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“The Name is Bond, Jason Bond”

December 4, 2008
by

109891I am pretty sure I am not the only one to have used the above tagline about the latest installment of the 007 franchise, but I make no claims to being original, just an admirer of good taglines. As explained in the last post, I have not seen very many films as of late, but circumstances arose which gave me the opportunity to view Quantum of Solace twice. So a critique is in order.

2006 brought the reboot of the James Bond franchise in Casino Royale, directed Martin Campbell. In it we got the first Bond played by an actual Englishman, Daniel Craig, and he brought an earthy believability to a franchise which had run its course over 20 films prior. Gone was the campy, cheeky and largely predictable tropes of the past films and in Casino Royale we not only got to see how Bond became a double O agent, we got to see him actually fall in love, not just fall in bed, with a woman. Well, that love ended tragically and thus gave Daniel Craig’s Bond a brooding ethos which carries on into the first actual sequel, as far as plot carryover, in franchise history. This was essentially Bond’s origin story and of course it had outrageous and inventive action sequences, but broke the mold enough to make things exciting again.

Quantum of Solace, directed by the versatile Marc Forster (Monsters Ball, Finding Neverland, and the underrated Stranger than Fiction) picks up immediately after the prior film, with Bond looking for answers concerning his deceased lover’s betrayal. Of course he uncovers a global conspiracy to exploit the planet’s natural resources, but that is all just a backdrop for him to carry out his personal agenda, and of course, a plot device for action sequences.

Action sequences are arguably the reason we go to see a Bond film in the first place, no matter how realistic and cerebral the latest incarnation is. But for some reason with this film, they chose to mimic, almost to the point of distraction, another secret agent franchise which as been successful this new millennium: The Jason Bourne series. Where in Casino Royale the hand-to-hand combat was raw in its choreography and staging, allowing Bond to finally get a bit bruised and battered, therefore humanizing him a bit, this new film continues that realism but adds an element which is distracting. The shaky, unfocused camera angle. Director Marc Forster even brought one of the film editors from the Bourne series into the editing room, so this was highly intentional. But does it work?

Not entirely. The Bourne series of films and books largely owes its existence to the James Bond films and books, not the other way around. Why then, in the name of seeming “relevant” would Bond have to blatantly mimic the jittery camera styling of the Bourne films? I mean even Paul Greengrass pulled the camera back a bit after the second Bourne film was criticized for being too jumpy and tight visually. Action choreography can be raw and realistic, but editing and filming it in such a way as to intensify this “raw-realism” can backfire, disengaging and alienating viewers. Of course this is just my subjective aesthetic preference, but I feel since there was no precedent set up for that visual style in Casino Royale, its use in Quantum of Solace was unneeded and distracting.

However, not all was bad about the latest bond film. Really only a couple of the six or so action sequences suffered from this Bourne gratuitousness, and all were well conceived as far as choreography. The emotional intrigue of Bond’s origins is gone, but it is fun to see him go all out for his Queen and Country. Daniel Craig continues to bring a rugged believability and physicality to both the action sequences and verbal interactions with other characters. Judi Dench is much more prominent in this film and she brings a class all her own to the iconic role of M, and the new “Bond girl” once again has a backstory and depth, not falling in bed with Bond, and she creates a nice counterpoint to his personal pursuits.

So, in the end, Quantum of Solace is a worthy sequel. Not as great or intriguing as Casino Royale, but a fun action film that has Bond still fairly grounded in a reality that makes him vulnerable and human. I hope this trend continues and not the blatant mimicry of the Bourne series in future installments.

Side note: DVD recommendation.

Bigger, Stronger, Faster is a documentary worth putting on the Netflix queue. Known as “the steroid” documentary, it really is a very personal yet wide exploration and meditation on the American obsession with image and success. It is insightful, funny and touching at the same time. Check it out and let me know what you think.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Natalie Bellamy permalink
    December 5, 2008 9:38 am

    Hey guys!

    Just had to comment here.. bob and I saw the film wednesday night and both said the same thing about “jason bourne”.

    It was good though, we liked it. Especially the scene where he doesn’t have a shirt on. 😉 Okay maybe I liked that scene more then bob did.

    Natalie

  2. Drew permalink*
    December 5, 2008 9:56 am

    Natalie,

    Very funny.

    I felt like I needed to start an obsessive workout regiment after watching the movie. Mr. Craig’s abs and pecs are ridiculous. If only a movie studio was willing to pay for a personal trainer and dietitian for me, and my employer gave me six hours a day to do it. oh well.
    Maren at least is giving Dana and I some nice new arm muscles from carrying her around all the time.
    Looking forward to seeing you and Bob at Christmas. It has been too long!

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