No "Solace" for audiences

Nov. 17, 2008, midnight | By Monica Wei | 13 years, 9 months ago

Dark and brooding Bond is nothing special

Dark, twisted and conflicted seem to be the new fad for leading men these days. After the somber Bruce Wayne and the brooding Bruce Banner of the summer, Daniel Craig's rugged James Bond is back, this time vengeful and sleepless after the death of his lover Vesper in "Casino Royale." Stripped of his fun gadgets and good humor, this Bond has different charms, even if they make him no different from all the other lone avengers at the box office.

"Quantum of Solace" continues from the end of the previous Bond installment with a fast-paced car chase and rapid gunfire. The movie continues with scene after scene of explosive fighting, which leave audiences wondering whether Bond ever gets any rest. Eventually, a shambled and incoherent plot emerges, revolving around two revenge plans, a string of dead bodies and a supposedly eco-friendly businessman (Mathieu Amalric) who seeks to control a country's natural resources. The Bond girl of "Solace" is the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who has her own revenge to execute.

The action in "Royale" introduced Bond fans to a much more brutal type of violence, which Director Marc Forster lightens up in "Solace." This newest Bond installemnt features more action, but the violence is not nearly as abrupt or explosive, and the movie's tone is much more somber and downcast. "Royale" ended with Vesper's suicide and the possibility of her betrayal, and "Solace" opens with yet another backstabbing.

During (and before) Pierce Brosnan's time, Bond was always the invincible spy with all the cutting-edge technology and gadgets, charming beautiful women with just his smile. The addition of emotion, confusion and anger develop Bond's previously bland personality into a much more intense and human character who is susceptible to fury and pain – but his anger and quest for vengeance make him nearly indistinguishable from all the other dark vigilantes.

The bottom line is that "Solace" feels like a cheap, poorly executed imitation of the "Bourne" series. It attempts to emulate the choppy, hyper-edited fight scenes, but the violence and action cannot match the intensity and urgency present in the "Bourne" films. Craig's Bond is torn and angry, but his rogue Bond lacks the anguish and torment of Jason Bourne and the intelligence and personality in Matt Damon's performance.

Scriptwriters Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade chose to add development to Bond's character, but the other characters remain as cookie-cutter as ever. Kurylenko's performance is nothing interesting, and her supposed vulnerability and anger never truly come through. But really, Bond girls only need to stand around and look gorgeous, which she does do quite effectively. Amalric, the central Bond villain Dominic Greene, does as much as he can with his role, but doesn't have much to work with in the first place.

Audiences never expect much from the plots of action films, much less from a Bond movie, but "Solace" sets a new low. The plot is absolutely incomprehensible. Bond seems to be running in about five directions at once, following a Mr. White, then a Mr. Slater, to a Mr. Greene. The action scenes, although tense and fast paced, feel spliced and over-edited. The pieces of dialogue that string these fighting scenes together never seem to make any sense, and often faces don't show up enough to make anything but a fleeting impression before the character dies.

Purely as an action film, this new installment in the Bond series is explosive and fun. But it sets James Bond to the template of other recent action films, losing Bond's good humor and failing to make an engaging character.

"Quantum of Solace" (105 minutes) is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content. Now playing in theaters everywhere.

Monica Wei. Monica is an unfortunate piece of fruit that has been suspended in a gelatin cup. Okay, not really, but sometimes she feels like one. Monica the strawberry chunk enjoys reading, sitting in trees and watching the clouds go by. She thinks that anything tastes good … More »

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