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Quantum of Solace

Year: 2008
Production Co: Eon Productions
Studio: MGM
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Barbara Broccoli/Michael G Wilson
Writer: Neale Purvis/Robert Wade/Paul Haggis
Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright
There's a disturbing trend among filmmakers of late. No matter how straight-arrow the subject matter, directors and studios are all declaring that they're searching for the 'heart' and going for an inner 'darkness' in everything right up to the midyear blockbusters. Hence Superman become about immigrants, X-Men a gay parable.

Complaining that directors are trying to give even the most brash popcorn movies depth is a strange complaint, but there's a difference between a movie being overcooked or twee and a movie simply giving you a good time.

Instead of giving us a better 'good' time, Marc Forster and the Eon camp have tried to give us another Dark Knight, an emotional indie drama dressed up with multi-million dollar effects and action.

Is that a good thing? Absolutely. Broccoli and Wilson wield considerable monetary and creative muscle, ensuring Forster had every special effect and stunt trick at his disposal. The result is a blistering action movie.

But a good Bond movie? Sadly no. Bond movies classic ones are about having a good time. Yes they got stupid with the invisible cars and endless quips, but Bond is the sum of many easily identifiable parts (girls, gadgets, gun, et al). To take any of that away from him runs the risk of taking away everything we love about a Bond film.

I was one of the few people who thought so about Casino Royale and I think so about Quantum of Solace (what are they going to do when they run out of increasingly silly names?). The chase sequence in the beginning where Bond's after M's would-be assassin is enough to give you vertigo, it's so breakneck and thrilling.

But while we're left with a dark, brutal, and nonetheless exciting action movie, it doesn't feel like James Bond any more. In fact, it wasn't until about fifteen minutes in, as Bond drives a boat into a beautiful island harbour in a long shot with sweeping orchestral music playing, that it first feels like a Bond film.

Part of the fault (and again I'm in a tiny minority) lies with Daniel Craig. For starters, he's not handsome (although I realise that's a highly subjective statement). He's not suave (I believe that's less subjective). He just looks like an angry, short, dangerous man. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan bought the kind of cheeky humour to Bond that I grew up with and I consequently love about him. This is a movie about an older, more cynical Jason Bourne, a man who says little, hits hard and shoots first. No wonder all those Bourne comparisons feel so fitting.

It's a direct sequel to Casino Royale as we meet Bond (Craig) fleeing from pursuers, Mr White safely in his trunk as he makes his way to a safe house where M and her aides are waiting to interrogate the bad guy.

But he works for a much bigger and nastier bad guy. Dominic Green (Amalric) is a seeming environmentalist who's trying to capture the water supply of Bolivia to sell through a corrupt general he's in cahoots with. It's all got something to do with the reason Vesper killed herself, but for the life of me I could hardly work that out at the end of Casino Royale either.

Now, driven by rage at the death of the only woman he'll ever love, Bond is determined to get to the top of the SPECTRE (oops, that's too old school) -like organisation behind the plot.

He goes on the run from MI6 to close the case himself, with a beautiful Italian (Kurylenko) in tow whose agenda matches his. It all comes to a fiery close in a hotel in the middle of the desert, and as you stand up to leave you'll feel your heart only just slowing down. But...the Bond you know and love will feel seemingly absent from your recollections. Interesting also to see that this time Paul Haggis gets a full credit, not just an uncredited rewrite that turned out to be the worst secret in Hollywood.

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