Craig-era Bond because it hews more closely to Fleming's original vision than, say, the Roger Moore version.

That said, Quantum of Solace felt relentlessly downbeat. I understand why, given the revenge theme of the plot. But that didn't make it any more fun. Would it hurt to see Craig/Bond crack a smile or a joke once in a while?

And is it legal to have a Bond film in which the lead never utters the words, "Bond... James Bond"?

11/19/2008 1:05 PM  

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