Rest in Solace, Bond always comes back alive

Jaime Chu

James Bond's latest world tour is nothing new.

 
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James Bond (Daniel Craig) and partner Camille (Olga Kurylenko) live for another episode. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Once again, the world's most celebrated non-British British secret agent takes us on a world tour, killing exotically-accented villains and staining $5,000 Brioni tuxedos along the way. A change from the previous Bond movies,"Quantum of Solace" attempts to break the stereotypical action movie mold, and Bond, continuing his attempt from "Casino Royale," breaks out from the  car-and-beauty-philia persona. All is well until you realize what a bland story it makes—all work and no play.

The film opens, not surprisingly, with an irrelevant car chase, followed by a post-pop title sequence "Another Way to Die" by Jack White of the White Stripes and Alicia Keys—a combo only as remarkable as it being the first Bond-title Duet. By the end of the electronica-rock-lullaby sequence, you could think of at least 20 more ways to die.

The Bond movies have been made and remade for almost 50 years. It is comforting to sit back and not grip the arm rest in sweat, knowing Bond will always get the gun in the end and he will always make the final shot count. Perhaps the only surprise is that there is really no surprise. One would expect at least a twist near the golden 60-minute climax point. But except for a petty setback at the beginning, Bond is so clear-headed in his mission, he leaves no chance for his villains to even change their minds. From the beginning, aside from how he kills or who he kills, what matters is how many girls he charms (only two) and how many Haitian speedboats and Italian roofs he damages on his way (countless).

Following his debut performance in 2007, Daniel Craig's depiction of Bond is brought fuller this time around as a more three-dimensional character and not just a stone-hearted hired hand. Revenge for his dead love interest drives him more than an approving nod from his boss, M (Judi Dench), and perhaps the only comic relief comes in the relationship between Bond and M. The motherly head of the British secret service tends to be even more emotionally involved in Bond's mission than Bond is, and we have to wonder at her loyalty to her service without even the slightest ulterior motive.

The rest of the movie plays out in grandeur from the extravagant Austrian Opera House to a minimalist hotel in the middle of a Bolivian desert. In the Bond tradition, his enemies are never the ones of planet-destroying or plane-hijacking conspiracies. This time is no exception; but appropriate to our times, the antagonist Dominique Greene (Mathieu Almalric) is an unashamed environmentalist who plots with South American dictators for his own benefits. The entire movie screams upper class. In the economic recession we are living in right now, Bond's presidential suite and black-tie receptions on the job are glamorous escapes from how un-glamorous hit-men jobs are, as Hitchcock might point out. Bond makes killing so clean and his escapes so easy, he makes us think the alternative universe he lives in is a kind of Disney World for the mind-manipulating and revenge-seeking.

Though the dialogues may sound complicated in those low voices and faraway accents, "Quantum of Solace" could not be a simpler movie. History repeats itself and you cannot expect less from Bond's newest ventures. This is not to dismiss the efforts of the movie's artistic touches and Craig's hard work in resisting the new Camille, the new Bond girl's (Olga Kurylenko) charm (okay, maybe not all history repeats itself). At least he gets the job done.