The James Bond franchise is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and with the release of Skyfall I wanted to take a look back at the 22 (23 if you count the rogue Never Say Never Again, 24 if you count the 1967 spoof of Casino Royale) films that have come before it. So sit back, grab your shaken-not-stirred martini and follow me on a trip down Bond memory lane.
Synopsis: Seeking revenge for the death of his love, secret agent James Bond sets out to stop an environmentalist from taking control of a country’s valuable resource.
Stars: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton
Director: Marc Forster
Running Length: 106 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Into every franchise a little rain must fall and though Quantum of Solace isn’t a fully fledged thunderstorm, it still leaves you feeling a little sad after the blue skies of Casino Royale. It’s not as if the players entered into the 22nd Bond film with anything other than noble intentions – there’s a lot of good stuff to be found in the movie but seeing that it’s really a direct sequel to Casino Royale there is a sense of feeling cheated out of the opportunity for a totally new adventure. Though Diamonds Are Forever also carried on a small piece of the story that ended On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that film at least wrapped things up in its pre-credit prologue.
Without spoiling some of the later events that happen in Casino Royale and spill over into this film, Quantum of Solace opens with Bond seeking vengeance with no less passion than he did in Licence to Kill. Determined to find the group responsible for a betrayal that’s hit too close to home, the opening moments of the film are a mountaintop chase delivered with breakneck speed and quick cut editing. The first thing I noticed about this entry was its different filming style that favors the herky jerky hand held camera and flash cuts to its predecessors slow burn sweeping panoramas. Under the direction of Forster (lensing his first true action film) the film enters the race at 99% so there’s not much room for the rest of the movie to keep pace. The opening credits and title song are also slightly disappointing with graphic design studio MK12 taking over for Daniel Kleinman with a mish mash of sand and sun and Jack White’s duet with Alicia Keys sounding slightly off key at time.
Off key is maybe the best way to describe the movie because everything just seems slightly askew or off the mark…something that grows more frustrating as the film goes on. At 106 minutes, it’s the shortest Bond film which is probably a good thing considering that it may also be its slowest. Yes, there are some dynamic action sequences on land and sea but nothing ever takes flight like I think it could have with a better script and stronger direction.
It’s no fault of the actors on board that the movie drags and I was more sympathetic to Craig in this film than I was in the previous entry. Here he’s a haunted man that masks his pain with his determined hunt for retribution. If he was a loose cannon in Casino Royale here he’s as wild animal as he goes above and beyond his call of duty to get the answers he’s looking for.
More depth is given to Dench in this film as well as she achieves duality in her role as Bond’s superior and also an unwitting mother. Craig and Dench take the roles deeper than one would normally feel is required but the end result are stronger performances because of it. Dench may be the biggest Bond girl of them all when you really think about it.
The real Bond girl here is Kurylenko that gives off a Catherine Zeta-Jones vibe and not much more. A character with motivations that I feel we’ve seen before (in For Your Eyes Only, for example), she’s also out for vengeance that may align with Bond’s. Frenchman Amalric is one of the slighter villains in these films but what he lacks in his physical presence he makes up for in his maniacal plans to steal a valuable natural resource.
I’ve seen the film four times now and I should freely admit that I’ve fallen asleep each time at some point. I’m usually a pretty alert moviegoer and it’s not that the film lacks for loud action scenes…but around the 60 minute mark my eyelids get droopy. That being said, watching the film back-to-back with Casino Royale is probably the way to go as both films are really all part of the same story.