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daniel craig

As the first ever direct sequel in the 22 film James Bond franchise, and the second film in the reboot series that started with Daniel Craig’s debut as 007 in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace both impresses and disappoints. The impressive parts far outweigh the disappointments, however both sides of the coin need to be examined to fully see the film for what it is.

On the base level QoS is a direct sequel, heavy in the continuing story of Bond’s revenge crusade against the organization that plotted against him and turned his true love, Vesper Lynd, against him in the closing moments of Royale. The film picks up in a high chase sequence through the Italian countryside with Bond escorting Mr. White (whom he shot in the final moment of CR) to a meeting with M (Judi Dench) where things don’t go as planned. The organization’s reach is far beyond anything MI6 had envisioned and as the swift one hour-forty-five-minute film concludes the audience is left with a satisfied feeling.

Quantum is one long action sequence as director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) never lets up from the gas peddle from the teaser sequence until the fiery ending in the Bolivian desert. They are chases on land, sea, and in the air, shoot outs, more free-style running with nary a moment for Bond to catch his breath before he’s on a plane to another country and involved in another shoot-out. The rapid pace of the film makes its already abbreviated running time feel even shorter. This could also be one of the film’s biggest weaknesses as the runtime doesn’t provide a lot of time for the character to be explored anymore than what we saw in Casino Royale. Here Bond is vengeful, hell-bent on destroying the organization that claimed his glimmer of happiness and in a borrowing of plot lines from both Die Another Day and License to Kill, he goes semi-rogue, even though M knows what he is doing at all times.

Still without anytime for Bond’s development, he falls into a 2D character that constantly milking the franchise over the past 40 years has produced on occasion. Even worse off is the film’s supposed big baddie in Mr. Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is even less developed and never imposing enough to be seen as a threat. Greene plays the political game and is very hand’s off, much like CR‘s Le Chiffre, however where the dearly departed villain could stand toe to toe with Bond, even going so far as to torture him, Greene looks like a school boy and never oozes the confidence we’d like to see in a Bond villain.

Aside from the never ending comparisons to the franchise reboot predecessor, to which this film doesn’t quite approach in quality, Quantum is a great entry into the franchise and as an extension of Casino Royale rather than a separate film, its unparalleled in its quality with a satisfying ending and the door open to continue along the development of Quantum (the organization) and its dealings in the world as MI6 is no where closer to unraveling what makes them work at the conclusion of this film.

Quantum of Solace is a must for any Bond, Bourne, or action-movie fan, and while die hard franchise skeptics who won’t watch anything sans-Connery will be keen to spout off against the film and its declining quality in comparison to other films in the series, after the spectacular show that was Casino Royale, it was going to take a miracle to really top that masterpiece.

I’m a huge James Bond fan, and I only know one other person who can give me a run for my money when it comes to geeking out and turning into a total fanboy when it comes to 007. I also consider Pierce Brosnan to be perfectly suited for the role of James Bond, he embodied the role during his tour of duty by providing the action we needed, the quips we craved, and wooing the women we wished we could have. While the series itself succumbed to self-parody and more and more outlandish plots and gadgets, the character was still intact for the most part.

When Casino Royale was first announced (sans Brosnan) you can expect my reservations. The series was rebooting, a new James Bond was being brought in, and the entire series itself was being refreshed to something many in the younger generation were unfamiliar with. There’s no Q, there’s no Moneypenny, but there is the same M? Imagine the confusion of younger fans coming off of the CGI-laced Die Another Day into the more grounded, nearly-gadget-less Royale.

All those fears are unfounded, however, as Casino Royale proves to be one of the, if not the, best James Bond film yet with a perfectly cast lead, a great supporting line-up, interesting story, twists, turns, cars, women, guns, and explosions, James Bond returns to the big screen with a huge bang focusing in on the character and his beginnings rather than invisible cars and laser watches.

A lot needs to be said for Daniel Craig who steps into the role as the sixth actor to play the title character. Craig brings everything to the role and gives the audience more than we could expect. His cocky, arrogant beginnings are believably portrayed and his hardened, deep eyes give the impression of a cold-blooded killer but also the emotion we know Bond still relies on early in his career. Enough speculation and critical analysis of the actor seems totally unwarranted and those who adamantly spoke out against him in the beginning are dining on a feast of crow right now as Craig IS James Bond. I won’t go so far as to say he is better than Sean Connery in the role, as I’ll need several more viewings of Casino Royale and it subsequent sequels to see the range of the character, but based solely on Royale, Craig easily passes Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Brosnan, and George Lazenby.

The movie itself, as previously mentioned, focuses in on the beginnings of 007 and his career at MI6. From the beginning of the film you can see the emotionally driven, arrogant son of a bitch who opposes authority and seems to work for himself. As the movie ends, and Craig delivers the catch phrase we’ve all been longing to hear for 2 hours and 24 minutes you can see a change in the character as all that he has known has fallen apart around him, his emotional attachments severed, and his sense of duty heightened. The movie grounds itself more in reality (for the most part) with out any of the outlandish (and totally unbelievable) gadgets that cropped up in the ladder installments of the series. The gadgets that you do find here are entirely possibly in the real world, as is the rest of the film.

Everything about the film was in question two years ago and now, 24 months later, the only question we have is how long until we get to see 007 on the big screen again. Casino Royale is good, scary good, so good in fact that after the credits began to roll with the familiar theme in the background all I could think about was if there was another showtime tonight and how do I get tickets.

With so many excellent parts to the film it’s nearly impossible to touch on them all, but Casino Royale is a film that needs to be experienced by both fans and non-fans of the franchise. Thinking of it as an introduction to the spy movie genre or an extension of a 40 year franchise, either way Casino Royale ranks as one of the best times you will have at the movies and easily the best film of 2006.

See it once, then see it again. His name is Bond, James Bond, and he’s back and better than ever.