Absurdity, cartoonish violence, sexism, campiness -- these are no bars to enjoying a matinee with my teenaged boys. So off we went to see Daniel Craig as James Bond do his suave star turn in Quantum of Solace over the weekend.
We ought to have known, from the impenetrable title, that this was not going to be satisfying entertainment. "Quantum" means -- roughly -- amount, and "solace" of course means comfort. Since this is a story about revenge, we are asked to believe that Bond achieves a measure of comfort from dispatching any number of bad guys unfortunate enough to cross his path. The Bond girl, too, is acting out her own revenge fantasy. Unfortunately, there was hardly a quantum of coherence to the story.
Bond is seeking revenge for the murder of his love Vesper (introduced in Casino Royale). Except that Vesper betrayed him. Or has he forgiven her? We aren't sure how he feels because the dialogue is extremely sketchy. Craig's Bond is not the winking, debonair skirt chaser of earlier iterations. He is all taut energy and grim determination. That's fine. The nudge-nudge naughtiness of the earlier Bonds was cloying. But Quantum's plot line is so neglected (nearly all of the focus is on chase scenes and hand-to-hand fighting) that we don't get any clear idea of why this particularly menacing Bond is killing people without so much as a backward glance.
The vast conspiracy in this film concerns a fiend who uses an environmental firm as a cover to corner the market on the world's most precious resource -- water. A little harder to swallow than Goldfinger's plan to corner the market on gold perhaps. OK, whatever. But the film's writers and producers could not resist making the CIA a heavy. The CIA, we are told, has no objections to propping up corrupt and murderous thugs in Latin America so long as a few individuals get a cut of the action. Explaining his plan to his CIA contact, (I quote from memory) the villain notes that the U.S. surely does not want another Marxist "giving away wealth" to the people of Latin America. (The British are portrayed as having rogue elements, a high-ranking minister and a few secret agents on the take, but not the entire security service.)
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