Quantum of Silence

November, 2008, Thriller

Quantum of Solace

After his impressive debut as the latest incarnation of James Bond in Casino Royale two years ago, Daniel Craig once again dons pistols and tuxedo as 007 in the current entry of this extraordinary franchise, begun 46 years ago with Dr. No. Producer Cubby Broccoli has lured Marc Forster, a talented director with interesting films to his credit (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, The Kite Runner) to oversee this effort and supplied him with an ample explosives budget, a sultry Ukrainian actress named Olga Kurylenko to portray Bond’s latest femme fatale and the always-indomitable Judy Dench who steals her scenes again as “M”, Bond’s cynical handler. The film breathlessly trails our hero as he roams the globe from Sienna to London to Haiti’s Porte au Prince to Bolivia to Moscow and back again, tracked by M’s cadre of bureaucratic yes-men, who use the same electronic “finger painting” visuals introduced by Tom Cruise in Minority Report and recently popularized by CNN in covering the presidential election. The end result is a slick, dizzyingly-paced copycat of earlier Bond outings, a rip-off of the Bourne trilogy and a movie about as satisfying as a week old tuna-salad sandwich. 

Working from a script by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, (responsible for crafting Casino Royale’s clever screenplay) the director begins Quantum with the obligatory car chase and then catapults Bond and his audience into an inexplicable storyline providing confusion instead of clues and introducing characters with such rapidity there’s no opportunity to make sense of anything. In the process, Forster wastes the efforts of Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffery Wright, who reprise their roles in the previous outing with little opportunity to provide the appealing duplicity both displayed in it. Audiences have been witness over the years to the metamorphosis of Bond from rugged (Sean Connery) to urbane (Roger Moore) to pretty boy (Pierce Brosnan) to Craig’s brooding intensity. But even that’s overworked here, making the James Bond in Quantum an automaton rather than the appealing male fantasy he’s so obviously intended to be. Rarely has so much time and talent been devoted to producing a product with so little originality. Even the opening titles and the over-produced song which accompanies them quickly grow irritating.

     The best Bond films have never relied on the dapper agent alone; they have also featured gruesomely repellant villains and seductively interesting, round-heeled beauties. Unfortunately, Quantum fails badly in both categories. Mathieu Amalric, the gifted Frenchman who held audiences spellbound with his immobilized eyes in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and wordlessly conveyed the a grown son’s anguish in the powerful A Secret earlier this year just can’t muster the perversity required of a Bondian-style villain. He’s physically delicate to begin with and the intelligence so evident in his facial expressions mocks the preposterous lines he’s required to utter. In a world of cinematic villains, he doesn’t even begin to compete. As Bond’s sidekick and ostensible opponent, Kurylenko initially appears to be an enigma - - and then remains one; she’s really part of a subplot that’s never adequately explained and there’s never a moment in her scenes with Craig that generate any heat. At the film’s end, she turns her back on Bond and strides off into the distance as though her character is the one who’ll headline the next chapter of the franchise…

The last Bond highlighted its action sequences with terrific economy; this one strings them out so endlessly they become boring. Whether he’s flying an old DC 3, piloting a battered speedboat or swinging upside down from entangled construction ropes, 007’s Quantum histrionics violently drone on and on, robbing them of surprise or freshness. Taken individually, the technical aspects of these stunts are impressive enough, but there are so many of them, rambling on at such length, they drain the momentum right out of the movie.

The verdict? A major disappointment. In light of the appeal of its immediate predecessor, this one’s a real let down. Audiences around the world should send a message to Mr. Broccoli that he needs to get back to the drawing board promptly and find a way to re-tool his cinematic meal ticket. As a start, he might considering hiring a creative team that won’t ape the bloodless, comic- book characters of recent commercial successes and give us back the credible protagonist we encountered in Craig’s maiden voyage.

 

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