We recognize the new millennium Bond is not the lover that Connery was, or the gadget man that was part of Moore’s portrayal, or the smooth operator that Brosnan presented. And for purists, if that’s even a term you can use on a 45 year old franchise that has had over a half dozen different lead actors, that may be difficult. And they will also have to get over it. With Casino Royale there was a return to the intirigue, the vigor, the sex appeal, the sophisticato, the action, and even the violence of the best from the earlier Bond films. It reminded us of all that was good about the character, the story, the villians, and even the spy business, and why we want the good guys to win.
Quantum of Solace does very little of that. This Bond film is a confusing muddle of topical international politics and intrigue. It’s hard to follow, significantly inconsistent, dark beyond the depths of Casino Royale’s finish, and at times just plain implausible.
Of course we know that James Bond knows his way around mechanical devices and technology as well as he knows his way around the bourdiour. But do we believe that he knows how to pilot a DC-2 aircraft, turn it into a stunt plane, and then survive a dive out of the plane, sans parachute? Sure, he’s James Bond after all, but jumping out of a plane without a chute. Isn’t that for a superhero, not a mortal with a license to kill, others?
From the start, this is a decidedly different film. There’s no build up, no foreplay. The opening scenes are a dramatic car chase through the Italian mountains and then into a working rock quarry. Shot from the line of sight of each driver, you get a front seat in the car for this scene, but absolutely no perspective. Edited like a video game, there are multiple shots, many not even a second. It all moves by too fast, too fast to process, too fast to comprehend, and too fast to actually enjoy the footage of the scene before us on screen. It’s as though we’re watching subliminal Bond, able to dodge deadly villains with just his guile and will.
And the unfortunate thing about this film is that it doesn’t get much clearer, even with the reintroduction of Judi Dench as M, and several other MI-6 and CIA characters we first met in Casino Royale. There’s some international dealing, the unveiling of a new global cabal, the Quantum, and the steady subplot of Bond, and Camille, this film’s Bond girl, seeking revenge for the death of those they once kept close. For Bond, it’s what motivates him, and causes his superiors great consternation. For Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), it’s patience in seeking to reach her goal, and avenge the brutal killing of her entire family by Bolivian sadist. This film has more action than most Bond films, much less sex than any previous Bond film, and a much stronger conversation about prevailing standards regarding torture and interrogation. While no reference is made to any current event, or even the favored interrogation locale of the Bush administration, implications are clear, and even relations between allies are shown as being much foggier than public pronouncements and smiling visits by leading politicians would have us believe.
Many will hit the theaters to see this film. If you do go, take an open mind, and perhaps a Dramamine. Either that or ephedrine. One way or another, you either need to slow down to process all that is going on up there on screen, or speed up to enjoy the race you’re witnessing. Sober, under the light of the projector, this just doesn’t cut it, and leaves you wondering even more than what this muddled title really means.