A devalued Bond: A cranky James Bond returns and you may not like him when he's angry

Posted: November 13, 2008

THE DISTINGUISHING feature of Dan Craig's new Bond is that he's angry, maybe because he's the only guy in England who knows how to shoot something.

Movies included.

About 30 seconds into "Quantum of Solace," the action fan in me was thinking: Only three more weeks until "Transporter 3."

"QOS" drops you immediately into a car chase so blurred and confusing, it tells you right away that director Marc Forster (whose bona fides include "Finding Neverland") is not competent to handle a big-screen action movie.

There is no sense of space, geography, speed, or purpose. The vehicles have no weight. Crashes no impact. There's no oomph. It's all noise and blur, with frantic editing that may be a bid for "Bourne" style, but is more likely a nervous cover for the fact that Forster simply didn't get the shots.

I couldn't make sense of the cars, and had even worse luck with the characters. "Quantum" banks heavily, for instance, on the idea that Bond fans retain information set forth recently in "Casino Royale," during which Bond apparently fell in love with somebody named Vesper.

I haven't been keeping up with my ginko supplements, and confess to forgetting most of what I saw in "Casino Royale." I thought 007 had become emotionally involved with a motorized scooter.

Anyway, Vesper is dead and Bond is furious. He takes it out on bad guys in the Caribbean and South America, where he's been sent to find out why this year's Bond villain (Mathieu Amalric) is double-dealing with Bolivian strongmen, trying to make a killing in some mysterious natural resource deal.

The villain is also being pursued by a gorgeous girl (Olga Kurylenko) whose Russian accent is so thick I was dumbfounded to learn, at movie's end, that we're meant to think she's Latina.

Bond works with her but does not sleep with her - Craig's 007 is more a killer than a lover. The movie's only interesting wrinkle (pardon me, Dame Judi Dench) is Bond's growing attachment to M., his tough-love boss. The feeling is increasingly mutual. "Quantum" reveals the British government to be thoroughly corrupt and compromised, and M. comes to realize that Bond, with his ruthless dedication to duty, possesses a perversely admirable kind of purity.

The movie, though, is full of impurities. Overwrought, incoherent and unfortunately dated - a deadly thing for a Bond movie. This one contains jokes about the soaring value of the Euro and declining dollar. These days, you make foreign-exchange gags at your own peril.

And the details of the villain's evil scheme add up to another groaner. I mean, I get why Goldfinger would go to such pains to break into Fort Knox. There was a mountain of gold in there.

The "payoff" in "QOS" indicates that the Bond-villain's ambition is just another modern-day commodity - a victim of severe deflation.

I half expected Dr. Evil to emerge with a demand for 1 MILLION dollars.

And what of Bond - has he also been devalued? I sympathize with the filmmakers, who probably see dead-ends in Bond's traditional role as sexist predator, or connoisseur of expensive crap. The times just aren't right.

There's a lot to like, post-Brosnan, about Craig's newly energized portrayal, but I don't know if there's a lot to like about Bond himself - pissed off, disillusioned, cynical, morose.

He may drive an Aston Martin, but he acts like he works for GM.*

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