Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reverend’s Reviews: Quantum Physics

As you can see by my postings here and elsewhere, I’m a lifelong and rather obsessive fan of the James Bond movies. I can quote most of them and sing their theme songs at the simplest request. But I was nervous about the just-opened Quantum of Solace, and not just because of its head-scratching title. I was chiefly concerned about early reviews saying the 22nd Bond film was non-stop violence and showed our hero disturbingly hell-bent on revenge.

I was greatly relieved, therefore, to discover that such criticisms are far from accurate. True, Bond, played for the second time by the intense and riveting Daniel Craig, is initially seeking the faceless agency and/or individual responsible for the death of his beloved Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. However, the super-spy learns the true meaning and value of justice along the way, and even receives an unexpected lesson from a fallen friend on the importance of forgiveness.

Bond gradually uncovers a global conspiracy to corner and control our warming world’s water supply. The plot is masterminded by the duplicitous Dominic Greene, well played by French actor Mathieu Almaric. While Almaric is hardly an imposing figure physically, his dark eyes and villainy-with-a-smile approach reminded me of Klaus Maria Brandauer’s turn as Largo in 1983’s “unofficial” Bond entry (and Thunderball remake) Never Say Never Again.

There isn’t any obvious GLBT content in Quantum of Solace, but we shouldn’t discount Greene’s personal assistant, Elvis (Anatole Taubman). Though we’re told that Elvis is Greene’s cousin and therefore apparently not boyfriend material, Elvis’ fashion sense and slavish dedication to his boss seem only slightly removed from Ugly Betty’s flamboyant Marc.

Quantum of Solace’s plot isn’t as complex as many of the prior Bond films, for which some viewers may be grateful. It is really little more than a string of action sequences connected by minimal exposition, changes of location and Dame Judy Dench, who gets her most screen time as M, Bond’s boss, since 1999’s The World is Not Enough. As directed by Marc Forster, the film moves along quickly and is effectively entertaining. What’s more, the final shot — as Bond seemingly leaves his desire for retribution behind him — is haunting.

I would be remiss if I ended this review without critiquing the movie’s theme song, “Another Way to Die”, especially in the wake of Movie Dearest's recent Bond song poll. Not surprisingly, “Quantum of Solace” proved too baffling to lyricize, although composer Jack White does manage to work the word solace in. His song is more in the rock style of “Live and Let Die” than the more typical Shirley Bassey model. It is welcome in that regard, and is accompanied by suitably psychedelic opening titles.

Co-singer Alicia Keys’ sultry voice meshes well with White’s, although one wonders why the song is performed as a duet. Either Keys or White could have carried it as a solo, and White is arguably more of a household name (if marketability was the concern) than Chris Cornell, who sang “You Know My Name” from Casino Royale. Whatever the artistic and marketing considerations, “Another Way to Die” is unlikely to have a life apart from the movie.

UPDATE: Quantum of Solace is now available on DVD and Blu-rayfrom

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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