The second movie in this reboot stalls, wanders headless, before Daniel Craig pulls it together for the reckless tumble downhill billing that these movies usually promise.
And why all this? Why replace the devilish charm and frivolousness of the earlier instalments with something resembling real life? Why substitute the heady sunshine of the prior ones with a morbid pall this time, when such intensity can only count as a negative for someone like Bond?
Like the earlier movies, Bond still survives in the end, still blows up stuff all around the place,still loses one girl and saves the other (he doesn't sleep with one though). Gone though is the need to maintain the thin veneer of charm, the need to keep comforting the audience that this is all a piece of cake, all in a day's work for someone like Bond. We are in the 21st Century and we are seemingly mature enough to appreciate layers in our heroes and superheroes (think Bourne and Batman reboot). Our heroes do get hurt and make mistakes, and take some time in redeeming themselves. And this layering is what the movie almost succeeds in bringing about.
A layer exhibits the complex relationship between M and Bond; another exhibits the need for Governments to humour corporations involved in foul play when it is the latter and not the former who get to control natural resources. One more layer showcases guilt and regret, and for Bond, this movie is almost about Scorcese like redemption as much as these movies are usually about Reid and Taylor suits. He seeks answers to assuage his guilt and anger - he is unable to forget and forgive the woman who betrays him to save his life and he is hell bent on hunting down the person who had set her up for sacrifice.
Amidst all this, we have Mathieu Amalric play 'Dominic Greene', the villain, whose only resemblance to past Bond villains is the gruesome manner of his eventual death. He plays an awkward string puller, a French Godfather, except that his interests are crude Oil, toppling Governments and the like, instead of Olive Oil and Gambling. An intrepid traveller, he takes keen interest in the affairs of South American nations in the morning, over lunch in chartered flights, talks spymasters into sponsoring coups, and finds time before dinner to co-ordinate a call between the various members of his cartel at an Opera house in Austria.
Bringing the two together in Haiti is 'Camille' (Olga Karylenko), the girl who plays with fire and tries to use Greene to reach the object of her hatred, a Major Medrano, an ex Bolivian General that Greene now wants to install as the dictator. Bond follows her and stumbles across Greene, figures out that there is more to him than political horse trading and raising funds for a greener planet.
It takes all of Daniel Craig's acting skills to pull this role off and to convince the audience that an efficient and ruthless Bond is actually better than the chivalrous, charming (occasionally flaky) Bond that his predecessors chose to play. He imbues his role with an intensity never before seen in a Bond. And he convinces the audience in investing a smidgen of sympathy for the first time in a Bond as he gulps drink after drink while trying to wash away regret over his recent past. More Devdas this than the carefree Playboy.
While Pierce Brosnan brought about a touch of class during his incarnation (and subsequently eroded most of it by acting in Die Another Day), Daniel Craig has chosen intensity as the cornerstone of his interpretation of James Bond, as much a reflection of his acting skill as that of the time we live in.