Early reviews are already being posted for Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film due on November 14, in which Bond seeks vengeance for the death of Vesper at the end of 2006’s Casino Royale. “Bond’s Depths Emerge in Bleak Tale,” says the headline of the BBC’s review. “Our hero is an angry, embittered man, out for blood,” says the film critic at The Daily Mirror. “Vesper’s death hangs over Bond like black crepe, spurring his sense of revenge and most of the plot,” writes Richard Corliss of Time.
Tara and I have recently been working through all the Bond films — each of which I’ve already seen (multiple times in most cases, having also read all the books years ago), but most of which are completely new to Tara. Last night was 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, the film in which Sean Connery returns as 007 after his brief “retirement” from the role for a single film — On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), which starred George Lazenby. Until Daniel Craig came on the scene, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was one of my personal favorites among the Bond films, since it gives Bond his first real relationship and, as a result, a greater level of complexity. [Brief spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen this one.] In that film, after an interesting courtship, Bond marries Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, only to see her killed in the movie’s final moments by an assassin working for Blofeld. The film’s closing image is of Bond’s grief — a departure, of course, from the usual closing image of him cavorting with yet another young, nubile conquest. It’s a unique moment, to say the least. In the wake of that film and that scene, what’s particularly disappointing about Diamonds Are Forever is that it gives only a small nod to the idea that Bond might actually have been upset to have seen his wife killed; his “revenge” against Blofeld at the beginning of Diamonds Are Forever seems to have little weight or meaning — really just business as usual, isn’t it? And the rest of the film, unfortunately, begins to indulge in the buffoonish shenanigans that would continue for much of those early-70s’ Bond flicks. Don’t get me started on that Southern sheriff in Live and Let Die.
Novelist Sebastian Faulks, author of the latest Bond novel Devil May Care, commented in a Vanity Fair interview that he had trouble giving Bond any inner life: “I haven’t given Bond psychological depth, because he doesn’t have any,” said Faulks. “I don’t know what his inner life is. When I was writing, I tried to make Bond have a moment of introspection, and it just wouldn’t come.”
The beauty of the last Bond film, Casino Royale, is that we do see Bond’s complexity — even more than we saw in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service nearly 40 years ago. And with Quantum of Solace promising even more…. Well, I can’t wait.
— Art Taylor