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Quantum of Solace *

It sounds more like a sensitive literary little indie, maybe something to do with a Physics teacher passed over for tenure and consoled in the arms of a fatherless grad student, but Quantum of Solace is in actuality the name of the twenty-second James Bond film, by official count. That count leaves out not just the first, spoofy Casino Royale of 1967 but even Never Say Never Again, to which the comeback of Sean Connery lent a legitimacy lacking in all but five other Bond films. The new one is also, to be sure, the second James Blond film, which is to say the second appearance of towheaded Daniel Craig in the role, following up the second, unspoofy Casino Royale.

A true sequel, really the first such in the series, it picks up 007 on the trail of vengeance after the death of his ladylove, Vesper, at the end of the last installment. (Frankly the details of the death — how? who? why? — are a little hazy in my mind, based upon one viewing two years ago, and are not much sharpened during the unfolding of events in the sequel.) This was a trail closed off to the newly widowed Bond at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Sean Connery was first coaxed back to the role and poor George Lazenby, the only one-timer in the series, got booted out the door as if he never should have happened.

No doubt the vengeance trail is quite hospitable to the new, grim, quip-free, and gadgetless hero, though he does take time off from his grief to bed a token Bond girl who is identified on screen by the simple surname of Fields — the Internet Movie DataBase reveals her unfortunate given name to be Strawberry — and who ends up dead on that bed, her prostrate nude body painted in black gold (a direct copy, but for color choice, from Goldfinger), one of the countless casualties littering the trail. It’s a trail that leads, by way of Italy, Haiti, Austria, Bolivia, and Russia, to a phony environmental group called Green Planet, a front for a shadowy unknown SPECTRE-like organization with “people everywhere,” close enough in fact to take a point-blank shot at Bond’s boss, M. (Judi Dench, the lone holdover from the Pierce Brosnan regime, again occupies the role, droller and drier than Bond himself: “If you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated.”) Their current nefarious project, a bit modest by Bondian standards, having an eye only on local water rights rather than on world domination, is the strictly moneymaking scheme of a Latin American military coup, with a complicit CIA that belongs more to the world of John le Carré than to that of Ian Fleming.

For all that, the film fails to solidify, much less build upon, the promise of the fresh start in Casino Royale. Anything good to be said about the new direction would or should have already been said. It of course could all be said again, but with cooling fervor and fading hope. In the obligatory pre-credits sequence, we are thrown instantly into the midst of an incoherent car chase that soon narrows down to an Aston Martin and an Alfa Romeo (the new director, Marc Forster, boasts few credentials as a man of action, from among his experiences with The Kite Runner, Stranger Than Fiction, Stay, Finding Neverland, and Monster’s Ball, and none at all as a man of large-scale action), and the rapid succession thereafter of foot chase, motorbike chase, boat chase, plane chase, punctuated by shattered glass, swinging girder, stitcheries of bullets, blossoms of fire, etc., is held together by the thinnest shreds of connective plot tissue.

The totality perhaps meets the fundamental requirements of action and pace, hurtling forward with only the briefest of pauses and coming in at a tidy hour and three-quarters, the shortest Bond film, if I’m not mistaken, in the entire series. As a likely result of that, it can seldom make time for the preparation that would give the action scenes sense and import. They are little more than turbulence. And the underlying split personality still remains: Why bother to infuse the Bond character with a greater air of reality if he’s going to continue to be allowed the acrobatics of a Jackie Chan? Surely our rougher and tougher superspy wouldn’t want us snorting in derision, or even chortling in delight, when he’s busy exacting payment for the snuffed-out life of his beloved. James Bond appears to be turning little by little into Jason Bourne. It’s not a step up.

The world-weary Giancarlo Giannini and the inscrutable Jeffrey Wright, carried over from the previous adventure, are sadly underused. The diminutive French villain, coal-eyed Mathieu Amalric of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is unimposing at best, although he’s at least, in contrast to that other performance, ambulatory. And the nut-brown Olga Kurylenko, an unbedded Bond girl on a trail of vengeance all her own, looks fully up to the assignment of cover girl on a Get-Even issue of Cosmo. As she’s named Camille and not Compline, she stood little chance to replace Vesper.

This month’s program in the Cinema en Tu Idioma series, Friday through Thursday at the UltraStar Mission Valley, is not one film but three, two of which are among those I was glad I selected to see at the San Diego Latino Film Festival last March, El Violín and XXY. The third, El Baño del Papa, is new to the area. Showtimes are juggled from day to day, so be sure to check, as they say, your listings.

And if you can squeeze it in by Thursday the Thirteenth, Silvio Soldini’s Days and Clouds at the Ken is truly something to wrap your arms around, a mature marital drama of middle-class, middle-age economic crisis: lost job, lost house, lost prospects, lost self-respect; set in Genoa but general in application; a bit dull in image but intense in empathy and emotion. Antonio Albanese and Margherita Buy, models of restraint, hide their individual suffering behind the four walls of shame, incomprehension, disbelief, dignity.

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MarkScha Nov. 13, 2008 @ 9:46 a.m.

There was a rumor that Lazenby turned down a longer contract, believing the series to be on its last legs. Anyone out there capable of confirming or denying this?


richinsd Nov. 13, 2008 @ 9:47 p.m.

The new Bond 007 Film, Quantum of Solace is indeed worth it. The two films of the past I loved were Thunderball and Goldfinger in that order. I really think this current 007 film does a very good job of it and Daniel Craig is well suited for the roll of James. The action is not all guns and blowing things up, but some might think that. It had it's moments of calm, short lived but enough to carry you to the next shootem up scene. Well mixed with an assortment of excitment in various scenes from one location to another, from a ballroom to a dog fight in the mountains, a car chase, then the desert.

I would say tone it down a little here and there with a few more quiet scenes, so you can catch your breath just a little. This movie was all Daniel Craig with all the shooting and killing and stunts. Everyone in my group liked it, the big complaint was the sound was a bit overboard.

I give this one 3.5 stars. I hope you give it a try.


Gian Ghio Nov. 16, 2008 @ 10:05 p.m.

For a Bond movie I think you have to call Quantum of Solace a disappointment. The storyline was weak, the villian wasn't very scary, and it lacks several key Bond elements. There were no cool Bond gadgets to stop bad guys. The infamous bond theme song didn't get played until the end credits. The token Bond girl was in the movie for less than 10 minutes and didn't really play any factor into the storyline. All that plus the ending was very unclimatic. Daniel Craig plays a good James Bond but he needs more to work with. He has been turned into more of a Jason Bourne action hero rather than a suave, sophisted, classy British spy.


shizzyfinn Nov. 18, 2008 @ 10:38 a.m.

Saw the movie on Sunday morning, and my mind was slowed by hangover, so the weak plot didn't bother me until I had a chance to think about it later. But man, is it weak. And outside of the opening car chase and the Jackie Chan-esque scaffolding brawl, I thought the action was dull, too.

Couldn't agree more about the woefully under-developed villains. Just like Darth Maul in the craptastic Episode 1, the baddies in this movie never do anything really bad, so it's hard to develop an animosity toward bad guys them. Take the henchman with the bad haircut - he's this movie's Jaws, but I don't even think he gets a chance to kill anyone, let alone do something crazy like bite through an aerial tram cable. Weak.


Josh Board Nov. 21, 2008 @ 2:16 a.m.

Good call. That haircut was weird. A villian doesn't look intimidating in a Ceasar cut, especially when that neck brace ends up on him. Maybe if he covered that hair with a top hat, that could decapitate....

The Bond theme was played. Sort of. When he drives into Italy (and what was with those goofy fonts used to describe each country), you can hear a harpsichord playing it, but slightly different (as has been done in other Bond films).

It's weird that Dunc says he doesn't remember how Vesper died. I only saw the movie once, and also in the theatre, but it's so memorable, because it wasn't just a Bond woman he slept with. He actually loved her. She then double-crossed him. And then he still tried to save her, only to find out she didn't really double-cross him. It's hard to forgot that. Even if you see a lot of films.

Someone told me last week, about Lazenby refusing the part. It was the first I had heard of it, so I Googled. And sure enough, his manager talked him out of accepting a 7-picture deal, saying it was "on its last legs". Gotta love managers.


Josh Board Nov. 21, 2008 @ 2:21 a.m.

My review: Early on, so much of the movie reminded me of other things. Daniel Craig on a motorcycle -- Steve McQueen. The villian...Roman Polanski. The shakey camera that starts the opening car chase and about 65% of the movie, The Bourne Identity. The woman covered in oil...that's a take from GOldfinger, as Duncan mentions. But I think it all worked. Maybe not the best Bond film...but certainly better than most action pictures.

Do we really need to debate the best Bond? Everyone says Connery, so it's no fun to even ask. I actually think Pierce Brosnon was the best, in the worst movies, since the scripts were always bad. Put him in those Connory pictures, he would be the peoples choice. People just like the first. I mean, does anyone say they like Van Halen covers over the Kinks originals? Yet Eddie is a way better guitarist than Dave Davies.

It wasn't until I got to the parking lot afterwards, that I realized there was no Q, with gadgets to show. Instead, the only Q is in the title, which...on the subject of best Bonds, how about this for WORST TITLE of a Bond flick?

There was also no Ms. Moneypenny, and I think that's fine. He doesn't say "shaken, not stirred" while ordering one of his 7 martinis, although they do describe how he likes them made. We don't need those things every time out of the shoot, but you need them in the next one. Otherwise, he becomes Bourne, James Bourne, and it's just a different Bourne Identiy or Die Hard film.

Clever that the villian is named Mr. Greene, and they talk about environmental things.

This movie had things that weren't original, but still worked. I'm thinking of the opera scene, which is cut between the murder and killing onstage with singers in the background, to him fighting the villians backstage. Of course, very predictable. They get on a boat, I leaned to my girlfriend and said "here's the boat chase". In an airplane I said 'time for the airplane chase." But so what. We know that happens in the Bond films. We know none of the machine guns shooting at him will hit their target.

But it all works, from the opening song by Jack White and Alicia Keys, to the end, with Bond getting his revenge. Which is served cold....like his martinis.


shizzyfinn Nov. 24, 2008 @ 8:59 p.m.

true about the opening jam from White and Keys, that was sick, along with the visuals it came with. bullets coming out the gun and floating slowly through the air and whatnot. how does it go, "another blinger with an itchy triggerfinger for her majesty" i believe.

also Quantum of Solace is indeed the super weakest Bond title in history. i don't even think they explain it in the movie. at least in A View To A Kill someone says "wow what a view" and someone else says "to a kill!" that was pretty weak writing, but at least they tried. also the opening song by duran duran was titled A View To A Kill. i don't think even Jack White and Alicia Keys could do much with Quantum of Solace, that don't rhyme with sh**.

i have no problem with lack of Q. Desmond Llewelyn (1914-1999) as Q was the one constant across the first 15 or so Bonds, and he nailed the role so perfectly that he simply cannot be replaced. they would probably cast Shia Lebouf anyway, in a cynical box office play for the teenybopper and lame single woman demographics. better with no Q.

as far who was the best actor Bond, i will venture into those waters, offering up the oft-cited nominee Connery for the infrequently cited reason that he uttered all the pimpest lines of the series...

Tatiana: The mechanism is... Oh James, James... Will you make love to me all the time in England? Bond: Day and night. Go on about the mechanism.

Helga: I've got you now. Bond: Well, enjoy yourself.

Bond: It looks like a woman's gun. Largo: Do you know a lot about guns, Mr. Bond? Bond: No. I know a little about women.

Domino: How did you know my name? Bond: It says it on the bracelet on your ankle. Domino: Well, what sharp little eyes you've got. Bond: Wait 'til you get to my teeth.


Josh Board Nov. 25, 2008 @ 5:18 p.m.

A few things shizzy....Q had already been recast. John Cleese (Monty Python, Fish Called Wanda), had played him in at least 2 or 3 Bond pictures currently. But yeah, I dug that other guy. If I remember right, he died in a car accident. Seemed kinda ironic at the time, the guy that invented all the gadgets in the car to kill the villians, died in an automobile accident.

Again, Connery as "best bond" is because those were the best movies. If you put Connery (in his prime, of course, not in his Rock days) in some of the Pierce movies, they would've still been lame.

Thanks for putting those lyrics. I didn't catch that line. Now I'm going to have to Google to find the rest of those lyrics.


Josh Board Nov. 25, 2008 @ 5:24 p.m.

Here are the lyrics. Looks like Jack did fit in "solace". Not "Quantum", though (not sure if you caught it in movie, but Quantom was the name of the bad guys company....or, some bad guy)

Lyrics to ANOTHER WAY TO DIE (written by Jack White)

I know the player With the slick Trigger finger For her majesty Another one With the Golden tone voice And then your fantasy Another bill From a killer Turned a thrill Into a tragedy

Chorus A door left open A woman walking by A drop in the water A look in the eye A phone on the table A man on your side Someone that you think That you can trust is just Another way to die

Another tricky little gun Giving solace to the one That will never see The sunshine Another inch of your life Sacrificed For your brother In the nick of time Another dirty money, Heaven sent honey Turning on a dime

Chorus A door left open A woman walking by A drop in the water A look in the eye A phone on the table A man on your side Someone that you think That you can Trust is just Another way to die

Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oah! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!

Another girl With her finger On the world singing? Another gun thrown down And surrendered Took away your fear Hey! Another man That stands right Behind you Looking in the mirror

Chorus Oh, a door left open A woman walking by A drop in the water A look in the eye A phone on the table A man on your side Oh, Someone that you think That you can trust Is just another way to die


shizzyfinn Nov. 26, 2008 @ 12:58 p.m.

Just watched the video for Another Way To Die over on the YouTube. It was ok, but nowhere near as sick as the montage that accompanies the song within Quantum of Solace.

On the opening line, Jack is definitely not saying "I know the player..." To me it sounds like "Another blinger with a slick trigger finger for her majesty"...although it might be ringer instead of blinger.

Either way, a bad-ass opening line, and a bad-ass Bond track. Perhaps my favorite besides the lovey-dovey For Your Eyes Only theme song. "For your eyes only...only for you..."


Josh Board Nov. 27, 2008 @ 1:20 a.m.

Oh yeah, I always loved For Your Eyes Only. Her vocals are just so sultry. And it helped that my older brother had that movie poster on his bedroom wall. Roger Moore in the Bond shooting stance, and the girl in bikini, and cross bow, a close up of her legs. Yowzaaa.


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