New Bond Film has its moments
By Joe Viglione
Chief Film Critic, Entertainment Editor
1989’s “License To Kill” and 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” contained elements the super spy film producers are seeking out again with the reinvention James Bond that is Daniel Craig. As the Batman franchise has successfully brought one iconic superhero into an uncharted level of commercial acceptance, Craig’s Bond in Quantum of Solace and the previous entry, Casino Royale, lacks the heart that The Dark Knight shimmers with. Though the expanded role for Judi Dench is very good, French actor Mathieu Amalric is hardly a threatening villain. Heath Ledger he’s not, and add that to the gratuitous everything – guns, car chases, explosions, Mickey Spillane-styled violence (Dench overseeing torture like a female Dick Cheney at Abu Ghraib) well, those are the things bring in the youth market while the more tactful…more artful approach is abandoned somewhat.
Not to say that this new epic doesn’t have its moments – Bond slipping away from his higher ups in the hotel seems very Thomas Crowne Affair while Dench has as much fun as Vanessa Redgrave had with her role in Mission Impossible. But this film could have used a bit of the first Mission Impossible’s subtlety, some of Roger Moore’s humor, and a dash of George Lazenby’s aloof inquisitiveness. Craig is developing a Mike Hammer persona, more so than the Jason Charles Bourne comparison being tossed about. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say this is an ultra modern Mike Hammer feature film under the guise of being a James Bond motion picture.
How much destruction can we filmgoers take? Terminator 3, Matrix 2, Superman Returns, The Dark Knight, Transporter 1, 2, and 3, bang bang bang bang bang. Huge explosions are replacing intellectually astute commentary, philosophy and irony that were the foundation of spy vs. spy movies. The best moment in Quantum of Solace is when Craig/Bond intentionally upsets an electronic meeting of the Quantum group in a stadium, where he is shooting photos, not a gun, and where Judi Dench gets the information on a very high tech computer screen. Now that’s the space age super spy stuff that the fans of this film franchise find so invigorating. The nod to an image from Goldfinger is all well and good, but the captivating intrigue – and the brilliance of “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die” is lost here because Quantum Of Solace commits the cardinal sin: a master villain makes for a better movie. Mathieu Amalric is no Gert Fröbe, he’s no Vanessa Redgrave and, as stated, he’s light years away from being in Heath Ledger’s league. This fast-paced action film is saved by Judi Dench’s fierce and Stalin-esque coldness and the James Bond name. Other than that, it could have been titled Transporter IV.
Joe Viglione writes film reviews for AllMovie.com (republished on NYTimes.com, Barnes & Noble.com and many other sites), North Shore Sunday/Gatehouse Media, New England Insider, Blacklisted Journal and a variety of other media.
he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org