Sunday, November 16, 2008

'Quantum of Solace': Shaken, but not stirred

Well, the sophomore slump continues -- at least as far as 007 is concerned.

Had high hopes for "Quantum of Solace," the new James Bond movie from Sony/MGM. After all, the new 007, Daniel Craig, revived the stale series in the excellent "Casino Royale" in 2005. But, like Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan before him, Craig's second outing as Britain's famous government agent leaves something to be desired. (Only the actor who founded the role, Sean Connery, was immune from the sophomore slump, turning in his best appearance in 1963's "From Russia, With Love.")

I'll not bother much with the plot -- what little of it exists. Something about stopping a nut intent on hording a water supply, blah, blah, blah. I never quite got it.

But that isn't really my beef with this movie. I'm used to the "plots" of a Bond movie present in name only. No, my biggest complaint is the producers seem to be making 007 into a modern-day action hero, more like Jason Bourne, than a sophisticated wit. Plus, Craig's Bond needs to find a sense of humor.

Oh, he is still excellent in the role. I love the hard-edged bad ass persona he's brought to Bond. But, when you spend that much time in the theater, you want to laugh. Connery and Moore were peerless at delivering the classic throwaway line. ("I've gotten you all wet." "Yes, but my martini is still dry.") Two or three moments in this film screamed for Craig to deliver such a comment. Alas, the moment passed.

Other highlights included an homage to "Goldfinger," this time with a woman covered in oil. (Signs of the time, eh?) The film picked up right where "Casino Royale" left off. And it does a great job of showing 007 seeking revenge -- and peace of mind -- following the death of Vesper. (See the first film for explanation.)

But the little dialogue present seemed to merely be a bridge between CGI explosions, or overblown chase scenes, or an excuse to blow up a building. This has always been a highlight of the series, but in its best moments, a James Bond movie took time to develop a set piece. (The card game in "Royale" was the best such sequence in years.)

No, something is missing here, something that is essentially Bond. At least Craig gives me hope for the character's future, something I never quite felt when Pierce Brosnan had the role.

In short, "Quantum of Solace" is a file it and forget it couple of hours with James Bond. Bring on the next one. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

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