November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace

In the first "direct sequel" Bond movie, 007 continues to backtrack the organization which conspired to kill his would-be girlfriend Vesper Lynd. He discovers a worldwide secret society codenamed QUANTUM. This organization is kind of like Enron crossed with Halliburton, and the still-green Bond is outsmarted at almost every turn, leaving everyone around him dead.
SPOILERS APLENTY: The villains don't seem particularly powerful or memorable: the main heavy, Dominic Green, is played by another in a long series of sallow-faced, black-eyed actors from Europe: French actor Mathieu Amalric. He's basically swindling a series of third world countries out of their resources. It's true that resources are the source of true world power in the 21st century, but there simply wasn't enough at stake at the climax of the movie. Nuclear bombs and space lasers inflict permanent and devastating damage. All Bond would have to do to undo Green's villany is tear up a few contracts. I'm not asking for volcano lairs or submarine-swallowing ships, but toppling an evil Enron is a little tame and ordinary.
Bond keeps crossing paths with Camille, a tough and angry woman with a indeterminate past and muddy accent: Russian actress Olga Kurylenko. It turns out Camille and Bond are on parallel and complimentary missions: she's on a revenge trip after her family was murdered. Bond has crossed paths like this before. This subplot is lifted directly from Goldfinger, where the sister of the woman who was painted gold attempted to avenge her sister on Goldfinger. I found this subplot boring, and the acting of Kurylenko didn't draw me in or make me care what happened to her. My wife pointed out that it's a sign of progress in a Bond movie when a Bond Girl gets a subplot of her own, with her own motivations, and she doesn't sleep with Bond either.
The good news is, the action sequences were all top-notch, equal to the standard set in Casino Royale. The opening car chase was spectacular, the fistfights were great, and the footchases were still exciting and fresh.
2017 Update: watching it again, I gritted my teeth through maybe the darkest sequence in any Bond movie. Several people very close to Bond have died over the years, but the death of Mathis was pathetic and grim: Bond talks his retired fellow agent Mathis into helping him. During the mission, Mathis is shot in Bond's arms and dies pitifully. As he's dumping Mathis' still-warm body in a nearby dumpster, Camille asks "Is this how you treat your friends?" Bond replies "He wouldn't have cared."
(Regal Fenway Stadium 13, Theater 12 (The Green Monster), with my lovely wife, plus my brother + sister-in-law, Karen & Ilan, and Angus & Kristen.)