Alert: Before you continue any further, this post contains spoilers!
A few days ago the Washington Post ran a photograph of Daniel Craig as James Bond with a caption that ran something like this - "We have no good reason to run this photograph on this page, but jeez, just look at the guy!"
And look at him a lot of people did. The movie raked in $70 million in its first weekend in the US.
I'm not a James Bond connoisseur, so I don't know all the nit-picky things I'm supposed to be missing (I do know that the vodka line, the "Bond, James Bond" line and Q have gone AWOL, but that's about it) that die hard Bond fans keep a track of, but I can say that I enjoy the Daniel Craig versions far better. Better than even the Pierce Brosnan ones.
Quantum of Solace (QoS) begins where Casino Royale left off, with the capture of the man Bond thinks has the answers to the question of why Vesper, his love interest in Casino Royale, betrayed him. The car chase along a coastal road leading up to a dungeon in Siena, Italy is thrilling, yes, but more bruising than usual Bond fare, as are the multiple fights that dot the movie. The energy in this movie is barely contained within the movie screen. The camera, the music and the actors vie with each other to stay ahead of the other two. Bond gets more than just the shoulder pads of his suit dusty - by the end of the movie he's had a bloodied nose, myriad nicks and cuts on his face, biceps and chest (this Bond shows a lot more skin than his women), and at least three men have died at his hands.
Bond engages in relentless pursuit of violence frequently channeling Terminator and Bourne, which is why it is all the more breathtaking when he pauses to show some heart (as when his ex-colleague, Mathis, lies dying in his arms). The moment passes in a flash, however, once Mathis actually dies. Bonds dumps the body in a trash collector nearby and appropriates the cash in Mathis' wallet.
There are a couple of funny lines in the movie, but not the usual, erudite, smart-alecky ones that you might expect from say Roger Moore.
What was jarring, though, was the role of the CIA. It took at few minutes to digest the fact that the CIA was with the bad guys and to realign the alliances in my head. And there was no indication that the CIA characters sincerely believed in the larger good of their actions, as is a common justification for American excesses (A Few Good Men, Body of Lies (another excellent movie)). Out and out cynicism seemed to be the flavor of the day.
Early last week, a couple of days after I watched this movie, the Daily Dish had linked to Juan Cole's review of QoS. Cole give us context and sets up the politics of the movie beautifully.
But this Bond film is explicit that the United States under Bush has become the bad guy, that US intelligence is in league with rogue mercenaries and brutal, rapist-generals who plot coups against elected governments.The politics of the movie aside (although it is very intriguing) QoS is and out-and-out thriller and the movie does not suffer from the brooding presence of two very beautiful, very angry people bent on payback. In short, go see it.
Craig's Bond is an intimation of the sort of Britain that could have been, if Tony Blair had stood up to Bush and refused to be dragged into an illegal war of choice, and into other actions and policies that profoundly contradicted the principles on which the Labour Party had been founded...