Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
When Casino Royale came out in 2006, it introduced to the world a James Bond far different than the one we’d seen so often before. Gone was the suave lady killer who defeated super villains in between sipping his very specifically prepared cocktails, and instead we were given a raw and untested agent who allowed his heart to interfere with his duty. Daniel Craig’s Bond was simultaneously more brutal (such as with his first on-screen kill) and more sensitive (as when he consoles Vespa in the shower) than other incarnations of the character, two words that would never be used to describe the Bond of Sean Connery’s day. It was a massive departure, and while many people had nothing but praise for this new 007, there were many purists who cried foul and felt it was sacrilege. For those people, there was always the hope that Casino Royale was the setup, and that future installments would bring back the Bond they knew and loved.
After screening Quantum of Solace, I have bad news for fans of the old school: The old Bond is dead. Luckily, the one that remains is at the center of the best Bond movie yet.
Quantum of Solace takes place literally minutes after the end of Casino Royale, with an embittered Bond seeking out the truth behind the death of his newly deceased love Vespa. Before five minutes have elapsed, Bond has survived a terrifying car chase, thwarted an assassination attempt on M’s life, and killed the only lead British Intelligence had. A tip brings James to Haiti, where he finds himself in the middle of a plot involving military coups, international oil politics and world water supply. It’s a compelling story…but let’s be honest: we don’t watch James Bond movies for the storylines.
The first thing that jumps out about Quantum of Solace is the action. There were several action scenes from Casino Royale – namely the opening chase and the airport scene – that rank as some of the best in the franchise’s history. They are hard acts to follow…and yet QoS delivers, again and again. Whether fighting on scaffolding, in a boat or on a plane, each scene is perfectly shot and choreographed to keep the audience on the edge of its collective seat.
As for the Bond character himself, he is truly a transformed figure. The James Bond in Quantum of Solace has a hard edge that never goes away. He still maintains his composure no matter what happens, but he’s as likely to flip a man off a motorcycle as he is to defuse a situation with a quip. He is a man whose brutality is still barely concealed beneath the surface, yet when it comes out is still shocking in its ferocity. When it comes to women, Bond is still suave and seductive, but it’s far different than before. There are no classic “Bond Women” in QoS; the female lead is an equal who shares nothing more sexual than a tender moment with James, and his one conquest is a fellow agent who pays for her lapse in judgment. Yet perhaps most tellingly, this James Bond is someone who makes mistakes. Throughout the movie, Bond makes decisions that are done with the best of intentions, yet lead to disastrous results.
It all adds up to what is easily the most satisfying Bond movie in memory, at least for those of us who welcome reinvention. But I can’t help but wonder about those who don’t.
For those fans who grew up on the Connery/Moore Bond, I can only imagine how disappointing this new creation could be. After all, this need to examine our iconic heroes is a recent phenomenon, with Batman Begins as the most successful and prominent example. Before then, people didn’t question the motivation of their favorite characters, they simply enjoyed them. Thus, James Bond was merely a smooth secret agent who always said the right thing, always got the girl(s), always stopped the bad guy, and always made use of some elaborate gadgets to get the job done. And if THIS was the character you followed…then how strange to now see Daniel Craig’s Bond…a sometimes vicious, sometimes emotionally bare man who uses little more than his fists and his wits to save the world. I can honestly understand if the purists out there reject Quantum of Solace for this reason.
However, whether this Bond is truly a continuation of the series, or a new character in his own right, the fact remains that Quantum of Solace is a simply terrific movie that speaks perfectly to the sort of action stars we crave today. James Bond might never again use laser watches and bed multiple women, but what he gets instead is a subtle touch of reality, and as this movie clearly shows, this is what he needed most of all.