Well it's here, the 22nd James Bond installment, Quantum of Solace, opens today nationwide. Starring every American woman's Secret Boyfriend, Daniel Craig, this installment bears little resemblance to the Bond films of the past. Craig has been both praised and criticized for his portrayal of Bond as a less campy 007, and in this installment, Bond has gone off the grid to hunt down the killers of his former lover from Casino Royale, Vesper Lynd. The revenge theme and sequel-like plot rubs some critics the wrong way; who would rather see the pun-ready, lady-bedding, Martini-sipping Bond over Quantum's new Jason Bourne-esque action hero. Some collected reviews after the jump.Slate:
Quantum of Solace (Columbia Pictures), the 22nd James Bond film since 1962 and the second starring Daniel Craig, occupies an uneasy place in the 007 canon. The novelty of Craig's decidedly unsuave take on the British superspy has worn off, though we're still eager to see where he'll take the character. And now that the audience has adjusted to the notion of Bond as a tormented brute, we're starting to remember what drew us to this series in the first place: exotic locations, nifty surveillance technology, creative villains, and babes with ridiculous names. In short, we're drawn by fantasy, pleasure, and fun, none of which figures on the to-do list of the new James Bond nor of the movie's director, Marc Forster.
"Quantum of Solace" isn't frivolous or cheesy, but it isn't all that much fun either. Craig is still the right guy for the job, but for his boiling-on-the-inside performance to work, he needs more to play with. He's doing a dark character study in a movie that rarely stops to catch its breath. Couldn't he have been allowed a little of the superspy's rakish charm?
Forget all the lukewarm reviews you've already read and the British press' collective whining over the fact that this Bond's got too much action, because Quantum of Solace is the finest installment in the storied franchise's 22-film history. Spring boarding from his art house pedigree and using his love for classic Bond titles From Russia With Love and Goldfinger as inspiration, director Marc Forster has crafted a stylish 007 adventure that's both brutal and light on its feet.
Compared with "Casino Royale," " Quantum of Solace" is a disappointment. Craig anchors it, and Judi Dench's M enjoys some fine, stern scenes, but director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Monster's Ball," "The Kite Runner") isn't much of an action man. There's plenty, but half the time it's visually incoherent. A minute past the (drab) opening credits, a superhumanly implacable Craig is careening through a snaky Italian tunnel, pursued by enemy agents with vehicular or machine-gun homicide on their minds. Simple premise. Oldie but goodie. Yet the way it's shot and cut, it plays like a parody of a car commercial shot in the style of a Bond film.
Craig and his piercing gaze still mesmerize, but the thriller credibility is disappointing after the topnotch Royale. Where the film should be lively, it's frenetic, sometimes so furiously paced that key plot details can be easily missed amid the whiplash editing. It's as if director Marc Forster (The Kite Runner) didn't so much study Casino as try to pull off another Bourne movie.
Outside of its title, "Quantum of Solace" offers little solace for fans of the venerable James Bond franchise. All dressed up with no particular place to go, this 22nd Bond film tries hard but ends up an underachiever. That's especially disappointing because several of the key players, including star Daniel Craig, have returned from the last Bond film, 2006's "Casino Royale," which seemed like such a promising retooling of the antediluvian franchise that dates all the way back to "Dr. No" in 1962. Also back is the traditional Bond emphasis on exotic locales — "Quantum" was shot in six countries, apparently a franchise record — and forceful action. According to the press notes, more than 200,000 rounds of blank ammunition were purchased for the film and 54 controlled explosions were set off for the finale, but not even all this bang is enough to secure our interest. For while star Craig, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade along with Paul Haggis, and stunt coordinator Gary Powell, among others, are unchanged, the film's director — and its direction — have been altered, and that has made a difference. For the first time, a Bond film has been envisioned as a pure sequel, with Craig's Agent 007 ferociously fixated on getting revenge for the death of the woman he loved, the languid and treacherous Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, who did not make it to the closing credits of "Casino Royale."
The narrative of Forster's film is certainly sketchy enough, and early viewers reported a dismaying sense of desiccation: no quips, no gadgets, no time to relax. For the aerial dogfight, both planes have propellers, as if Bond were just a throwback to Indiana Jones. He should wear Savile Row suits, but the costume designer puts him in a black blouson and flat-fronted cream chinos, like a slightly precious soccer fan. As for sex, you might as well stay home with a pair of bed socks and a DVD of "Alvin and the Chipmunks." Bond finds a beauteous comrade-in-arms, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), but she, it turns out, has her own agenda of revenge, and their sole point of contact is the kind of kiss that tennis partners exchange when they win a mixed doubles. I was cheered by the arrival of Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton), an upstanding British redhead, but, after showing Bond her raincoat and her naked back, in that order, she makes an alarming exit. Why, then, days after seeing "Quantum of Solace," do I find, against expectation, that I can't shake it off? Given that it seems such a diminution of the Bond legend, boiling him down to the bare bones of aggression, what can it bring to the party<./blockquote> Variety:
Stripped of "Royale's" humor, elegance and reinvented old-school stylishness, "Quantum" has little left except its plot, which is rudimentary and slightly barmy, in the line of the Roger Moore pics of the '70s and '80s. Craig, physically fine as a human killing machine but stripped here of any humor or warmth, doesn't generate any onscreen heat with his putative femme lead, Kurylenko, who most of the time looks as if she's wandered onto the set of the wrong film. The distaff side briefly livens up with an extended cameo by Gemma Arterton, as an MI6 agent in Bolivia, who recalls perky Bond women of the ''60s.
Craig is the scrappiest of all Bonds, but he's also the most tender. And "Quantum of Solace" is best when director Marc Forster allows his star the latitude to explore emotions that, until Craig stepped into the shoes of the character, we didn't know Bond had. In fact, "Quantum of Solace" contains one of the most moving sequences I've seen in any Bond movie — including the devastating ending of "Casino Royale" — an emotionally exquisite Pietà that's the kind of thing you get when you allow your actors to carry a scene quietly and instinctively.
It's in Haiti that Bond meets Camille (the ravishing Olga Kurylenko), who has her own issues to work out. As the "Quantum of Solace" producers proudly proclaim in their promotional literature, Camille is the first Bond girl that James doesn't sleep with. Like that's a good thing. From its hyper-edited, incoherent opening sequences to the dreary monotony of Bond's revenge kick, "Quantum of Solace" is one brutalizing bummer of a ride, a chain of increasingly explosive fight scenes strung together by bits of talky exposition. Even the locations, long part of the lush vicarious enjoyment to be had at a James Bond movie, have no zing.
Under other circumstances, I wouldn't applaud the surfeit of brutality—which still doesn't approach what you can find elsewhere at the multiplex most nights—but, as in Casino Royale, it is a useful corrective to the flabby excesses of the franchise, which so often portrayed 007 as ass-chaser first and assassin second. Moreover, Craig is so very good as the hitman with a heart of lead that it's hard to begrudge him his lethal mandate. His blue eyes are colder than even Fleming could've imagined, and his spare but fearsome frame seems, unlike most Hollywood physiques, built more for performance than for show. (Most of the women I know will be disappointed—and most of their husbands relieved—to hear that Craig takes his shirt off a good deal less than he did in Casino Royale.) Apart from Craig, the chief pleasure of the film is Dame Judi Dench. In her earlier collaborations with Brosnan, I could never shake the sense that she was holding back a bit, lest the quiet domination of which she (and sometimes it seems only she) is capable might overwhelm her leading man and throw their scenes together out of kilter. Craig, by contrast, can and does withstand the full-on Dench, and their scenes together crackle with amiable ferocity. Who needs Bond Girls when this Bond Woman is so much more compelling?
The death in “Casino” of Bond’s lover Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), along with the possibility that she had betrayed him before dying, provides an obvious psychological explanation for his somber demeanor in “Quantum.” But while the exploration of Bond’s psychology makes him, arguably at least, a deeper, subtler character — and there is certainly impressive depth and subtlety in Mr. Craig’s wounded, whispery menace — it also makes him harder to distinguish from every other grieving, seething avenger at the multiplex. Which is to say just about every one. And here, I suppose, the deeper questions bubble up. Is revenge the only possible motive for large-scale movie heroism these days? Does every hero, whether Batman or Jason Bourne, need to be so sad?
'Quantum of Solace' opens today in movie theaters nationwide.