MOVIE REVIEW ★★ 1/2 Sex, Rocket Launchers, and Emotional Baggage

Daniel Craig’s Bond Gets a Little Too Sensitive

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Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in “Quantum of Solace,” in theaters today.
Photo Courtesy OF Columbia Pictures

Quantum of Solace

Directed by Marc Forster

Written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade

Starring Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, and Judi Dench

Opens Nationwide Today, Nov. 14

If “The Notebook” humped a car chase, the unholy spawn that was produced would be “Quantum of Solace.” Much like a Miss USA contestant named Mildred, the latest Bond film is visually impressive, has a stupid name, and is pretty much devoid of substance. While it features top-shelf action and is extremely exciting throughout, the latest incarnation of James Bond simply lacks the cool confidence that sets the franchise apart from every other secret agent thriller.

“Quantum of Solace” picks up just after the conclusion of the last Bond film (“Casino Royale”), and immediately jumps into a high-speed car chase. The film is a strict continuation of the previous movie, and tracks James Bond (Daniel Craig) in his pursuit of a shadowy organized crime syndicate called Quantum.

Heartbroken from the death of Vesper, his lover from the last film, Bond rebels against his superiors and wages a personal war against those responsible for her death. Along the way, he befriends Camille (Olga Kurylenko), an exotic Bolivian commando who is also on a quest for revenge. The plot jumps from country to country like Carmen Sandiego on a sugar high, eventually culminating in a brutal firestorm in the middle of the Bolivian desert.

The car chases and action scenes in “Quantum of Solace” are all solidly excellent. There are independent high-speed chases using virtually every mode of motorized transport on the planet, as the Bond franchise continues its dominance in graphic depictions of vehicular manslaughter.

The close-range fighting scenes — often at the culmination of extended free-running sequences — are also notably grittier than the clean cut Pierce Brosnanian antics of the 90’s; now when Bond dispatches his foes, it is as ugly and gritty as taking someone’s life at close range should be. In that sense, Daniel Craig is well suited to the Bond role, as he lends a sense of gravity to the serious role of killing tons of total strangers.

Disappointingly, however, “Quantum of Solace” continues the theme of increasing sensitivity began in the last Bond installment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that more emotional content means moving dialogue: Judi Dench is the only person in the movie who acts, despite looking like the pedophile cat lady down the street. Moreover, Craig’s tough demeanor which is so well suited to great action shots is sadly forced to hover somewhere around catastrophic constipation, confused by the incongruous addition of emotional scenes.

In a way, “Quantum of Solace” betrays the core attitude of past Bond films, which featured a James Bond who is confident, perennially cool, and not a crier. However, I should admit that I’m fairly biased in my preference for older Bond movies and actors; I prefer my Bond movies the way that I like my sexual encounters: two hours long, featuring beautiful women, and starring Sean Connery.

Admittedly, 007 “going rogue” in the name of revenge is nothing foreign to the Bond franchise. Specifically, 1989’s, “License to Kill” featured a similar theme of vengeance and rebellion against MI-6 (as well as an epically cheesy 80’s theme song). That film, however, grasped a critical reality of both action movies and flashy sports cars: if you have lame parts, you need to compensate, big time.

“License to Kill” featured not one but two full-out shark dismemberments to make up for its momentary lapse in manliness, and concluded with the lead villain being lit on fire. I waited for nearly two hours for Daniel Craig to kill a villain with a burning shark in each hand, but I unfortunately left the theater disappointed.

Ultimately, when we go to see a James Bond film, we want to grasp the fantasy — if only for a moment — that we are a suave secret agent who gets laid more than once a decade and has sweet hand-to-hand combat skills to boot. Nobody wants to pay $10 to see James Bond suck. Bond should be a cross between Ron Jeremy and the Terminator — a wry, wise-cracking sex machine carrying a rocket launcher.

While I recommend seeing “Quantum of Solace” purely on the strength of its action sequences, it simply doesn’t deliver the same attitude that really set past Bond films apart.