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‘Quantum of Solace’

Bland, James — bland.

And I take no solace, not even a quantum, in this assessment of James Bond’s 22nd cinematic adventure, "Quantum of Solace."

More’s the pity, because the 007 franchise’s 2006 reboot, "Casino Royale," delivered new emotional and psychological depth — along with slam-bang spyjinks showcasing a new, blond Bond, Daniel Craig.

The icy-eyed Craig still embodies Bond with coiled-spring intensity. And his acting chops remain as finely honed as ever.

But he’s living proof that, if it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the (sound)stage — or on location, either.

At least Bond 22 has the requisite globe-trotting itinerary, with postcard-worthy stops from Tuscany to the Caribbean.

And director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "The Kite Runner") serves up some sly homages to legendary predecessors, from the 007 classic "Goldfinger" to Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

As "Quantum of Solace" begins, however, Bond knows not too much but too little.

The action picks up about an hour after "Casino Royale’s" conclusion, making this the first direct Bond sequel ever.

Reeling from (presumed) betrayal by his late ladylove, Vesper Lynd, 007 chases down the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) on the twisty roads of Italy.

He, in turn, will (presumably) enlighten Bond and his boss, M (the ever-imperious Judi Dench), about Quantum, the shadowy international organization that blackmailed Vesper.

To that end, Bond travels to the ends of the earth to track Quantum — and its eco-entrepreneur founder, the aptly named Dominic Greene ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s" Mathieu Amalric).

In the eyes of the world, the eccentric Greene seems busy making good global citizenship good business.

To Greene’s alluring girlfriend, Camille (the ornamental Olga Kurylenko), however, his alliance with a Bolivian military strongman (Joaquin Cosio) seems more than a tad suspicious. Which is good enough for Bond to join the pursuit.

And we do mean pursuit, as "Quantum of Solace" races and chases its way across three continents in breakneck fashion.

We get foot chases, car chases, boat chases (an homage to "Live and Let Die," no doubt), even air chases. If only somebody had thrown in a railroad chase, this movie could have been titled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Too." (Hey, it’s no worse than "Quantum of Solace.")

We get bullets flying, stuff blowing up real good and the kind of slice-and-dice editing that renders all that action all but impossible to follow.

What we don’t get, alas, is much character development or emotional depth. We don’t even get the trademark wit and dash that have enlivened even the most cartoony Bond movies.

Instead, screenwriters Neal Purvis (whose 007 credits range from "Die Another Day" to "Casino Royale") and Paul Haggis (writer-director of such somber Oscar-bait dramas as "Crash" and "In the Valley of Elah") opt for a more generic approach, treating 007 as if he were Jason Bourne, the running-for-his-life amnesiac assassin.

In that sense, they’re following trends, rather than setting them — which is exactly the opposite of what James Bond movies used to do.

Besides, the "Bourne" movies never forget the title character’s psychological torment. "Quantum of Solace," by contrast, squanders all of the emotional depth "Casino Royale" injected into its licensed-to-kill protagonist — and fails to replace it with anything else.

The result is the shortest Bond movie ever, but one that seems curiously empty whenever it stops to catch its breath.

Director Forster never figures out how to shift smoothly between the action and the acting, grinding the gears of the movie’s mechanical plot.

Even worse, he never figures out how to make us care.

Neither do most of the actors — with the possible exception of "Casino Royale" returnee Mathis (a wonderfully world-weary Giancarlo Giannini), a veteran player in the ever-deadly international spy game.

It might help if "Quantum of Solace" had a more compelling villain; Dominic Greene’s not likely to make anybody forget Goldfinger or Ernst Stavro Blofeld. (Or even "Casino Royale’s" tears-of-blood Le Chiffre.) And the beautiful but blank Camille’s certainly not about to replace Vesper in 007’s affections. (Neither is Gemma Arterton as the saucy Strawberry Fields.)

Craig, meanwhile, all too often seems like the mystery man in his own movie. He’s there, always moving but never moved. As a result, neither are we.

Or, as James Bond himself might summarize it, not shaken. And definitely not stirred.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

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