Monday, November 24, 2008

A Forgettable Bond; An Enriching Experience

Movie Reviews:
Quantum of Solace @@1/2
Slumdog Millionaire @@@@1/2

I saw two extremely disparate movies this weekend, in terms of content and quality.

Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie, was eminently watchable due to a lot of action and Daniel Craig, who is a very good Bond. But its story line was lacking and I expect, so too will be its lasting impact. Quantum is ostensibly a sequel to Casino Royale, the first Craig as Bond film, which while not quite awesome, was thoroughly enjoyable, in part due to the relationship between Bond and Vesper Lynd, played by the fabulous Eva Green. STOP READING HERE if you don’t want to know that Vesper died at the end of Casino Royale, and supposedly Quantum is about Bond getting revenge. But just how the bad guys are connected with the past circumstances is tenuously explained at best. Especially without Eva Green around, even in flashbacks, they should’ve just started over with a whole new premise. New Bond girls Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton are attractive but eminently bland. Basically, Quantum—surprisingly directed by Marc Forster, whose body of work is much more unique and impressive than what he did here—is a decent “popcorn movie” and not the worst way to spend 2 hours, but the premise, plot, villains and women all fell far short of fabulous, and as some critics have argued, the action sequences may have been far too extensive for what Bond is supposed to be. Craig may have resurrected the Bond franchise, and even my interest, but whereas Carly Simon once sang “Nobody Does it Better” about James Bond, for my money, Jason Bourne now does.

Quite different, and considerably better, was Slumdog Millionaire, a limited-release gem from acclaimed English director Danny Boyle depicting life in the slums of India. Thoroughly original, engaging and eye-opening, Slumdog Millionaire opens with Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) about to win 20 million rupees on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” but instead is arrested and tortured on suspicion of cheating. In telling the police how he came to know the answers, Jamal describes his life on the outskirts of society and how he made his was through as something of a Dickensesque urchin, driven by a desire to save his childhood friend Latika, who upon adulthood—as played by Freida Pinto—is about as attractive a woman as you will ever see. Some reviewers have complained that she is too beautiful for the purpose of the story, and there does seem to be a bit of contrivance to the whole thing, but in the age of ubiquitous hyper-action blockbusters (i.e. Quantum of Solace) and other stupid pedestrian fare, Slumdog Millionaire is far different—and better—than almost anything else you can see these days. It’s being listed as a favorite for a Best Picture Oscar nomination, and deservedly so.

No comments: