November 13, 2008

No sophomore jinx

I raved about his first foray as Bond (click here) and did not really expect that he could top Casino Royale. But Daniel Craig has done it--come up with a Bond that's even better than his first time out in Casino Royale.

Despite the unwieldy title, "Quantum of Solace" comes across as one of the best Bond films made--ever, and it is largely because of Daniel Craig.

While Sean Connery is still the iconic Bond, Craig's Bond comes closest to what Ian Fleming wanted for Bond--a "blunt instrument." He has a license to kill (that's what 007 signifies) and he uses it, often in this film. Such is his propensity to kill that M (his Boss, the absolutely terrific Judi Dench) actually complains ("now if you would stop killing off all the suspects, we would get somewhere in this investigation.").

What I like about Craig's Bond films is that there is no Q; don't get me wrong, I love Q (the late Desmond Llewellyn) but special effects and gadgets detract from the characterization. Craig's Bond is a killing machine and he needs no gadgets to do it. The fight scenes in "Quantum" are almost identical to "Casino Royale"--rough, raw, dirty, real. Craig often walks around bloodied and dirty; his Bond gets scratched, kicked, bitten, punched and his Bond bleeds. Now, that's being real.

In both of Craig's Bond films thus far, the villains have been forgettable and I like that simply because the star is Bond; what I like about these two prequels, "Casino" and "Quantum" is that they reveal bits and pieces about Bond and his relationship with other people in his life--M, Felix Leiter, Tanner. In "Casino" he uses the now iconic "Bond. James Bond" for the first time; in "Quantum," the now famous and, yes, iconic, "Martini shaken, not stirred" is introduced to him.

In "Quantum" also, we get to see that the killing machine is human. After losing the love of his life, Vesper, in "Casino", Bond sets off to find her killers; M sees what Bond does not or does not want to see: that he is obsessed with Vesper's killers to the point that he is no longer thinking rationally. Bond never admits this till the end of the film. One thing more, however, is revealed as Bond sets off in his quest for Vesper's killers: his relationship with M, or at least this incarnation of M (all the other Ms were male, based on Flemings Admiral Sir Miles Messervy, thus the M), who is female. In an exchange, Bond reveals with a wistful smile that M considers him a son and that the reason why he was bent on pursuing Dominic Greene, the villain in this film, is that he (Greene) had ordered M killed.

Craig is a great actor; his stony face reveals much, ironically. His voice is a guttural grunt many times and even his funniest lines are delivered deadpan (almost Schwarzenneger-like). Yet, with the exception of Connery, who made and threw out the mold, Craig has managed to stamp this icon with a very distinct personality and his Bond will be remembered for a very long time.

This one's worth your money. Go watch it.