Quantum of Solace
When one walks into a Bond film, one expects an air of class, suaveness and a certain something that elevates it above your average spy/action flick. That’s not entirely so with Quantum of Solace. But with the new direction the Bond films seem to be taking, is that a bad thing. Yes. And no.
Quantum of Solace picks up immediately where 2006’s Casino Royale leaves off, with Bond taking Mr. White captive in an effort to figure out what led Vesper Lynd to double cross MI6. This leads to a mysterious collective of business men, including Dominic Greene, a wealthy environmentalist with eyes on controlling Bolivia’s water supply. Beautiful location shooting, the always lovely Bond girls, and intense action sequences highlight this recent entry into the Bond cannon.
While there is still a distinction between the two super cinema spies, Jason Bourne and James Bond, with each new Bond film, the line continues to blur. Untill 06’s Casino Royale, Bond was suave, charming, gadget intensive, over-the top action, and humourous. Bourne was stripped down, gritty, brains, brawn and not much else, over the top, but more direct action sequences. There were clear stylistic differences between the two, and no one would dare confuse them. But following the success of the Bourne saga, and the diminishing critical acclaim for the Brosnan Bond flicks, producers and filmmakers decided to follow a similar Bournian path with the new films.
The performance of Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Munich) ranks as not only one of the finest in the Bond catalogue, but in the genre, and of the year. He brings an emotional depth to a character traditionally played as emotionally detached. That’s not to say the character was flat, just… in control. Craig not only launches himself to another tier of acting, but the character to a whole new level.
But this brings up the aforementioned conflict. This new Bond shows off not only the evolution of the character, but the evolution of the spy genre and the evolution of cinema in general. From Sean Connery in Bond’s debut in Dr. No, to Pierce Brosnan’s Bond swan song Die Another Day, there was always a knowing wink that the action was fictionally over the top, as were the gadgets and what not. That’s what made Bond such an admirable hero. He was played as a larger than life character who couldn’t possibly be real.
The conflict is, do we want the old Bond? Or is this new Bond where it’s at? There’s part of me that wish it was the way it was, the old Bond. But as I mentioned, the character, the genre and movies in general have all evolved since 1962, hell since 2002 (Die Another Day). So Bond is just adjusting to the times.
I think director Marc Foster (Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction) knew exactly where to put the character. In not just a personal moral dilema to explore his raw emotions, but in a professional dilema, and have the two decidedly cross.
And that brings him to Dominic Greene, one of the more fascinating villains in Bond history. He was brought to life by French actor Mathieu Amalric (Munich, Marie Antoinette). Amalric plays Greene with restrained bombacity. Yeah… I know, an oxymoron if there ever was one. He’s everything you ever liked about the villains, but reigns in the performance to bring a sense of reality to the character. Sure guys like Dr. Julius No, Auric Goldfinger, Max Zorin and even Le Chiffre couldn’t possibly exist, but Greene, there’s a very real chance of it. And that’s pretty scary.
And dear lord are the Bond girls ever beautiful. Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko (Max Payne, Paris, je t’aime) as the deeply troubled and vengeful Camile gives great life to the Bond girl, the character type which has gotten completely ridiculous in the more recent entries. Sure Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale was great. But did anyone really buy Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist? Especially one named Dr. Christmas Jones? Though conflict continues when a low level agent babysits and subsequently sleeps with Bond. She is just as absurdly named, with the moniker Strawberry Fields, though the relatively unknown Gemma Arternon brings beauty, grace and depth to her character’s brief stint on camera.
As it’s own movie, leaving the Bond legacy behind, it’s a damn fine movie. But you can’t rate it without looking into the legacy. It suffers from the same thing that makes it great. Progress. Though I’m glad it’s progressing. It makes for much more interesting films.