Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Terminator in a tux

Daniel Craig's blond Bond makes a quantum leap into bloody darkness

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

The Bond of our youth is gone; Sean Connery was as smooth on his feet as he was between the sheets, while cheeky Roger Moore was usually quicker with quips than bullets. But Daniel Craig's 007 is all lethal, all the time. He's a relentless killing machine with menace behind his frosted blue eyes. He even makes love like a robot, bedding a luscious babe more as a strategic routine of his programming than for the sheer joy of it.

And after 46 years, you'd think you'd know a guy, right? You know where he works, that he drives super fast and has a license to kill armed with his trusty Walther PPK. We even know his cocktail preference. Yet after 21 films, we've learned precious little about Ian Fleming's master spy. We've got all details and no substance — but the latest entries have at least hinted at remorse and a real flesh-and-blood man behind the myth. In the end, the modern need for speed leaves us with a hero as hollow as the shell casings he leaves scattered in his wake.

So it's now a burden being Bond, with all the weight of millennial gloom laying on Craig's thick shoulders. And in a world where everyone's for sale, it's not a question of who's the enemy, but who isn't. Solace is the series' first direct sequel, picking up shortly after Casino Royale's bloody conclusion. Double-O is in a rage after the loss of his love, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and he opts to mask his pain the only way he knows how; wasting enemy goons and an expensive precision automobile. However, his boss, Judi Dench's refined M, won't let 007 cry into his martini, she needs his head in the game because an enemy agent has put fear into the oaken halls of MI6. So it's off on a global mole hunt, with stops in Italy, France, Haiti and La Paz, Bolivia, with enough jumps to give a GPS nervous fits.

It's all exciting as hell — the opening chase and fight scenes are as athletic and brutal as anything in the Bond canon — but eventually the sound of breaking glass and grinding bones grows wearying. Screenwriter Paul Haggis and director Marc Forster have stripped away any traces of camp, with few gadgets and no gags. From the Jack White- and Alicia Keys-penned theme-song opener, it's all adrenaline-pumping state-of-the-moment thrills.

Yet in keeping up with the Joneses (er, the Bournes) they've sacrificed the soul of the original action hero. Pierce Brosnan's Bond was sometimes written off as a Cold War relic, but somehow the aggressively bleak paranoia of this new guy is already sooo Nov. 3, 2008. Times are tough, but it's hard not to miss the smile and wink of a Bond who was more than just a terminator in a tux.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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