(2008 ) Director: Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland) | Writers: Paul Haggis (Crash; Walker, Texas Ranger), and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (Casino Royale, Die Another Day)
The most refreshing thing about the current James Bond reboot, launched so memorably with 2006’s stellar Casino Royale, is that now, for the first time, Bond has motivation. Sure, he always had orders from the higher-ups, but from the moment we met the new Bond, we were meant to understand his all-encompassing drive to win (possibly born his years growing up in an orphanage, being that all orphans grow up to be rage-fueled competitors) before the filmmakers even introduced the convenient revenge factor.
Part of the credit for this more fleshed-out Bond goes to Daniel Craig, who still, at times, seems an odd choice for the playboy secret agent, but brings to the role a smoldering, under-the-surface intensity that breaks free in casual conversation as much as during his fits of violent fury. Sean Connery played Bond as a gentleman sadist who took his opportunity to serve Queen and Country as a sort of outlet for perverse, primal urges disallowed by good breeding; Craig’s Bond, on the other hand, is visibly rankled by being told he can’t do something, approaching both physical fights and verbal confrontations as games that need to be won. Yes, the violent bent is there, but it’s accompanied by a very human tendency to make mistakes in the heat of anger, and by an endearing loyalty to those he’s learned to trust. If Connery was a pathological bully and Roger Moore a happy-go-lucky adventurer; Craig is a rottweiler; angry, needy, and despite his icy exterior, eager to please.
Casino‘s direct sequel, Quantum of Solace, for better or for worse, is more of the same. Immediately after the events of the last film, Bond finds himself chasing members of the shady Quantum organization, which leads to his investigation of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a curiously land-grubbing environmentalist who has ties to both the CIA and South American dictatorships. Stymied by bureaucracy, Bond finds help from similarly revenge-minded beauty Camille Montes (the stunning Olga Kurylenko), who might just be able to show the grumpy agent how to let go of the past.
Bond’s own personal arc is followed more here as he wrestles with revenge-lust, and things progress in a very satisfying manner as far as plot goes; yet I have a sinking feeling that there will be little I remember about Quantum a year from now, aside from it being the most recent Bond film.
Much of this is due to Quantum‘s helmsman, the accomplished dramatic director Marc Forster, who insists we see Bond in a Jason Bourne-like universe, where the bad guys look like normal dudes, and their motivations are less psychopathic and more boringly greedy. As a result, the movie is both unique and mundane, full of interesting setpieces marred by forgettable action sequences. The motivation, for all characters, is there, but everything else just seems so rigidly plotted and perfunctorily executed.
Having already seen the high ceiling for this rebooted series in Casino, Quantum proves enjoyable, but a little underwhelming. The new Bond, so unpredictably and surprisingly human, deserves a movie whose production and writing is as raw and remarkable as he is.
Rating: Three of Five Stars