My rating: **
This film is a real disappointment after the excellent Casino Royale. It is forgotten five minutes after walking out of the cinema. Daniel Craig, however, remains first rate and cuts a stylish figure in every scene. He handles himself with exemplary cool and poise and whatever he wears looks fabulous on him. Unfortunately this is not enough to save the film. The last two Bourne films have a lot to answer for. The action sequences at the beginning are filmed with unwatchable hand held camera. Not only is it impossible to see what is going on but headaches quickly develop at the viewer’s end. Why spend all the money on action scenes if you can’t see them properly? James Bond films have always been about huge sweeping vistas and shots. Hand held camera just doesn’t work in the Bond universe.
Missing also are the luxurious settings that made Casino Royale so watchable and there is very little room for character work. A moment such as the death of Bond’s friend is not contextualised sufficiently for it to work properly even if both actors do some fine work here. (As an aside, I would not be surprised if this particular scene wasn’t already providing prime fodder for slash fan fiction writers.) We are told by various characters in the film that Bond is angry and bitter after losing Vespa, but we don’t see enough of Bond, except in action mode, to be really moved by or understand his predicament.
The plot is likewise unconvincing and lacking in interest – particularly after the intriguing conspiratorial set up of Casino Royale. After M is attacked it appears that Bond is on the rampage about this as well. The whole film is unremittingly downbeat with no moments of dry humour to change the pace. Downbeat is fine, but hollow and lack lustre are not. It is difficult to see where Bond can go from here. The writers may need to rethink their strategies for the next film. I understand that a fourth Bourne movie is being made and the same comment applies to that franchise as well. It seems a pity that the only way that the film makers are able to bring emotional heart to these films is through romance. Romance is of course fine when it is properly done, but perhaps Hollywood writers need lessons in how to write other emotions as well in ways that will engage the viewer. Both Bourne and Bond seem hermetically sealed in their grief and anger in ways which alienate rather than engage the viewer. There is very little real sense of Bond as a tragic figure, something which was put in place nicely at the end of Casino Royale but not convincingly realised in this follow up.