Bond bows, UK critics shrug

Posted by · 7:00 am · November 1st, 2008

It was probably inevitable. After “Casino Royale,” the first entry in the retooled, Daniel Craig-led James Bond franchise, garnered unprecedented critical acclaim (and even awards attention, on this side of the Atlantic at least) for a 007 pic, the follow-up, “Quantum of Solace,” is having a more muted reaction. The reviews are in, and they’re respectable at best.

Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian has the best line (“Bond has gone rogue — like Sarah Palin, only with less expensive clothes”), but his three-star review is pretty typical of the mood:

I have to confess that this second Bond adventure disappointed me a little: it’s not nearly as smart as Craig’s debut. There is not much storyline or romance … (but) what Quantum of Solace does have is Daniel Craig. No one could deny Craig’s charisma, and the effortless way he has inhabited the role … Quantum of Solace isn’t bad, but from now on, Craig’s Bond has to be a real character with something real at stake, however absurd. Otherwise we’re going to return to the franchise production line. That would be an awful shame.

Tim Robey at the Telegraph is more enthusiastic, even if he also has some reservations about the narrative:

Quantum of Solace may hurtle through its own (sketchy) plot as if it’s not quite the point – there have been more satisfying narrative pay-offs than we get here – but its best sequences bring you up short in the best way, adding up to the giddiest straight ride since The Living Daylights … It has the compensation of a rock-solid dramatic idea, and the intelligence to run and run with it.

Over at The Times, Wendy Ide thinks Craig is too good for the film:

For my book, he’s the most thrillingly dangerous Bond since Connery … (but) the screenplay requires comparatively little from Craig, criminally underusing his talents … Where are the scenes that give us a glimpse of Bond the man rather than the ruthless killing machine? Where is the note of bruised vulnerability that underscored Craig’s performance in Casino Royale? Where are the loaded conversational battles of wit that allowed the audience – and Vesper Lynd – to really get under 007’s skin?

Completing the big four broadsheets, The Independent’s Anthony Quinn joins the chorus, declaring the film “fun-free,” decrying the “one-note machismo” is Craig’s performance, and concluding that the film can’t compete with another espionage franchise:

The editing is whip-sharp, the pace is breakneck, the adrenalin is flowing. The one tiny fly in the ointment is that we’ve seen it done before, and done better, by Matt Damon sprinting over the rooftops of Tangiers in The Bourne Ultimatum … Perhaps we’ll eventually sicken of the Bourne series, too, but at present its kinetic energy and fleetness, unhampered by the baggage of four decades, are leaving Bond way behind.

It could just be that the film lacks the advantage of surprise that “Casino Royale” did. People know what to expect from the new model now, so it’s easier to pick holes in it. I’ll see it this weekend and decide for myself, but nevertheless, the Bourne comparison is a telling one.

There were hopes that “Quantum of Solace” might score with the Academy — at least in technical areas — where its predecessor had failed, as happened with “The Bourne Ultimatum” this year. If the US critics are similarly ambivalent, however, such an outcome would be decidedly unlikely.

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2 responses so far

  • 1 11-01-2008 at 5:06 pm

    AdamL said...

    Why have the producers of this franchise decided audiences would prefer all the humour and fun stripped out of these things? If I wanted to watch a Bourne film I would go and watch a Bourne film. No-one wants another Die Another Day – easily the worst Bond film in history – but this was just a tiny bit depressing. Relentless action with barely time to cobble together a plot. Precisely 2 very mild quips from Bond – both of which Craig could have timed better – you almost long for Roger Moore.

    To be fair, after the dullest, most incoherently shot (thanks again Paul Greengrass) pre-credit sequence that I can remember, things do improve and by the end I probably enjoyed it more than seemed likely early on. It is beautifully shot and David Arnold does a nice job with the score (although no James Bond theme til the credits is definitely a mistake – and for that matter why a post film gun barrell shot?)

    Things would be better with – and I said this last time – less shaky cam, less action, more plot, more humour, bring back Q – do it classily – and less product placement.

    The glowing reviews of Casino Royale were as baffling as the negative ones for this. If you loved CR why not this?

    QoS is on a par with Casino Royale – for my money they are both barely more than adequate.