By Josh Moss
Just going to get this out up front: Go see the new James Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace." Seriously, check your pulse if this thing doesn’t get your heart pumping. If you saw "Casino Royale" two years ago, with it’s dull scenes around a poker table, this time Marc Forster, who directed last year’s "The Kite Runner," has replaced Martin Campbell at the helm and, with a shaky camera, created one of the best action films of 2008, a video game come to life. But adrenaline-fueled explosions are about all that’s here.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It kicks of with Bond behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo, speeding cars and machinegun fire on his tail. The chase takes place on an Italian mountainside with an ocean view that resembles a level on the arcade game Cruis’n USA. In Bond’s trunk is Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), whom M (Judi Dench) is prepared to interrogate. (Dench is great as M, the head of the organization M16, providing just the amount of humor the role needs.) There’s some diabolical clan (Quantum) bent on world domination, and M needs Bond to get to the bottom of it. You know, the usual. When they reach their destination, Bond pops the trunk. “Don’t bleed to death,” he says to Mr. White.
Daniel Craig is back as secret agent Bond, James Bond (sorry, couldn’t resist), and he’s a killing machine. “I don’t have any friends,” he says. (OK, so the dialogue can be a tad unoriginal.) Craig’s Bond is heartless, wanting to get even with the man responsible for the death of Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved in "Casino Royale." If you didn’t see that movie, this part of the story won’t be convincing. Still, Craig brings a refreshing intensity to a character that Pierce Brosnan tried to ruin in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.
Also on his plate is villain Dominic Greene, played by Mathieu Amalric. You’ll recognize Amalric from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," and, unfortunately, the craziness behind his beady eyes doesn’t emerge until much later than we would have liked. Greene’s the face of a group fronting as environmentalists (huh?), with a goal of hoarding the world’s water supply or something like that. Discussion about global warming gets tossed around, too. It’s as convoluted as it sounds. A scene with a touch-screen, tabletop computer that is supposed to help explain things, winds up confusing things even further.
The script, co-written by Paul Haggis (who wrote "Casino Royale" and Oscar winners "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby"), is light on character development and sexual tension and Bond charm. It’s basically one viewpoint: Straight down a gun’s barrel. Even Olga Kurylenko as Bond girl Camille doesn’t add any spice. She wants to avenge the death of her family, and she and Bond, uh, bond over how neither thinks killing should be personal. Romantic. Gemma Arterton’s character Fields, who must babysit Bond at one point, provides the only sexual sparks. However, we do pose this question: Where does Kurylenko rank as a Bond girl based on hotness alone? We’ll leave the answer to a drunken bar debate, but we think her name should at least get tossed into the mix.
Old-school fans of the franchise will miss Sean Connery and some of the suaveness he brought to the role of Bond years ago. Though this may not be the best Bond flick ever made, the boat chase scene and battling airplanes and exploding hotels sure are entertaining.
3 fleurs di lis out of 4
Note: Also opening today at Baxter Avenue Theaters is "Battle in Seattle," directed by Stuart Townsend. We haven't had a chance to see it yet, but it's about activists who peacefully protested the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference in 1999. It eventually escalated into a riot. It stars Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez, Martin Henderson, Ray Liotta and Andre Benjamin, better known as one half of rap group Outkast.