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Quantum mechanic

Little Solace for Bond fans
By PETER KEOUGH  |  November 14, 2008
2.0 2.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Quantum of Solace

Quantum Of Solace | Directed by Marc Forster | Written By Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade based on a story by Ian Fleming | With Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, and Judi Dench | Columbia Pictures | 106 minutes
When a chase sequence near the beginning of this latest Bond film arouses less excitement than the horse race it's intercut with, you know something is missing. Likewise when it seems Bond (Daniel Craig) himself wouldn't make as hot a date as a mechanic waiting back at the shop to work on his bullet-riddled Aston Martin. Fans of 007 expect two things from their product: an appealing hero and satisfying action sequences. Quantum of Solace, inexplicably entrusted to Marc Forster (The Kite Runner), fails to deliver either.

Take the opening sequence. The film follows up last year's far superior Casino Royale with Bond, still pissed over the death of the seemingly treacherous Vesper, zooming off to Siena with a fleet of Uzi-sprouting BMWs (Quantum may have cost more per frame than any film ever, but it compensates by challenging the product-placement record) in pursuit. Later, another chase springs up on foot involving repeated leaps across red-tiled rooftops, and it just can't compete with the traditional Palio that's being run at the same time.

The reason? Like nearly every filmmaker these days (one exception: Paul Greengrass last year in The Bourne Ultimatum), Forster confuses meaningless cutting and shaky camera work with excitement. The result is action wallpaper that blurs what's actually happening, an assault of kinetic visual noise devoid of the physical logic and wit that engage an audience's intelligence and not just its viscera. Maybe directors should look back at how previous filmmakers handled elaborate action sequences — say, Buster Keaton.

As for Craig's Bond, last time out he was muscular, rough, brooding, and deep. Now he's just muscular. His motivation is revenge, the conflict is with duty, but the expression is vacant. His heart was broken moments before in film time but a year ago for those of us watching, and I, for one, couldn't connect the dots, probably because Forster was more interested in obliterating them in the hail of the 200,000 blank rounds of ammunition used in the making of the movie.

Neither does the current cast of characters stir any emotional interest. As the cheese-breathing villain du jour, Dominic Greene, Mathieu Amalric won't make people forget his performance in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly any time soon. And Olga Kurylenko's "Bond Girl" Camille — Camille? Now "Strawberry Fields" (Gemma Arterton), that's a Bond Girl name — looks nice but might just as well be a "Bond Guy" for all the response she gets from Craig's impassive Terminator.

Is there any solace to be found? It's nice to see a political edge, what with Quantum being a mercenary group taking down populist regimes such as that of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti for the highest bidder — which usually means the CIA. But what's with the recurrent intrusions of Tosca? Does Forster think he's Francis Coppola? And though the motif of the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire shows ambition, could the building codes in Bolivia be so shoddy that they permit explosive tanks of gas on every floor of a ritzy tourist hotel?

The worst, though, is an over-obvious allusion to Goldfinger that underscores the degree to which the franchise has declined, the promise of Casino Royale notwithstanding. When welcomed back to the flock by M (Judi Dench) at one point, Bond says, "I never left." Those who still cherish the series might beg to differ.

  Topics: Reviews , James Bond , Judi Dench , Mathieu Amalric ,  More more >
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