Okay I know I may receive some flak for this review, but I thought this film was brilliant, nearly perfect. Yes, I know a lot of people were annoyed by this film, complained that it was too much like the "Bourne" films, and yes, it does have a lot of handheld shots whilst fighting martial arts and an unrelenting pace(the pace being the most similar thing to the Matt Damon series of films). But for a Bond film it really is kind of an evolution, being that this Bond is the very first actual sequel in the series, starting probably 15 or so minutes after "Casino Royale" ended. It is a brutal and unforgiving film, showing real the impact of a violent lifestyle and all of the casualites along the way in a non-glamorous fashion. As violent films go, it's one of the least exploitative yet still thrilling fun, maintaing the tone of "Royale".
Daniel Craig channels "Sword of Doom"'s Tatsuya Nakadai as the lone samurai plagued a very serious chip on his shoulder, no compassion, no empathy. He kills everyone in his way and he doesn't stop to ask questions. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Marc Forster watched "Sword of Doom" when creating his vision for Craig's Bond in this outing.
Where "Royale" has an elegant almost '70's throwback pacing with wonderfully relaxed scenes of exposition and character details, "Solace" reveals that it was all a big set up for the big battle that is this film. The film doesn't miss it's lack of exposition because it was honestly all set up in the previous chapter. However, the film isn't all muscle and bruises and gunfights, it still has the Bond of the original, emotional, sensitive and brash and extremely good at getting the job done in the most efficient way possible. His heart is at the center of the story as his journey finds him taking revenge agaisnt anyone who had betrayed him earlier and getting the heart of why Vesper Lynd took her own life after she betrayed him in the original. With only a few remaining characters from "Royale", like Judi Dench in a more main role as M and the welcome return of Felix Leiter by Jefffery Wright, we see Bond venture to Haiti and Bolivia where he finds a way closer to the evil global conspiracy responsible for Lynd's death, and he meets a new villain, played with a rich relaxed menace by French actor Mathieu Amalric and the femme fatale of the tale, Camille, richly embodied with a heartfelt performance by firecracker Olga Kurylenko. Camille proves she is a match blow for blow with Bond, as an equal ally, and a kindred spirit on her own personal journey of vengeance.
The central theme here revenge and all that comes with it, the good and the bad. Bond teeters on the edge of losing his cool and his control constantly, but Craig reels him in and keeps him on the righteous path. I have a feeling that in the next iteration we will see Bond return to his cool, collected self as he finally gets to the bottom of the conspiracy. His ruthlessness was a required part in showing his madness at the loss of his love, and in a deeper way, his ability to love.
The adventure in this film is very high stakes, with some really brutal magficiently played action sequences in crazy exotic locales. Technically the film is astounding and has as much merit as any of the rest in the series. It definitely gains from the styling of director Marc Forster who has previously shown a unique visual ability in "Monster's Ball" and "Stay". The cinematography and color is beautiful and rich, capturing wonderful foreign travel spots and places like the Dunes Hotel at the climax that you would likely never want to visit. The film is also surprisingly topical, dealing with thirld world Environmental politics as a main-issue and privatization of national utilities which are definitely on the liberal agenda's hot list. It's very interesting to see them central to the plot of a pop spy adventure.
I really enjoyed this film's artistic flourishes and it's neck breaking pace. I found it refreshing and definitely rebellious to the typical Bond film. Craig proves again and again that he is truly believable leading man, even if he doesn't have the perfect features of Pierce Brosnan. His rugged quality gives him more appeal, and his confidence is what sells his performance. This film subverts the idea of a traditional spy film. The real villain is already known and captured at the before the first scene, the hero is shows now mercy or care for even his closest friends, making him extremely unlikable, and he doesn't even want, nor does he "get" the girl in the end, and we don't see either of the two underbaddies bite the dust. The film is almost without cliche, save for Bond's signature one liners.
I have a lot of respect for the chances everyone involved took with this project. It's got the true pure heart of an Indie film, wanting to please no one except those involved in it's creation. It caught a lot of flack and according to many, was immensely successful based on it's name alone. James Bond puts people in seats, and I can't help but imagine the Director having a laugh seeing people leave this film frustrated at not getting what they were expecting, have expected for now nearly 50 years. However how good I know the film is, it's not perfect. I would have liked to have more time for the story to breathe, for the characters like Fields and Mathis to have a moment or two more. The film is definitely in a hurry, but it almost seems like a waste to have such talent on the screen for such little time, although Mathis does have some really great moments in Italy at his villa. His wife, however, stole that scene. "Royale" and "Solace", so far this new Bond is two for two. Let's hope he makes it a solid three on his next outing, especially because they are bringing Peter Morgan on board for what is I'm sure going to be a wonderful screenplay if not on par with the great screenplay in "Solace", but probably going to be much better.
4 Oil Drenched Corpses out of 5