Quantum of something

First, the good news. Daniel Craig’s back, as is Dame Judi Dench, who seems to have an expanded role—the relationship between the rogue agent and the head of MI6 is the truest in the film, if you don’t count that between Bond and his gun. Olga Kurylenko is as stunning a Bond girl as we’ve seen in ages. The dude from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly makes a great, if pasty, villain (at last, the Bond franchise is waking up to the real enemy threatening world peace: the French!). The chase set-pieces are as action-packed and breathless as in Casino Royale, the theme song (by Jack White of the White Stripes, with Alicia Keyes duetting) is kind of catchy, and there’s a reference to one of the most famous scenes from any Bond film. The scene doesn’t quite work, but is kind of interesting in a postmodern kind of way. (For those of us who care about such things, it leads to all those pesky questions no one asks at a Bond film–namely, what universe is this happening in? Certainly not one where anyone has seen Goldfinger.)

The bad news: Quantum of Solace doesn’t have the shock of the new that Casino Royale did. The plot, such as it is, seems to simply be all the annoying scenes required to lead up to the action. Bond’s supposed motivation, to avenge the death of his love Vesper Lynd (dead at the end of CR) would work a lot better if she didn’t have a such a silly name. Solace’s plot is, at times, confusing (something about water and dictatorships), trusty CIA agent and Bond pal Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) has the same fixed expression of disdain in every scene, and some of the more annoying tropes from old Bond films seem to be sneaking into this franchise reboot—the terrible puns (“A dead end,” Bond tells M after dispatching a lead) and the completely unbelievable stunts (Bond jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, and surviving by glomming onto Olga). And where Casino had some kind of cool spy stuff, such as Bond’s distracting the hotel staff while he scans the security camera tapes searching for his man, Quantum is basically straight-up action. The thing is, the Bourne franchise beats Bond at its own game by having great action AND cool spy stuff (like that scene in the third Bourne flick where our hero drops a cell phone into the reporter’s pocket to tell him where to meet).

Quantum of Solace is a decent enough Bond film, I s’pose, but leaves me worried that another Moonraker, with Craig as Bond in space, might be on the horizon.

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