'Quantum' meets its low expectations

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2008

Here's the good news: If you have read one of the many negative reviews of "Quantum of Solace" - and I'll go ahead and let you know now that this review will be among them - and you still choose to go see the newest James Bond adventure, perhaps your dramatically lowered expectations will result in an enjoyable trip to the movies. How's that for spin? I guess the day-job in talk-radio is rubbing off.

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Sad but true, all the promise and potential of the new direction the James Bond franchise took with Daniel Craig's first turn as the Brit secret agent in "Casino Royale" amounts to little more than a competent action film in this sequel. Emphasis on the word "sequel," by the way, as "Quantum" picks up quite literally where "Casino Royale" left off. The problem with that, though, is that it turns out the continuation of that storyline is not very interesting.

Director Marc Forster starts off on the right foot, waiting approximately 3½ seconds before plunging the camera into the middle of a car chase along a winding, cliff-side road. Bond (Craig), stone-faced and calm, tries to elude his pursuers in a sleek Aston Martin. Cars fly off cliffs, machine guns are fired, anonymous bad guys die and Bond eventually emerges from the chase mostly unscathed; the Aston Martin is not quite so lucky.

Bond walks to the trunk of his tattered Aston Martin, pops it open and looks at his captive, who has apparently been in the trunk the whole time. "Time to get out," is all Bond says. And then we're thrust into another staple of Bond films: the very cool opening graphics and credits.

So, for about 20 minutes, "Quantum of Solace" lives up to the hype. For the following 80 minutes ... not so much.

The story, which counts Paul Haggis ("Crash," "Million Dollar Baby") among its writers' credits, follows Bond as he tracks down an evil environmentalist (Mathieu Amalric) who is trying to monopolize the world's water supply. Oh, and everyone seems to be convinced that Bond is also more than a little preoccupied with avenging the death of Vesper (see Royale, Casino for details).

So why didn't I care? I'm easy to suck in to these types of things. Perhaps it was because it didn't seem all that intriguing that the movie's villain is trying to gain control of Bolivia's water supply (no offense, Bolivia). Perhaps it was because none of the characters ever really seem all that invested in things, either. Perhaps it was because the ridiculously gorgeous Olga Kurylenko is mostly wasted on a character that seems unnecessary. Whatever the reason, there was never a point where I found myself particularly caring about what happened. The experience was about as riveting as driving to work in the morning.

Part of me wants to justify the disappointment by reiterating that there was simply too much buildup. Maybe it is unfair to expect Haggis' immense writing talent to show through on a James Bond movie. Maybe the same holds true for Forster, who helmed emotionally captivating films such as "Monster's Ball" and "Finding Neverland." Still, even when tempering expectations, the truth is that "Quantum of Solace" is a letdown.

The action sequences are executed well. The cast, when given a chance to do so, performs well. Craig, specifically, fills the screen with his brilliant blue eyes and chiseled frame. Kurylenko is stunning to look at ...

But that's about it.

"Quantum of Solace" is the shortest Bond film to date (106 minutes); it'll also be the easiest to forget.

• Check out Carson's movie blog at www.juneaublogger.com/movies.

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