November 13, 2008

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Quantum of Solace (PG-13)
Craig, Daniel Craig, returns to the extremely well-dressed role of Agent James Bond in the explodey adventure Quantum of Solace, a title that, frankly, I still don’t understand, but that does not get in the way of enjoying all the 007 goodness.

Quantum is the international bad-guy organization which we saw a bit of in the last movie, and Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is the main bad guy Bond will be chasing in this movie. Camille (Olga Kurylenko) is the Bond-girl sexy fellow traveler; Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) is the hilariously named secondary Bond girl. M, of course, is still played by Judi Dench. And now that you know what’s on the menu tonight, can I get you something from the bar? Perhaps a martini? And how would you like that?

Craig is a great Bond. He loses the smirk that plagued many of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. He’s not too debonair for the room; Craig is a violent and tough Bond, the way you’d expect a licensed-to-kill secret agent would be. But he’s also funny in the driest possible ways and he has the kind of smoldering handsomeness that makes it completely believable that a woman would wind up in bed with him moments after meeting him. You believe that he might be wounded enough to still pine for Vesper (Eva Green), the primary Bond girl from Casino Royale, but not so wounded it gets in the way of his smolderings in the direction of Camille and Ms. Fields.

The plot here, a tangle about Quantum’s far-reaching influence and its drive for world domination that includes a coup in Bolivia, is charmingly irrelevant to the success of the movie but not so silly that its examination gets in the way of enjoying it. As in practically every Bond movie I can remember, Bond goes a bit rogue in pursuit of the bad guys, requiring M to try to rein him in. And, naturally, M is torn between bringing Bond to heel and letting him have enough slack to work outside the law to get the job done. Lots of interchangeable henchmen are dispatched; things blow up (some of them spectacularly). Quantum of Solace fulfills all the requirements for a good James Bond caper and, thanks to the heft that Craig brings to the role, it exceeds those all-flash, no-substance Bond movies of the 1990s and early 2000s. With Craig, the franchise does feel like a celebration of action and adventure, not just an excuse to set CGI to a novelty song by an aging rock star

And, because I remember doing a little looking at the clock during the final third of Casino Royale, I think Quantum of Solace might even exceed the expectations created by that series reboot. At an hour and 45 minutes, Quantum of Solace is snappy electric fun that never drags. B+

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content. Directed by Marc Forster and written by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, Quantum of Solace is an hour and 45 minutes long and opens on Friday, Nov. 14. It is distributed in wide release by Sony Pictures.