Sunday, November 09, 2008

From Italy/Haiti/Bolivia/London/Russia ... with Kiss-Kiss, Bang-Bang

So, there's a new Bond movie out, Quantum of Solace, you might've heard about it. Popped along to see it this morning and I have to say, Christ, the hot dogs are really expensive at the Empire these days. £3.90 for a "whopper", apparently. I was going to boycott buying one, in protest, but I hadn't had any brecky so ...

Anyway, the movie:- Now, here's the funny thing, the last one, Casino Royale, I thought was terrific but not significantly better than a lot of previous Bond movies. And I say that not as a professional movie critic but as someone who taken to see Diamonds Are Forever as a thrilled eight year old with me dad in 1971 and have - View to a Kill aside - seen every Bond movie since at the cinema long before ITV got round to showing them on telly on Christmas Day about three years later. The interesting thing last time was that a lot of - it's got to be said, rather sniffy - critics who, under normal circumstances, would not have been seen stone-cold-dead praising such "genre trash" as a Bond movie went completely head-over-heals overboard on Casino Royale. It was like they had forty years worth of pent-up feelings that they'd had to suppress since, what, Thunderball as the last Bond film "it was okay for a Serious Movie Critic to like" and, thus, threw everything they had into one big ball of published Happy-Fun-Time-Joy. Plus, most of them fancied Danny Craig. Or Eva Green. On, indeed, both. Thus, the new one - which, again, I thought was a very decent, if hardly earth-shattering movie (it's certainly not Lie and Let Die, let's put it that way. Honky) - has come in for some rather unexpectedly harsh criticism from some of the very people who so loved the last one. "Following Casino Royale was never going to be easy, but the director Marc Forster has brought the brand’s successful relaunch crashing back to earth with a yawn" noted some wanker of little or no importance in The Sunday Times before concluding that "Bond has been stripped of his iconic status. He no longer represents anything particularly British, or even modern. In place of glamour, we get a spurious grit; instead of style, we get product placement; in place of fantasy, we get a redundant and silly realism." Right. Dunno what he (or she) is on, per se but I can't really say I noticed any spurious grit myself. At least, no more than usual. Actually, that's a decent point - the previous Bond movie Quantum of Solace most reminded me of was, interestingly, Licence to Kill. Now THAT had spurious grit. And overdose of it.

Generally speaking, you've got a checklist you go through with sitting down to view a Bond movie and, if most of the following boxes are ticked then, chances are, you've got a winner:-

1. Pre-title Sequence Excitement: Yep, no problem there. The first seven-and-a-half-minutes of this film are amongst the best the series had done in a long time (remember how long, for instance, it took them to GREAT TO THE SODDING POINT in The World is Not Enough?) Particularly as Quantum of Solace's pre-titles include a whopping great dose of number two on Ze List...

2. Cool Cars & Cool Car Chases: Oh yes. An Aston Martin and an Alfa Romeo shunting seven grades of shite out of each other through the backroads (and, erm, quarries) of Northern Italy. That's a check.

3. A Halfway Decent Title Song: Yeah. Again, no worries. I'm not, normally, a huge fan of either Alicia Keys or Jack White but 'Another Way To Die' fits all the right holes, toots all the correct John Barry-style horns and twangs all the reverb-heavy guitar strings one could possibly want. There's a little dah-dah-dah-dahhhhhh moment that will make most cynical Connery fan crack their face into a - brief - smile.

4. A Stunna As The Bond Girl: Or, more accurately, 'some dusky, brown-eyed pouty vixen who is very good at starring wistfully into the mid-distance and saying "Chaymes Bondt" on queue.' A role that Camille Montes fulfills perfectly adequately, if not more.

5. A Snarlingly Effective Bond Villain: Mathieu Amalric (who was so good in Munich) does a really good job in this category. I particularly liked his cool detachment.

6. Good Jokes: "Can I offer an opinion? I really think you people should meet in a better place!"

7. An Iconic Death of A Secondary Characters With A Delightfully Stupid Name: Gemma Arteton's Strawberry Fields draped over the bed looking like a Cormorant after the Amoco Cadiz has gone down in the vacinity in clear homage to Shirley Eaton's demise in Goldfinger sorts that one. It's not, quite, as sensational as Plenty O'Toole taking a dip in Diamonds but it's, genuinely, not far off.

So yeah, overall, a very decent effort that, I thought. Now, next time - if there's a passing Broccoli reading this, keep Danny, keep Judi, keep Felix but can we please get back to the present and have Moneypenny and Q back?

This review will now self-destruct a'fore your very eyes. If any of it remains afterwards, please be so kind as to eat it.

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