Bond On The Run

The new James Bond film, the twenty second in the franchise, sees the British super-spy continue his billion dollar renaissance under Daniel Craig but if Casino Royale was a busted flush, Quantum of Solace is as incomprehensible as its clunky title, a messy, overly moody procession of stunts, stylisations and non sequiturs.

After an underwhelming credits sequence and a misjudged theme song, the story picks up an hour after the events of the first film with Bond being chased through the tunnels around Lake Garda in Northern Italy by a fleet of machine-gun toting bad guys. At the MI6 safe house in Sienna, Bond meets M (Judi Dench) who is concerned about his state of mind but still allows him to attend the interrogation of Mr. White (Jesper Christensen). It doesn’t go well and soon Bond and M realise they’ve uncovered a secret organization that is looking to take the world hostage by controlling natural resources. But Bond doesn’t really care about that, he just wants revenge for Vesper Lynd, drowned in a Venetian canal at the end of Casino Royale.

A well-realised spy-science bit, where boffins track money by satellite, leads Bond to Haiti and the feisty Camille (Olga Kurylenko). Already on her on quest for retribution, she leads him to her shifty-eyed millionaire lover, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), busy arranging the overthrow of various South American governments in return for exploration rights. Soon Bond is trailing Greene around the world while trying to keep M on his side and negotiate a clear path with his old friend Felix Leiter of the CIA (an underused Jeffrey Wright), who are also tracking the clandestine organisation for their own ends.

Whatever its failings as a story, Casino Royale had drive and panache. QoS has the same breakneck tempo, but aside from some well executed set pieces involving cars, boats and planes, the film lacks all invention and wit, ironic or otherwise. The incomprehensible script from returning writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade is poorly structured, dramatically underwhelming and hurriedly delivered, with dialogue replaced by detonations, exposition by explosions, vengeance by violence. As the double-crosses and duplicities pile up, the story fragments into individual scenes of choppily choreographed mayhem, pausing only to allow Craig a few moments of respite which he uses to peer out of frame, his blue eyes staring blankly at nothing in particular. He is supposed to be mourning the only woman he ever loved but going by Craig’s craggy, emotionless face, you’d never have guessed it.

If Bond himself is remote and isolated, his villainous opponent is a real disappointment. Amalric is a fine actor, but his character has nothing but the occasional bug-eyed rant to differentiate him from anyone around him. Greene is a very ordinary madman and Amalric cannot make him special. Bond’s most significant opponent is also the most unlikely, his controller and champion M, and Dench plays the role perfectly. She is one of the film’s few real pleasures.

QoS feels more like the tail end of its immediate predecessor than a standalone endeavour, the closing act of a better story collapsed into a blur of fights and face-offs. Some of this is down to the films curtailed running time (at 105 minutes it is the shortest Bond of all and a full half hour shorter than Casino Royale) but mostly it is down to a lack of any connection, between the characters and the story, the story and the audience.

Remove all the trappings of 007, the legacy of the franchise and the detritus of cliché it has collected over forty years, and what remains is a ordinary, everyday action flick, overly influenced by Jason Bourne but unremarkable in every other way.


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Ian said...

Blast....and I was going to take my Mrs to see it tonight. I guess I still will because there's no way she's going to be denied her dose of Daniel.