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Cinema in Focus: ‘Quantum of Solace’

Except when it cuts to the chase, the latest James Bond film leaves a plot to be desired.

2 Stars — Shallow

Grief has many faces. Although comfort is often found in the loving presence of others, if the loss is woven with guilt and anger, solace can take the forms of self-destruction or vengeance. Intuitively knowing that we get little actual comfort from these destructive reactions, we nevertheless can become captured by their promised relief. It is this latter reality that is explored in the most recent James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Forster.

Having lost his beloved Vesper (in the previous film), Bond (Daniel Craig) is seeking to bring those responsible to justice. But it is clear to everyone, including his supervisor M (Judi Dench), that he is struggling with his own desire for vengeance. This theme of the film is doubled when Bond meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who is carrying out a lifelong plan of revenge without any desire to be held back by justice and its legal requirements.

The usual debonair Bond is mostly missing from this film, as is the expected world-class villain. Attempting to bring the issues into modern day, writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade create a villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who has the front of being an environmental savior while in fact raping the planet. His band of evil partners are not mad scientists or even violent sociopaths, but instead wealthy capitalists. What makes it even less engaging is that Greene is shown to be in bed with wealthy Western nations and barbarous dictators of such nations as Bolivia and Haiti, a leap of plot that smells of an agenda.

The expected Bond woman within the film is even less believable. Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton) is a beautiful redhead who is not even an agent. She has a desk job at the British embassy in Bolivia. This does not stop her, however, from paying the ultimate cost as have most of the Bond girls in the films.

The best aspect of the film is the action sequences. Not only are they vintage 007 with implausible danger and skill, but the violent gunfights and chase scenes are woven together with other images, from a horse race in Italy to an opera in Austria. These are so well done that an adrenalin rush becomes the central experience of the film.

Quantum of Solace is the 22nd film within the James Bond series. For those who enjoy action it is a worthy new chapter. For everyone else it will be a disappointment.

Discussion:

» Have you experienced the tragic loss of someone near you? How did you react: with sadness and depression; with anger and vengeance; with guilt and self-destruction; or with some other reaction? Where did you find solace?

» Camille’s lifelong quest for revenge had become her reason for living. Have you ever felt such a need for vengeance? How did you get free from such vengeful feelings?

» The implication that Western governments will sell their people’s souls for oil is a tired accusation. Do you believe there is any truth in this? On what basis do you make your opinion?

Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church on the Mesa. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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