So how, exactly, do I go about reviewing a Bond movie from a student ministry perspective? What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

For a few decades now James Bond has been the iconic image of cool gadgets, lots of violence, and sexual promiscuity that isn’t so much flaunting morality, as it is completely unaware of it. To ask whether Bond is doing right or wrong isn’t really an issue in most Bond movies. He’s simply being Bond.

But this was the James Bond of old – especially during the Roger Moore era. During this time Bond was so much bigger than everyday life that he teetered on the verge of campiness. Sure he was probably a horrible example to teenagers, but who in their right mind would take him seriously?

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All this changed when Daniel Craig became the new 007 in 2006’s Casino Royale. Throwing off any remaining vestiges of silliness and parody, Craig’s Bond was a hard-boiled, real-to-life, take-no-prisoners wrecking machine that lacked the previous Bond’s subtlety and charm, but surprisingly contained real human emotion … even falling in love.

It is this Bond that returns in Quantum of Solace, which opened this past Friday. Picking up right where the former movie left off, Quantum of Solace is about Bond relentlessly hunting down the killers of Vesper Lynd, his love interest from before. It was for me an emotionally effective film, and that’s largely a tribute to how good a job actress Eva Greene did as Vesper in Casino Royale – even though she’s never in a scene, her presence hangs like a shadow over every moment.

This movie hits hard and fast, moving from action scene to action scene, sometimes with little to no explanation on why things are happening. Some of these action scenes are so incredibly well-executed that you don’t mind how sloppy the setup for them was. But there are times when the moments feel obligatory, as though someone was sitting in the editing room with a stopwatch going “time for more excitement!” and then selecting an action scene at random to fill the slot.

But carrying this movie is Craig’s exceptional performance. Once again, he makes Bond more than a caricature. He is somehow more heartless yet more compassionate than any Bond to grace the screen before. But is a more human Bond a good thing?

In some ways, no. Although more subdued then before, Craig’s Bond still has a habit of bedding women at will. And he’s still very violent. And in this movie out for revenge in the glamorized sort of way that only Hollywood can pull off. So I’ll admit that no one would be holding him up as a portrait of a model Christian life.

But at the same time I would argue that this more realistic Bond is a very good thing. One of the running themes over the past two movies has been the price Bond pays for his lifestyle. Is being a killer destroying his humanity? Are his casual flings endangering others? Are revenge and bitterness over the past eating away at his heart? These are heavy questions, and not something you’d expect to find in a typical James Bond film.

But then, this isn’t your typical James Bond anymore. And that, I think, is mostly a good thing.

Josh Pease – NOT Josh Treece – works for the high school team at Saddleback Church. He is also been in at least 3 heated conversations where he’s argued passionately that Casino Royale was the best Bond movie ever.

Feel free to email your thoughts/suggestions/criticisms to joshp@saddleback.net.

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