2/28/2012

Quantum of Solace - The new Bond film

Until now, Germans typically played the bad guys in the Bond films. Now, German-Swiss director Marc Forster is defining Bond anew. His Bond film 'Quantum of Solace' is the shortest one to date, and also features perhaps the most evil villain, who chases him continuously from one action scene to the next. Exciting. But is it a must-see in the theaters?
When James Bond in 'Goldfinger' entered his hotel room--44 years have passed since then--a Bond girl was lying dead on his bed, completely covered in gold, and suffocated by it. A picture which burned itself into the collective consciousness of all who saw it.
Bond Girls
Bond-Girl
Foto: REUTERS Who would James Bond be without his Bond girls? 'Quantum of Solace' is no exception: two Bond girls support the secret agent. Olga Kurylenko, and...
When the agent enters his room in 'Quantum of Solace'--the new, and 22nd Bond film, scheduled for release on Oct. 31 in France, the U.K. and Sweden; Nov. 6 in Germany; and Nov. 14 in the USA--a Bond girl is again lying dead on his hotel bed, in the same position as back then. A clear allusion. Only this time she is covered not in gold, but in oil. Black gold was also pumped into her lungs.
The new Bond is apparently meant to closely approximate reality. Enough with the individual villains who want to destroy the world. Now economic and political entaglements are at play. Downright visionary, the bad guy of the last 007 film, 'Casino Royal': a banker, who gambled with his clients' money on the stock market and went bankrupt--but hoped for a bailout from the state. The villain was called 'M'. 'M' as in [German Chancellor Angela] 'Merkel'. This time Bond deals with a band of unsavory financiers and a corrupt junta who are all after the same thing: control of oil.

This is no longer so current as it was a few months ago; the price of oil has fallen sharply of late. This time neither Bond nor his American colleague Felix Leiter from the CIA know at times whether their governments still support their actions. Nor do they know whether they are are cooperating with the bad guys to get in on the oil market. "Right and wrong doesn't matter here any more," says the prime minister ostentatiously in one scene. If things continue like this, Bond will one day find himself fighting against his own country.

The first true sequel of a Bond film

But one thing at a time. In 'Casino Royale', the first film with Daniel Craig as James Bond, we returned to the roots. Explained the prehistory, how the man really came to his '00', and thus the license to kill. For the first time there were no catchphrases, no Miss Moneypenny, no Q and none of his playful tricks, the so-called gadgets, for which the fans so loved the series--even if these weapons, to be honest, were always a little unfair and childish. Not so with Craig: he does it all physically, with his body. The new Bond is thus not an attempt at resuscitation of the old series, long thought to be dead or dying; rather, it's a totally new beginning.
007 Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig
Foto: AP 'A Quantum of Solace'. Daniel Craig makes his second appearance as James Bond, on the trail of an MI6 traitor.
When the planning for 'Quantum' began, everyone was wondering which direction it would go in. Had the prehistory been told too many times? Would Craig like Moore and Connery and Brosnan before him order his martini shaken, not stirred, tell cynical jokes and flirt with Moneypenny?
Not at all. 'Quantum' begins exactly where 'Casino Royale' left off. Literally. Perhaps half an hour has transpired in between. 'Quantum' is therefore, even if the film company denies it, the first pure continuation of a Bond film. Anyone who did not see the previous film, or does not remember the story, would do well to see it again. One needs to know who the woman is who sacrificed herself for Bond in 'Casino', and who the man is, who Bond puts in the trunk at the beginning of 'Quantum'.
'Quantum of Solace' begins immediately, without any introduction, with a wild, spectacular car chase through the winding roads of the Italian countryside. Additional chases through the air, water, and fire follow this. None of the four elements are left out. Bond never gets a rest. When does the man get to sleep? When does he recover from the jet lag, if he constantly travels around the world?
Previously, the Germans were always the bad guys in Bond films. Now a German, Marc Forster, is the director. And he himself is perhaps the meanest opponent yet faced by Bond: He rushes him around from one idyllic backdrop to the next, from Tuscany to Panama, to Lake Constance and then Bolivia--from one action scene to the next. He hardly allows Bond any time to wash the scratches from his face, to change his bloody tuxedo shirt, or to dust off his Aston Martin. Forster, who made his name with 'Monster's Ball' and most recently filmed the bestselling book 'The Kite Runner', proves that he can hold his own in the previously untested waters of action films. He chases Bond so much that he manages to end the film after 106 minutes, thus creating the shortest Bond film of all times--four minutes shorter than the next shortest, 'Goldfinger'.

Action above all else

He rushes through the story in fifth gear, without a single moment to catch one's breath. He heightens the action with the aid of split screens: a chase competes with a horse race; another one is paired with a 'Tosca' scene on the Lake Stage in Bregenz; and the final fight is split between two pairs of opponents.
With all the rushing around, it's still impossible to ignore that Bond loses his breath, in a figurative sense as well.
No clever one-liners like in 'Casino'. Unfortunately also no convincing Bond partner like Eva Green. The Russian Olga Kurylenko remains as stale as a martini left out too long; one thinks wistfully of how Thandie Newton, once under consideration, would have played the role.
Bond--this was the best idea to save the series--has freed himself from all the supposedly indispensable 007 ingredients--the "Bond, James Bond" lines, the martini orders, etc. He also seems to have removed himself, however, from strengths of past Bond films, like the screen plays and strong Bond girls. Thus what has become of Bond--and this is, indeed, a quantum of solace--is a strong action film, but not much more. Maybe the bar was raised too high after 'Casino Royale'. An image like that of the golden corpse will this time not remain burned in our collective memories.
Translated by Jacob Comenetz

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