Rating: 2.5 stars
I’m beginning to buy into this whole rotating James Bond concept. Two years ago, when they introduced Daniel Craig as the new Bond in Casino Royale, I absolutely loved him. I thought the idea of Bond as a working class tough who secretly held a contempt for the elite was a great new wrinkle on the Bond mythos. And Craig, an excellent actor, with a believable physicality (that torso—yowsa!) and a kind of toughness that could easily melt into a wounded vulnerability, played the part to perfection.
Two films into the Craig-as-Bond era and I’m already kind of over it.
Here’s the deal. In Casino Royale, we had a fabulous contrast between this new, rough-hewn Bond and a glamorous, high stakes setting. So what if our new Bond looked like his tux itched and he seemed more comfortable drinking a beer (as he does in Quantum of Solace) than a martini? He was a glorious bull in a fabulous china shop.
But Quantum of Solace doesn’t quite have the sheen of Casino Royale. Yes, Bond stays at expensive hotels and beds at least one beautiful woman, but he spends lots of time running down alleys and hovering in caves and kicking bad guy butt. If the Bourne Identity series was an attempt to create an irony-free alternative to the Bond films, then the strategy has turned back on itself: The Bond films are now trying to resemble Bourne films—slick, quick, and dirty. But the Bourne films do it better.
It doesn’t help that they’ve made Bond particularly unlikeable in this movie. The film essentially picks up where Casino Royale left off—Bond is still reeling from the death of his lady love and he wants revenge on the man who killed her. Because of his desire for revenge, he’s more ruthless than ever as he tracks an underground circuit of eco-terrorists called Quantum.
I understand that Bond kills people, it’s part of his job. But this Bond kills mercilessly. At one point, he contributes to the death of a friend and then unceremoniously drops him into a dumpster. “He wouldn’t mind,” Bond says—unconvincingly.
As I watched this lethal Bond in action, I was craving some bad puns, a few winks, a sense of cavalier delight. Okay, I’ll admit it: I wanted a little more Roger Moore in my Bond!
So why the two and a half stars? Well, there’s M for one—the ever-reliable Judi Dench who hovers over her agents like part mother, part imperious general. The action scenes are slick and exciting, even if director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) doesn’t quite know how to end them. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s Mathieu Amalric is excellent as the louche bad boy who runs the eco-terrorist group with a bratty sense of entitlement. And yes, there is a Bond girl, a glorious pan-ethnic specimen named Olga Kurylenko who actually gets to kick a little butt herself. (Viva progress!).
Meanwhile, Daniel Craig is signed on for 2 more Bond films. Maybe they’ll let him have some fun in the next one? Otherwise, Clive Owen, start polishing off your resume.