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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


What a difference a couple of years can make. It was just two short years ago that Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond in the reboot known as Casino Royale, which most people agreed was the best Bond movie in years. Now comes the follow up, Quantum of Solace, which (with the possible exception of Licence to Kill) is the worst Bond movie ever. It's astonishing how badly they've screwed it up from one installment to the next. If there is any consolation, it is that Bond will live to see another day, which means another chance to get it right. Until then, we're left with this clunker.

The story picks up almost immediately after Casino Royale ended. Bond, distraught over the death of true love Vesper Lynd, goes in search of revenge. This causes him to cross paths with Dominic Greene (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's Mathieu Amalric), a shady environmentalist with a plan to usurp Bolivia's water supply. Greene is working in conjunction with American and British officials to overthrow a Bolivian political regime in the process. Bond, of course, tries to stop him, despite worries from "M" (Judi Dench) that perhaps he's on the verge of crossing some ethical lines in the process. No Bond movie would be complete without the requisite love interest; this time, she comes in the form of Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a young woman looking for a little revenge of her own.

Quantum of Solace gets off on the wrong foot almost immediately. The story never properly introduces most of its new characters, or explains how they are connected. It just kind of jumps into the middle of things. We don't have much time to grasp the multitude of new players, yet the story proceeds to have all them double- and triple-cross one another. This leads to instant confusion from which it is nearly impossible to recover. Complicated stories can be great, especially when the film takes the time to dispense the necessary information at a speed with which you can digest it. Running 30 minutes shorter than the average Bond film, Quantum of Solace is so sloppy in its set-up that you'd need a compass, a map, and a satellite GPS system to follow the plot.

Admittedly, the plots in Bond movies are always incomprehensible; I don't know why nobody is able to write one that's coherent. What makes it all the more noticeable is that Quantum of Solace doesn't even deliver the rest of the goods. Do you like "Q" and his gadgets? Forget it - he's not here and neither are his toys. Even the action scenes are lackluster. Some of them rely too much on surprisingly cheap-looking CGI (a big time no-no in Bond movies) while others are just simply bland: another car chase, another boat chase, another foot chase, etc. Worst of all is the airplane chase, which is one of the dullest, least exciting action sequences I've ever seen. There is nothing here that hasn't been done before - and better - in other Bond pictures.

In the past, the Bond movies have been directed by journeymen - filmmakers who knew how to construct a piece of entertainment that follows a very specific formula. Quantum, on the other hand, has been directed by Marc Forster, a man whose previous movies (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger Than Fiction) in no way suggest that he was the right man for the job. Forster is talented, no doubt, but his arty approach is all wrong for 007. Rather than raising the stakes artistically, he drags the series down. It almost feels like he wanted to turn the property into something it was never meant to be, and ends up sucking out all its appeal in the process. Bond has never felt less fun or more stiff than he does here.

I don't blame Daniel Craig, but he's got nothing to work with this time. All the danger and edginess he brought to the role in Casino Royale is gone. Lucky for him that he's already got that success under his belt. Had this been his first attempt to fill 007's shoes, it likely also would have been his last.

What a major disappointment! I've never had the attachment to the James Bond pictures that some folks have. I've enjoyed most of them, but they don't have that kind of obsessive appeal for me that they do for many. Still, when I go to a Bond movie, I expect to have a good time. That's how it's gone for several decades. It's something that I should be able to count on, because if Bond isn't consistent, then what is he? In Quantum of Solace, he's a big, fat, bore. Letís hope the people driving this franchise make some serious repairs for the next one, because as of right now, this thing is alarmingly broken.

( 1/2 out of four)

Quantum of Solace is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.

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