James Bond’s latest outing will surely shake up the 40-year-old franchise, but may not stir up the right reaction amongst all the 007 faithful.
Indeed, as a follow-up to the critical and commercial darling “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace” clearly faces an uphill battle from reviewers and audiences alike. But while the latest incarnation of Bond may not have the clever Q or snarky Miss Moneypenny to help him along, it does have a solid fan base and capable leading man with Daniel Craig at the helm.
It’s just too bad it doesn’t have an equally brilliant screenplay.
Picking up point blank from the 2006 reboot, “Quantum” begins with Her Majesty’s most famous secret agent literally gunning out of the gate. Having just captured the mysterious Mr. White from “Casino,” 007 now has to deliver the man to M (Judi Dench, “Pride and Prejudice”) before a horde of trigger-happy henchmen turn him and his Aston Martin into a pile of British scrap.
With Bond being Bond, he easily completes his mission by dealing with the faceless goons in a furious display of vehicular homicide – fans of exotic cars will cringe at the sight and sound of each bullet ding – but trashing a $270,000 car apparently can’t help dampen the stinging betrayal of his deceased lover from “Casino,” Vesper Lynd.
The blackmailed beauty left Bond as an emotional time bomb bent for revenge and unfortunately for Mr. White, he wants answers.
However, Bond soon finds his captive’s own super-secret organization Quantum is a bit more adept at the whole spy game than MI6, with a mole at White’s interrogation session quickly disposing of a few agents as well as letting his strongest lead get away.
But the ever-resourceful personnel at the British agency quickly redeem themselves, with 007 eventually trekking off to Bolivia to meet with the film’s biggest baddie, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly”), and the latest Bond girl, Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko, “Max Payne”).
It’s here the viewers learn Greene, one of the wealthy zillionaire members of Quantum, has the world thinking he’s working the environmental philanthropy angle, complete with posh parties and stirring speeches.
As expected, the whole do-gooder role is a sham, as Greene instead uses his ecological venture as a way to mask his “evil” plot of diverting water from the poor peasants of South America.
Yes, Bond has gone green, and in more ways than one.
Sad to say, even though this eco-friendly message manages to come in loud and clear, the rest of the film can’t seem to accomplish more than a meandering plot line – ironic, considering “Quantum” was named after a short story by 007’s creator, Ian Fleming.
But it’s Bond, so a top-caliber story doesn’t need to be in the cards, although it would be nice seeing as Paul Haggis, the Academy-Award winning screenwriter for “Crash,” is one of three who penned the script.
The cinematographers and editors also seem to fall prey to this mediocrity as well, with the film’s obvious but inept homage to Paul Greengrass’s “Bourne” series often falling into a mess of visual incoherence. The movie wants to be and is action-packed, but it’s hard to stay on the implied thrill ride if everything’s just a jumble of color and bullet-spray.
Still, when “Quantum” eventually settles into its pace, it does manage to pull off some genuine cinematic moments, such as the meshing of a surveillance sequence with a performance of Puccini’s “Tosca.” It’s scenes such as this that show the franchise has come a long way since “Moonraker” and “Octopussy.”
However, MI6’s best man has made a number of strides too, with Craig’s take on Bond easily able to live up to the mythos of the iconic character. While the actor’s initial acceptance of the role in 2006 struck dread into the hearts of 007 fans, “Quantum” is all the better because of James Blonde.
Craig’s stoic depiction unquestionably anchors the film, even if Bond is still very much the blunt instrument he was in “Casino” – he often prefers to communicate with either a gun or a grunt. This is quite a feat, considering the actor probably has one of the least dialogue-driven roles, especially when compared to Dench’s stern M.
Any long-running franchise – especially James Bond – carries a ton of baggage with it, but 007’s latest had a bit more than the average release. The series’ reboot “Casino” set the bar and set it high, and “Quantum” just doesn’t quite achieve its successor’s polish or balance.
Bond is back, but he’s a little worse for wear.