by ED SYMKUS & r & & r & & lt;span class="dropcap" & T & lt;/span & here was a time, not all that long ago, when you could get away with saying, "Another James Bond film? They're all the same."
Yep, there were the requisite car chases and shoot-outs and splendid locales and gorgeous women and nifty gadgets and, once in a while, a fluffy white cat. And, of course, there were the one-liners -- the standard Bond patter delivered just before he eliminated yet another bad guy. The films were still doing pretty well at the box office -- Pierce Brosnan's last one, before he was let go, earned almost $500 million -- but the franchise did need some shaking and stirring.
Enter Daniel Craig, a relatively unknown British actor who had been doing some nice character work, breaking through, with an American accent, in Road to Perdition, then coming on strong in the too-little-seen Layer Cake. Choosing him to take over the 007 role was -- no word-mincing here -- brilliant. The series was reinvigorated by being reinvented, starting over from the beginning, as if there'd never been a Goldfinger or a GoldenEye or a James Bond.
Craig's Bond in Casino Royale was leaner and meaner and more brutal than any of the Bonds before him, which translated into the film being closest in style to any of the Ian Fleming books since From Russia With Love. The only gadgets in that one were the poison-tipped blades in Rosa Klebb's shoes. The only gadget in Casino Royale was a portable defibrillator. There are none in the new one. Nor are there any one-liners.
Quantum of Solace is a rough, tough movie that features a grim mood and a menacing atmosphere. There are plenty of bad guys and a couple of stunningly beautiful women. It takes place all over the world, has guns and explosions galore, and kicks off with one of the niftiest car chases -- between an Aston Martin and an Alfa Romeo swerving and spinning along a mountain highway -- that's been seen in a long while.
But the film, like the actor and the character he's portraying, is itself leaner and meaner and somehow more muscular than even Casino Royale. The story takes up where that film left off, with Bond still reeling from the loss of a loved one, and with either revenge or duty to his country on his mind, along with the feeling that he may have been betrayed.
So this is literally a sequel, something that hasn't been done in any of the previous standalone Bond films (although Richard Kiel did show up in two Bond films as Jaws), and it works beautifully in displaying singular character development as well as the shaky relationship between Bond and his boss, M (Judi Dench).
But this is also a much more sinister-than-usual 007 movie. From the moment we hear a villainous fellow say, "We have people everywhere," an uncertainty registers on the faces of everyone from the stern M to the cool, calm Bond. But there isn't much time to wonder about some new ominous organization that's up to some unknown no good. Because director Marc Forster (The Kite Runner, Finding Neverland) proves that he knows how to unleash mayhem with the best of them. Besides the opening car chase, there's much more pursuing -- on foot, in boats, in planes -- all shot in uncomfortably tight proximity to the action. But in and around the almost constant action, this is also a film-length study in trust that asks not only if you can trust someone else, but even if you can trust yourself.
The Bond girls are Olga Kurylenko (Natasha in Max Payne) as Camille and Gemma Arterton (June in RocknRolla) as Agent Fields.
The villains include Mathieu Amalric (star of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) as the smiling, slimy ostensible environmentalist Dominic Greene, and Joaquin Cosio as the vile General Medrano.
Quantum even pays tribute to the iconic bedroom death scene in Goldfinger (though with a different kind of gooey liquid).
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
Directed by Marc Forster
Starring Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric