- What’s Good: Okay, if looked at as an action movie and not a Bond movie, it’s not thaaaaaat bad.
- What’s Not: A week screenplay and story. After “Casino Royale” the lack real character development hurts.
- Faux Peter Travers Quote: This Bond delivers the popcorn and funcorn!
Mark Forester is neither a good director nor a bad one. This makes him ideal for helming a Bond film seeing as how the producers have a history of erring on the side of unremarkable filmmakers with little enough vision to tow the line but enough base-pleasing craftsmanship to keep the ordinary fun. That’s not a dig either for franchise safeness has allowed Bond to thrive throughout the years, decades and half-centuries. This installment’s filmmaker got off to a auspicious start with the impenetrability artful “Monsters’ Ball” but every other project since has been sellout melodramatic swill (“Finding Neverland”) with the occasional lapse of sellout hipsterism (“Stranger Than Fiction”). Not only is Markey Mark not a particularly memorable dramatic filmmaker (last year’s “Kite Runner” floated away), but this semi-incoherent Bond creation of his won’t win Forester any points as an action director either.
The same goes for Bond the character. I knew this project was in trouble when I saw the poster. Craig as Bond. Cool. Mugging: cool, fine. Wearing a suit: obligatory, but cool. Wielding an automatic gun in the desert: No! Bond, as the last film posited, is a government thug with a mysterious past and a penchant for giving in to lustful urges (sex and violence remain intertwined like two poisonous snakes in his psyche). He’s those things, yes, but he is not a big gun kind of guy (yes, I know he was in the closing moments of “Casino Royale” and it didn’t work there either). What makes things even more confusing is that Bond doesn’t actually wield such a manly gun in the film proper. This proves to me that, among other things, the film itself is not sure who Bond is (anymore) or what kind of Bond they want. The film reduces this iconic figure to a man who stands around, brooding one moment, drunk the next, ordinary all others.
This Bond outing is set immediately after the tragic, girlfriend drowning events of “Casino Royale” and carries over only one theme: revenge, which, of course is a titillating aspect that exists to facilitate hard boiled (or Hard Bourne) action sequences that are captured by the director and editing team with a hollow but captivating sense of style. Bond puts a lot out there in terms of angst but there’s no discernible desire to aim the focus back upon him. Even more confusing is the fact that the object of his revenge is secondhand, indirect and generally amorphous in this picture. What character moments we do get don’t belong to him at all! Matters of personality are reserved for the Bond Girl (Olga Kurylenko, who’s got a vengeance hard-on bigger than Bond and who is the first Latin character in the history of cinema ever to be played by an actress named Olga) and M (this is the best film ever… in which Judi Dench moisturizes her face for no reason other than to denote “character”ness).
The last film got under Bond’s skin so much so that it was as much of a character study as we’re ever going to get from this guy—the lack of a memorable plot was great because it allowed Bond to be the plot (Quantim is that, minus the character… so it’s nothing). What made “Royale” so satisfying is also evident in the way it ended: with the pronouncement of the character’s name, spoken by way of those infamous three words “Bond, James Bond.” It was as if he too just became the man we all knew he would. This markes a thrilling moment of owning ones destiny but it is the kind of emotional/fanboy climax (figuratively in the first sense, literal in the later) that, now, seems destined to never be reached again. Now that Bond is Bond I find it ironic that personal milestones are nowhere to be found. I was reminded of that scene in “Changeling” where authorities try to convince a (…overacting…) mother that her son is her son. Well, he’s not. She knows and so do we. Same goes for Bond. “Quantum,” whatever it is, is not Bond.
In terms of the arid plot, all there is to this international adventure is Bond hanging around AT the villain’s (Mathieu Amalric) many parties (he’s a supervillian and an eco friendly entrepreneur you see), chasing other bad guys for “information!,” killing them in a blind rage just before getting “information!,” getting scolded by M every thirty seconds (you can set your OMEGA watch by that) for needlessly killing as if Lennie from “Of Mice and Men,” but getting a small clue that leads him to… another party to crash and boat/car/plane to chase. Who writes this shit? Oh, yeah, Paul Haggis. To say the plotting is over-the-top is an understatement. To say it’s mechanical and rote is merely a statement. This is the most active a Bond character has ever been while at the same time the most inactive he’s been… upstairs. In terms of personality, intelligence, sex appeal and charm, this Bond creation is as bottled up as Amalric’s character in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” His character is shaken and stirred, yes, but simply too watered down–and that’s not a dig at the plot, which involves oil tycoons, deposed dictators and an evil plot to deprive an off-the-map South American region of water so it can be delivered back to the people at a 60% price mark-up (muah-ha-ha!!!).
It goes without saying I never felt moved by what was happening. Not moved nor lost in the moment, just waiting for the next moment, which was always strikingly similar to the last moment. The stakes are simply not here. Sure, there’s a lot of talk about what’s at stake but nothing grabbed me emotionally, and that is especially true regarding Bond’s “tortured” soul which, reality check, isn’t so much tortured as it is a perturbed and slightly blue soul. Speaking of blue, allow me a few parting wards about James Bond’s requisitioned libido. He has sex once, off-screen—so far off-screen in fact that it occurred in your movie theater’s bathroom. Residing in M’s purse no doubt, Bond’s junk is so restricted that when he tries to kiss (just kiss) the Bond Girl/villain’s former prostitute(!) after saving her life a gazillion times, she backs away and gives him her best “uhhhhh, no way!” look. This makes Olga the first Bond girl that’s not… Bond’s girl. He’s not the only one with blue balls.