Bond has great action, lacks plot

Ben Raymond

Picking up only minutes after “Casino Royale” left off, “Quantum of Solace” continues the beginnings of James Bond (Daniel Craig) as he tries to uncover a powerful crime syndicate and seeks vengeance for the death of his love interest, Vesper Lynd.

Aided by the viperous and enigmatic Camille (Olga Kurylenko), his search leads to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a conniving business mogul and criminal genius bent on destabilizing governments by controlling the world’s water supply.

But when Bond’s blind bloodlust for revenge clouds his judgment, he must fight both friend and foe to uncover the truth.

“Quantum of Solace” harkens back to the origins of Bond moviemaking. From the minutes-long car chases, to the outlandish crime plot, to Bond’s debonair, makes-it-look-easy womanizing, so much about the film is retrospective.

More specifically, the film’s retro feel utilizes a 1964 motif – the year that saw the release of “Goldfinger,” the best and most influential of all Bond movies.

Like “Goldfinger,” the film is heavy on action and light on restraint.

In “Quantum of Solace,” newcomer Gemma Arterton plays Bond’s other, sexy-but-disposable female sidekick. Her name … Strawberry Fields.

1964 was also the year The Beatles hit it big and took America by storm. Thus, we have the name Strawberry Fields.

I suppose they thought Lucy Intheskywithdiamonds was laying it on a bit thick.

Craig follows up his masterful reinvention of Bond in “Casino Royale” with a second abrasive, gutsy performance.

Craig has signed on for at least the next two films, and how he continues to evolve 007 will determine his place among the franchise’s leading men.

Dame Judi Dench, in her sixth appearance as MI6 chief “M,” gives yet another stalwart turn.

Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) delivers a coolly menacing performance as the criminal mastermind Dominic Greene.

Kurylenko is one of the most memorable Bond girls in the franchise’s 22-film corpus. She’s racy and barbed, lusty and inclement.

And she’s here to stay.

Director Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”) has a true flair for action. The film is frenetic, the editing is crisp and its adrenal gland is wide open from beginning to end. It starts on a high and never touches the ground.

“Quantum of Solace” is undoubtedly the most artful of Bond films.

As painterly and tense as Foester’s direction is, it lacks ingenuity.

He depends heavily on location beauty. Bond hop-scotches across the globe: Siena, Port au Prince, the burnt-orange deserts of Bolivia and the pitch white snows of Kazan.

It is also obvious that Forster has seen the Jason Bourne series. The hand-to-hand combat, the car chases and even the editing smacks of three-time Oscar winner “The Bourne Ultimatum.” It’s a bit of a ripoff, frankly.

The movie is sleek, sexy and stylish – so much so that it sacrifices any real depth or sustainable intrigue.

Though the film’s pulsating action and technical wizardry dazzles throughout the 106-minute duration, walking out of the theater, one quickly realizes how shallow the story was and how fleeting the thrills were.

Writers Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade are largely at fault for the film’s hollowness.

Their script devotes little time and even less creative energy to the evolution of Bond.

The momentous steps taken to reinvent and humanize him in “Casino Royale” are replaced with only cursory development of his character.

James Bond is more than an action hero. He’s a persona. He’s about cigarette smoke, broken martini glasses and the faint scent of vodka.

He’s about cold sweat, white gold cufflinks and the taste of beautiful women.

James Bond is literature.

Underneath the well-tailored suit lie jagged scars and scarlet-red bloodstains.

Inside the silver Aston Martin lies a man with steely resolve and evanescent compassion.

While “Quantum of Solace” is an impressive entry into the Bond canon, let us hope it doesn’t prove to be a harbinger of regression back to the action-packed, story-depleted drivel of years past.