Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.
I had a good time at the 12:01 screening of Quantum of Solace, but this reborn series could very easily become derailed.
The great problem with the first 20 Bond films is that they pretty much all blend together. Of course, Bond’s personality, the arsenal of cool gadgetry, colorful super-villains, volcano hideouts and the bevy of femme fatales with hilarious names overpowered the series’ monotony and created an endearing character for the ages. Solace, the 22nd in the series and the second of the Daniel Craig era, suffers the same problem as the original 20, but doesn’t have the charm. Instead of an evil mastermind hell bent on building a space station to hold the world hostage, we have a smarmy French real-estate speculator who desires to buy 60 percent of Bolivian utilities companies. NOOOOOOO! TAKE 55 PERCENT, BUT NOT 60! He doesn’t even cry blood. There is no Q, no Money Penny, no gadgets and no humor. Heck, Bond seems to have taken a True Love Waits pledge and doesn’t even attempt to bed Camille (Olga Kurylenko). At least there’s a decent opening titles song/montage, courtesy of Jack White.
Bond #22 begins moments after Casino Royale ended, leaving Bond aching to avenge the death of his love, Vesper Lynd (thus making it the first true Bond sequel). The plot details got a little hazy (but hey, it’s a Bond film, so who cares?), but he traces her killers to Bolivia and finds himself mixed up in a suspicious land deal between Dominic Greene (the aforementioned smarmy Frenchman) and an ambitious Bolivian general with eyes on the Presidential Mansion in La Paz. Camille also has a beef with Greene/Mr. President–elect and so does the CIA. Along the way Bond kills lots of people. Lots. TONS. One of his unintended victims is Agent (Strawberry?) Fields (Gemma Arterton), who I mention only because I have thing for redheads.
Solace moves along at a decent clip, but the action scenes were so frantic and edited to death that I was confused during the obligatory car chase. And boat chase, and plane chase, and horse chase and motorcycle chase. Director Marc Foster tries to emulate the urgent, immersive style of the Bourne films, but the main difference is that those sequence were coherent and a viewer could follow the action. I consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to action sequences and these are subpar.
Thematically, it’s full-throttle revenge. Duty, and sex take a back seat as it turns out that avenging a loved one’s death can do a lot for your determination and pain threshold. In other words, he is Batman. Does Bond really need such a strong theme to make a movie work? Is achieving some small quantum of solace (Hey! That’s the title of the movie!) a good enough excuse to make me sit in a theater for 106* minutes? I’m not sure. It’s interesting, I’ll give you that, but I’m not sure how far it can take us.
One area where you can’t fault Solace in its acting corps. Although I’ve just criticized Craig’s Bond, the problem is the script, not in Craig’s acting. He was awesome in Royale and he’s just as awesome here. I don’t throw “sexy” around very often when talking about men, but heck, it fits. Holy crap, he look great in a tux. Dench is awesome as M, even if her character is little bit wishy washy, trusting Bond, losing faith, trusting, losing faith, blah blah blah. The villain, played by Mathieu Almaric, is creepy and frightening, even if his scheme is pedestrian and ridiculousloy white collar. Kurylenko is quietly alluring but Jeffrey Wright, an actor I’m normally quite fond of, sleep walks through his role as CIA spook Felix Leiter.
Royale blew audiences away because it was so new and different. The same goes for Craig. His was a darker, more damaged Bond and we all ate it up. This new offering tastes the same and my jaw could soon get tired of chewing, even if it hasn’t just yet. A great action film to be sure, Solace doesn’t have the fresh feeling Royale did, and doesn’t quite make it into the echelons of the greatest Bond flicks. Craig and Co. had better figure out how to balance realistic action and stoicism with some of the original Bond elements that made the series so darn loveable. I’m giving them a pass them time, but next time around I won’t be so generous.
*This is the shortest Bond film ever, and a full 44 minutes shorter than Casino Royale.