Quantum of Solace is a fine modern spy thriller, but it's not much of a James Bond film.
Despite all the fuss a few years back about his being the first blond Bond, Daniel Craig is just fine as the unflappable 007. His steely-eyed glare suggests all manner of powerful emotions beneath emotions beneath the surface, and Bond has been nothing if not a powder keg waiting to be lit.
But in Quantum of Solace, the 22nd "official" Bond movie (not counting 1983's Never Say Never Again, which was made by a rival studio, and the 1967 farce Casino Royale), that keg is forever going off. The movie starts off with Bond "interrogating" a prisoner Guantanamo-style and gets less subtle from there. Bond wants to know who killed his prospective girlfriend, Vesper (at the end of 2006's Casino Royale), and he'll stop at nothing to find out and exact a little vengeance - regardless of what M (Judi Dench) or anyone else says.
In the course of the film, Bond is nothing short of a superhero, running at full speed for hours, mercilessly pummeling (and getting pummeled), sporting everything short of a suit of Iron Man-style armor. Again, it's all fun and everything, but it's also generic. And while Olga Kurylenko makes an absolutely fetching Bond girl, the screenwriters don't give her a heck of a lot to work with.
This is the kind of thing audiences expect from Matt Damon's Jason Bourne, but not from 007. Much as there is to be admired in the Bourne franchise, we don't need a clone. Especially one that comes at the expense of Bond and his shaken, not stirred, martinis.
Also out today: : Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Vol. 3 (Warner Home Video, $49.95) has four more examples of those wonderfully tawdry, wonderfully tarty movies from the days (before 1935) when Hollywood decided to go all moralistic. Filled with deadpan wisecracks, double entendres and dark underpinnings (all PG-rated stuff today, but the height of daring in their time), these films are a marvelous time capsule of envelope-pushing from another era. The films included here are Tallulah Bankhead in 1931's The Cheat, Sylvia Sidney and Fredric March in 1932's Merrily We Go To Hell, Nancy Carroll and Cary Grant in 1932's Hot Saturday, Claudette Colbert in 1933's Torch Singer, Victor McLaglen and Kitty Carlisle in 1934's Murder at the Vanities and Buster Crabbe and Ida Lupino in 1934's Search for Beauty.