Literally crashing and smashing and bashing his way through the entire film like the Hulk, Bond leaves carnage and destruction in his wake... which, unfortunately, seems fitting given that this latest chapter in the adventures of Ian Fleming’s womanizing hero is a little bit of a mess and not nearly as spectacularly awesome as Craig’s Bond debut, Casino Royale.
Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), the movie feels like a hyperkinetic video game assembled from a series of action sequences more than it does a movie with a clear and compelling narrative. While Casino Royale featured breathtaking action set pieces that redefined the character of James Bond and spun the series in all sorts of new directions, in that film they meshed together seamlessly with the underlying story to create a fantastic finished product. In Quantum..., though, it feels more like the filmmakers were simply following a checklist: chase sequence in cars? check! chase sequence in boats? check! chase sequence on foot? check! chase sequence in planes? check! And this time there wasn’t much in between those scenes to help the story hang together.
James Bond (Craig) is pissed off. His lady love was killed in the previous film, and he seems determined to find out who was responsible so he can exact his own form of justice. Problem is, he gets sidelined by duty when M (Judi Dench) sends him on assignment to thwart an eco-thug named Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who’s plotting to seize control of Bolivia’s water supply via an orchestrated coup. Yes. Seriously. That’s his exciting mission in this film: stopping a water hog.
Along the way, he’s sporadically teamed with an equally vengeful young woman named Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who has her own reasons for wanting to get close to Greene. But, really, Camille is kind of a boring non-entity—she appears and then disappears, and never really spends enough time with Bond to create a lasting impression on him or the audience. Giancarlo Giannini and Jeffrey Wright reprise their roles as Bond’s international allies Mathis and Felix, respectively... but even they seem dropped in more as a courtesy to the actors than in service to the movie. And that seems to be okay with everyone. Too bad.
At its core, Quantum... really is All About the Action. Amid some stunning art direction and set design, there’s a whole lot of it, and when things aren’t going real fast or blowing up real good onscreen, chances are Craig is beating the snot of some meanie in one of the film’s myriad fight scenes. Despite having a director at the helm who’s known for his dramas, which might indicate a more serious film or a more complex thriller, this Bond installment plants itself squarely in the action genre and, sadly, seems to buckle under the weight of “too much of a good thing.”
Expectations are very high for this follow-up to the hugely successful ... Royale, but I’m not certain they’ll be met. Yes, we like it when we’re treated to eye-popping stunts that truly wow, but we don’t like it so much when that’s all there is and when the editing is so insanely fast that you can barely tell who’s chasing whom or where anyone is in space at any given moment. After a while, I stopped trying and just tried to enjoy what I could.