As a life long James Bond fan I always look forward to new adventures from the super-spy. My very first cinematic memory is watching Roger Moore’s final outing as Bond in A View To A Kill, and my teenage years and early twenties were filled with Pierce Brosnan’s daring-do.
When the Broccoli family ditched Brosnan in favour of the younger, more rugged Daniel Craig I was a bit annoyed (to say the least). Although I was a tad sceptical that Daniel Craig had what it took to slip into the tuxedo, I will admit that I was more worried about EON’s idea to reboot Bond for the Bourne generation. Over the years the character of James Bond has been constantly reinvented, without having to start all over again.
In my opinion Casino Royale was an adequate beginning for a harsher and more realistic Bond, but its bloated running time; generic soundtrack and tacked-on finale left me hoping that the next film in the series would deliver the type of James Bond film that I wanted.
So… how does Quantum of Solace measure up?
It surpasses its predecessor in almost every way and delivers the best Bond film in over a decade. Shorter and more action packed, Quantum of Solace is a James Bond film for the new millennium. Unlike Brosnan’s swan song Die Another Day, the CGI is limited, and unlike Casino Royale the film doesn’t try to be too hip and trendy. From the pulsating opening car chase – you know that you are watching Bond, and like the older movies in the series you feel that it is the end of another adventure (it is) and not a piece of grandstanding from the second unit and stunt departments.
Picking up mere minutes after Royale’s climax the film hits the ground running (literally) and delivers action sequence after action sequence. Don’t worry though, unlike many action movies today this doesn’t feel like sensory overload – just damn good entertainment.
The plot is simple: Bond wants to discover more about the mysterious Quantum organization following his capture of Mr White. He also wants to get revenge for the death of his one true love Vesper from the previous film. Jet-setting across the Atlantic he finds that rogue environmentalist Mr Greene (Mathieu Amalric) has an affiliation with the evil group and whilst tailing Greene he meets Camille – a beautiful but deadly killer who wants revenge on one of Greene’s associates.
It feels like Marc Forster went into directing Quantum of Solace with a checklist of greatest hits from other Bond movies: car chase – check; boat chase – check; roof top chase – check. There are a couple more I could add but I don’t want to spoil the film – in any case you can bet they’re in there. What’s miraculous is that it all feels fresh and very real.
Forster also manages to bring back Bond’s weapon of choice – the Walther PPK for the first time in years. There’s even a death of a character that harkens back to Goldfinger. It’s all classic Bond, but it all feels relevant, despite what Mike Myers says.
The supporting cast all fit nicely into their respective roles. Mathieu Amalric delivers one of the best performances of a Bond villain in years. While the part may not be as iconic as Blofeld or Goldfinger because he has no “gimmick,” the actor does make Mr Greene real. The Bond girls Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton do admirable jobs, but their roles are merely window dressing. At least the filmmakers have realized that Bond doesn’t need a female partner a la Halle Berry. Having said that it would seem that Bond sees action everywhere but the bedroom. If he’s not careful Craig’s Bond could become as monastic as Timothy Dalton’s “new man” of the 1980′s – and we all know how… ahem… wooden he was.
Judi Dench’s M is much improved this time around and her relationship with Bond does show growth, but I still feel that if they were rebooting the franchise they should have dropped her too. Bond needs a father figure, not mothering. His relationship with Felix Lieter (Jeffrey Wright) is also warming up too and Leiter’s character is more than Bond’s one dimensional American buddy for the first time in years.
While there is much to praise about the Quantum of Solace I do have a few niggles. It wouldn’t hurt to have more of that theme music in there and why switch the gun barrel opening to the end of the film? Also, if at some point they are going to have to reintroduce Q and Moneypenny – why keep holding it off? After all Moneypenny is only a secretary and Q is a piece of walking plot exposition. I’m sure Haggis, Purvis and Wade can fit them in without too much trouble.
Quantum of Solace is Bond at his best. Thrilling and entertaining, this new outing highlights yet again why this franchise has been around for over 45 years. While many will try and highlight the Bourne-ification of James Bond they seem to forget that this is the cold blooded killer created by Ian Fleming in the 1950s. Bond isn’t aping Bourne – it’s the other way around. While the action may be more visceral and frenetic it is still pure Bond.
Quantum of Solace puts Bond back on top. I really can’t wait for James Bond to return…