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Wow, remember when Casino Royale came on the scene and gave the Bond franchise a shot of adrenaline that no one expected? How Daniel Craig brought grit and realism to a series slowly finding its way into parody and gadgetry, trying to make up for the fact its leading man was getting on in age? Not only was it a great Bond/action film, but a great film period—full of quality performances, action, intrigue, intelligent scripting, and plenty of eye-candy for the men and ladies alike. To top all of that, the next installment, Quantum of Solace, brings in a high quality director, (in my opinion at least), in Marc Forster. A visual genius and master of tone and drama, I was very much excited. However, after viewing the finished work, I finally find myself agreeing with the many people perplexed and annoyed by the cryptic title. Granted, not because its obtuse, I actually dig it a lot for that reason, but because it wasn’t as appropriate as Casino Royale Part 2. That is exactly what this film is, a short (106 minutes) story tying up loose ends from the previous one, allowing Bond to get revenge, to get information on Mr. White, to bolster his relationship with the Americans, and to progress him into the ladies man we know him to be, one who doesn’t let lingering feelings get in the way of the job. Yes, the flash is fun, the explosions and running invigorating, but in the end, it all just leads us to the next segment in Craig’s adventures … a bridge to what will hopefully be great and nothing more.

Forster does a bang up job with a script that includes, for long stretches, sequences devoid of language. He flexed some visual flair with Stranger Than Fiction, a bit in Finding Neverland, and threw the kitchen sink at us with Stay; those sentiments are definitely on display again here. The choreography is very intricate and shot clearly despite the quick cuts and shaky-cam kinetic motion. I loved the fall from a roof top onto scaffolding, the depth and length that they fall with the camera following is impressive, and although it hitches, probably showing that it wasn’t a real long take, it still put a smile on my face. Also, the giant fire set-piece during the climax has some great shots, especially those involving breaking glass, which is a common occurrence throughout and handled well each time. I just wish Paul Haggis and company gave him a little more to do with the story itself. It all becomes a way for Bond to get revenge on the man that put Vesper into the situation she was in, making her become a double agent, in effect working for the ever-elusive Mr. White. It’s his story that I desired here, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.

So, basically we have a villain in Dominic Greene, (a nefariously good Mathieu Amalric, even though he is for the most part wasted in a thankless role), pretending to investors to be an environmentalist when in fact he is working with third world nations to put a stranglehold on oil … or is it another liquid he covets? Either way, it struck me that, with some snide remarks about the American dollar, the oil business being carved up by the US and China, and the overall “green” theme of Greene’s front, the writers were trying too hard to push a liberal agenda. Maybe they weren’t, though; maybe I was just so bored with the lack of substance in Bond’s search for revenge that what ended up sticking were all those ideas and political sentiments. Unfortunately that is what stuck. Instead of giving Amalric some backstory and structure, he becomes a pawn, a creation put in the middle of Mr. White and Vesper Lynd’s ex-boyfriend who was “kidnapped” in the previous film. He is a token shell of a baddie that gives Bond something to play against until he can move along to the big fish, his quest for blood soon quenched.

Along the same lines comes Camille, the Bolivian Special Forces agent out for a little blood herself. Olga Kurylenko does a good job, balancing the sex appeal with the undercover agent well; being a Bond-girl by not being a Bond-girl. But again, she serves mainly to mirror Bond’s own quest and be the foil to whether he will continue killing prospective captives for information without remorse or if his wits will again be restored. At least Giancarlo Giannini’s Mathis and Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter bring some important plot-points to the forefront in their five minutes of combined return screentime; it’s as though the small roles were more integral to the overall story than the ones we saw every second of the way.

What Quantum of Solace truly brings to the table is action, action, action. Daniel Craig is James Bond; the guy is a machine and my new personal hero. Besides all the injuries and partially lost finger during filming, the film itself shows the scars and bruises he must have experienced. This guy is throwing his body against walls, through glass, and running like a mad man. You cannot fault the pace and abundance of chase scenes or the carnage they leave in their wake. It all begins with a high-powered car chase without any explanation at all … and none is needed. You can see the wheels turning behind Craig’s eyes, the last glimpses of emotion and love draining from his consciousness as the job gradually takes over. So, while the film can’t stand on its own, it is a very nice bookend to the tale from a couple years back, one that many thought too long and drawn out, things you won’t be saying upon exiting the theatres this year. Hopefully it’s not a sign of things to come, though, and the next chapter will bring us another stellar story on the journey to find out exactly who Mr. White is and what his organization is capable of.

Quantum of Solace 7/10

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photography:
[1] Daniel Craig and Olga Kurylenko star in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure QUANTUM OF SOLACE.
[2] Anatole Taubman and Mathieu Amalric in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure QUANTUM OF SOLACE.
Quantum of Solace © 2008 Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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