Bru­tal Bond’s mis­sion to thrill

Daily Express - - BE HAPPY - Al­lan Hunter

QUAN­TUM OF SO­LACE ★★★★ (Cert12A;106mins) CASINO ROYALE was al­ways go­ing to be a hard act to fol­low. Daniel Craig’s first Bond epic grabbed the age-old fran­chise by the din­ner­jacket lapels and dragged it into the 21st cen­tury.

The back-to-ba­sics ap­proach chipped away at the smooth sur­face of the fa­mil­iar for­mula to cre­ate a rougher, tougher Bond who was lit­tle more than a gov­ern­ment-li­censed thug. No­body had left us this shaken or stirred since Sean Con­nery still had his own hair.

Quan­tum Of So­lace is set one hour af­ter Casino Royale and finds Bond on a ram­page of re­venge, criss­cross­ing the globe in pur­suit of the men re­spon­si­ble for the death of his beloved Ves­per. It is a grim spec­ta­cle. There is no time for sar­donic one­lin­ers, flam­boy­ant bad­dies or in­ge­nious gad­gets.

What we do have is a breath­less, hard-hit­ting spy thriller that seems less like a tra­di­tional Bond than ever, which is not al­ways a good thing. The mu­sic is strangely muted through­out and the big-ex­plo­sive fi­nale is a bit of a mess.

It’s safe to say that Craig doesn’t do flip­pant. He’s not about to slip out of a wet sa­fari suit and into a dry mar­tini. In Quan­tum, it takes seven lethal cock­tails be­fore he even re­alises what he is drink­ing.

He wouldn’t drive to work in an in­vis­i­ble car ei­ther. He’s the kind of Bond who smashes through a front door, kills every­one in sight and might think about ask­ing some ques­tions later. It’s all about re­sults and you are ei­ther on his side or an an­noy­ing hin­drance.

The re­lent­less fo­cus of Bond is re­flected in the fe­ro­cious com­mit­ment of Craig’s per­for­mance. The film be­gins with a car chase that places the viewer right in the thick of the action. Craig ap­pears to be do­ing much of the stunt work him­self and the way he is thrown about, in­jured by fly­ing glass or al­most forced off the road makes it all seem in­cred­i­bly real.

A sub­se­quent chase on foot across the rooftops of Siena is the high­light of the movie, with a supremely fit Craig throw­ing him­self through glass and wood like a man pos­sessed. He al­ready has the role and the Bafta Best Ac­tor nom­i­na­tion. He doesn’t have to land him­self in hospi­tal just to prove a point.

The pic­ture’s strange ti­tle is taken from an Ian Flem­ing short story and refers to the au­thor’s be­lief that a re­la­tion­ship can­not be sal­vaged un­less there is a mea­sure of com­fort be­tween the two par­ties – a quan­tum of so­lace.

Ac­cord­ing to Dame Judi Dench’s M, Bond is in­con­solable with grief and looking for enough so­lace to lay his re­la­tion­ship with Ves­per to rest. The global or­gan­i­sa­tion be­hind the black­mail and death of Ves­per also hap­pens to be called Quan­tum. It is that group’s leader, Do­minic Greene (Mathieu Amal­ric), who be­comes the tar­get for Bond’s wrath.

He’s not the only one seek­ing to make amends for the past as the beau­ti­ful Camille (Olga Kurylenko) also has some old scores to set­tle and is us­ing Greene to get to evil Gen­eral Me­drano (Joaquin Co­sio).

Skip­ping from Italy to Bo­livia, Aus­tria, Lon­don and Panama, Quan­tum is a no-non­sense action thriller that is the short­est Bond film ever made. There is lit­tle room for hu­mour or hu­man­ity and Gemma Arter­ton’s spiff­ing, ill-fated agent Fields pro­vides the only bed­room action for Bond.

Di­rec­tor Marc Forster con­tin­u­ally em­pha­sises a world in which the old-school dis­tinc­tions be­tween good and evil no longer ap­ply, loy­alty can be bought by the high­est bid­der and be­trayal is an easy op­tion.

Craig’s rogue killing ma­chine is a Bond for a bleak, dog-eat­dog world in which there is no­body left to trust. Thank good­ness he is on our side. HUNGER ★★★★★ (Cert15;95mins) TURNER PRIZE-winning artist Steve McQueen has never made a fea­ture film be­fore but you wouldn’t know it from Hunger. His am­bi­tious de­but dis­plays the calm as­sur­ance of a vet­eran film-maker, ad­dress­ing com­plex is­sues with a lin­ger­ing in­ten­sity that is ut­terly com­pelling.

The sub­ject is the H-Block of Maze Prison in North­ern Ire­land dur­ing the early Eight­ies and the repub­li­can in­mates who were pre­pared to die for the right to be recog­nised as po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

McQueen con­veys the liv­ing hell of the prison with a foren­sic eye for de­tail. Cell walls are smeared with ex­cre­ment as part of a “dirty” protest. Pris­on­ers who refuse to wear a uni­form only have a blan­ket to cover their naked­ness. There is also a po­tent sense that the hu­man­ity of both pris­oner and guard has been de­stroyed.

Prison of­fi­cer Ray­mond Lo­han (Stu­art Gra­ham) checks un­der his car for a bomb ev­ery day be­fore set­ting off to work. His split, blood­ied knuck­les rarely have a chance to heal.

The fo­cus grad­u­ally nar­rows to Bobby Sands (Michael Fass­ben­der) and his com­mit­ment to a hunger strike. In one bravura se­quence, Sands ar­gues the case for mar­tyr­dom with Fa­ther Do­minic Mo­ran (Liam Cun­ning­ham). The cam­era never moves for 20 min­utes as the de­bate rages be­tween them and your at­ten­tion never fal­ters.

McQueen is well served by Fass­ben­der, whose shock­ing phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion into the ema­ci­ated, dy­ing Sands is just one as­pect of an ex­traor­di­nary per­for­mance.

Hunger may be a bleak, gru­elling ex­pe­ri­ence but it is an artis­tic tri­umph for McQueen and a pic­ture of im­mense power and un­ex­pected beauty. OF TIME AND THE CITY ★★★★★ (Cert12A;72mins) IT IS a ban­ner week for Bri­tish cin­ema with Bond in top gear, a bright new tal­ent in Steve McQueen and the wel­come re­turn of di­rec­tor Ter­ence Davies with his highly per­sonal, be­guil­ing es­say Of Time And The City.

Davies has pre­vi­ously trans­formed el­e­ments of his life into land­mark films such as Dis­tant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes. Of Time And The City is a salute to his home town of Liver­pool that blos­soms into a poignant kalei­do­scope of nos­tal­gia, po­etry and wist­ful re­gret.

The 63-year-old Davies uses archive footage to re­visit the key sights and sounds of his youth and there are im­ages that will strike a chord for every­one of

his gen­er­a­tion, whether it’s the Bank Hol­i­day pil­grim­age to the New Brighton beach – “plea­sure on a bud­get” – the magic of a real-life movie star Gre­gory Peck com­ing to town, the Christ­mas treat of a pome­gran­ate or the Sun­day af­ter­noon lure of go­ing Round The Horne with Ju­lian and Sandy.

The poverty of his child­hood is con­trasted with the pageantry of the royal wed­ding and the sense of be­ing op­pressed by his Catholic up­bring­ing and ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity re­mains po­tent.

In his vel­vety-voiced nar­ra­tion, the prickly Davies laments the pass­ing of a city in which he now feels an alien but recog­nises that not ev­ery­thing about the past de­serves a rosy glow and a fond sigh. His sense of the past as a lost par­adise is en­cap­su­lated in the Chekhov quote that the “golden mo­ments pass and leave no trace”.

Touch­ing, in­cred­i­bly funny and al­ways shame­lessly idio­syn­cratic, this is a gem of a film. MID­NIGHT MEAT TRAIN (no stars) (Cert18;97mins) VIN­NIE JONES hitches a ride on Mid­night Meat Train in the lat­est scary movie taken from a novella by mas­ter of the genre Clive Barker.

An in­scrutable Vin­nie stars as Ma­hogany, an Amer­i­can Psy­chostyle se­rial killer. By day he works in a meat-pack­ing fac­tory. When night falls he dons a suit and tie and uses his work tools on the hu­man vic­tims that he meets on the Los An­ge­les sub­way. Leon (Bradley Cooper) is the mild-man­nered pho­tog­ra­pher who be­comes fas­ci­nated with the case.

Mid­night Meat Train re­ceived some favourable re­views on its US release ear­lier this year but the fact that it is be­ing re­leased in the UK without a press screen­ing is never a good sign. RING ★★★★ (Cert15;95mins) JUST in time for Hal­lowe’en, Ja­panese chiller Ring re­turns to cin­e­mas. Ten years ago it marked a new chap­ter in scary movies, telling a clever story with eerie at­mos­phere and grungy style. Pre­quels, se­quels, rip-offs and re­makes have taken the edge off the premise of a cursed video tape that, if watched, will lead to the viewer’s death within seven days.

Jour­nal­ist Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Mat­sushima) in­ves­ti­gates the mys­te­ri­ous deaths of her niece and three friends and starts to un­ravel the mys­tery of the killer video.

Creepy if overly fa­mil­iar th­ese days.

IN THE FIR­ING LINE: Olga Kurylenko as Bond girl Camille

AC­TION MAN: Daniel Craig is a ruth­less Bond. Above, Gemma Arter­ton plays Agent Fields

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