Thursday, January 08, 2009


Sure, the folks at Eon were a bit callous in their firing of Pierce Brosnan. He'd served honorably in his time as Bond, and he certainly would have been fine as the lead in Casino Royale, which was shaping up to be one of the most serious-minded entries in the series, and the first one in a long, long time actually adapted from one of Ian Fleming's novels.

But producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had something else in mind. They wanted to completely restart the whole franchise, and Brosnan, for better or worse, came with the baggage of his four films. He simply wouldn't be able to do what they wanted. (I would suggest they should have gotten rid of Judi Dench's M at the same time--she also seems too closely associated with the Brosnan years.)

So he was terminated, and despite the initial howls of protest over his casting, the seemingly left-field choice of Daniel Craig as Bond proved a stroke of genius. Not that he did it alone: Casino Royale is easily one of the best in the series, smartly written, sharply directed, perfectly cast down to the smallest role.

And didn't quite feel like a Bond movie. In some ways, this is because it was simply too good: No puns, no suggestively-named maidens, no nehru-jacketed supervillains. But also no Moneypenny, no Q Branch, none of the familiar tropes and supporting characters long-time fans had come to expect.

Which was fine, for one movie. But when none of those elements appeared in the follow-up, Quantum Of Solace, some fans got angry. This isn't Bond, they said. This plays like a knock-off of a Jason Bourne movie. Where's Q, dammit?

While I share some of those concerns--it was a mistake to hire the editing team from the Bourne series, because the action scenes are so herky-jerky as to be incoherent--I find many of them off-base. There is much here that feels like classic Bond, from the globe-hopping locations and odd settings to the disposable female dalliance and organization of supercriminals.

(That last point is potentially the most fascinating. The film works overtime to set up the Quantum consortium as the SPECTRE of the new millenium, and it's strongly suggested that Bond's next adventure will involve the search for a new Blofeld-style archcriminal. More than likely, the next adventure will be more along the lines of a classic Bond, with this film serving largely as a bridge between the grittier, more emotional Casino Royale and another larger-than-life epic. At least, I hope so.)

Mostly, what Quantum Of Solace has going for it is Daniel Craig. In only two films, he's made any comparisons to past actors irrelevant. He simply is Bond at this point--brooding and weary yet elegant and unflappable, learning to appreciate the good life (his hotel upgrade here is a classic moment), and convincing us he's a gentleman agent who is also a ruthless killing machine. He's worth following wherever he goes--he's so good, he might even have been able to make Live And Let Die worth watching.