Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quantum of Harshness 

Mrs. TH and I caught the evening's early show of the new Bond flick, Quantum of Solace. Neither of us could remember a darker or harsher Bond, and in that regard it was a true quantum leap from most of its predecessors. There were no gadgets, very little pointless sex (Mrs. TH: "Bond was not meant to be cuddly"), and far more calculated use of the license to kill than in most previous movies. All good, in our book.

Sadly, the movie suffered from two related problems, political-correctness of a sort and the complete absence of a geopolitical rationale.

The political-correctness was both macro and micro. The macro PC was the usual Hollywood stuff, insofar as the unseen villains behind the bad guys were "corporations," and oil company corporations at that. Seriously? We cannot do better than that with all the scariness in the world? The micro political-correctness was a little more satisfying, insofar as it has backfired on the screenwriter: At one point, a baddie wants to be paid in Euros rather than American dollars because the latter have declined in value specifically on account of "fighting too many wars." Of course, between the shooting of that scene many months ago and the movie's release yesterday, the Euro has plummeted in dollar terms and we are, as a practical matter, fighting one less war. One screenwriter beclowned.

The real problem, though, is that it was impossible to figure out why the British, or even the Americans, would give a rat's ass about the problem posed in the story -- a shadowy organization that has gained control over most of Bolivia's water supply is threatening to engineer a coup so that it can "double" the price of water in that country.

Really? We needed our super spy for that stupid problem? The story's basic threat is so piddling and demotivating that they had to prop it up with a very unBond-like alternative motivation -- revenge for the death of Vespa in the last movie -- to push James through the action sequences. Which, fortunately, were so great that you really did not care that all these people were dying lest somebody charges Bolivian Indians too much for water.

The Daniel Craig version of Bond has enormous potential. There is no obvious reason why he could not go on missions against Iran or North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, jihadis, or even an evil corporation that is trying to do something really diabolical. Send him after bin Laden, fer Chrissakes! Just do not waste him on trivialities.


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sat Nov 15, 10:52:00 PM:

It's called the "movie BUSINESS." Why would you want to lose sales in Russia, Venezuela, or in Muslim countries?

Tou may find this link from the University of Warwick amusing:

"Professor Richard J. Aldrich, Professor of International Security at University of Warwick, says that the once improbable-seeming villains in the Bond movies have become close to the real threats faced by modern security services."


By Blogger D.E. Cloutier, at Sat Nov 15, 10:55:00 PM:

P.S. Make that "You," not "Tou."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sat Nov 15, 10:58:00 PM:

TLOML and I went to see the film yesterday, at a matinee yet.

All those wailing film critics to the contrary notwithstanding, and in spite of a sound track that the theatre owner seemed to feel had to prove its quality by being played at the sound level of a 747 in takeoff mode, we liked the film as much as you obviously did.

Mindless mayhem; that's the ticket when nothing makes a lot of sense in our world. We didn't even mind the silliness of the plot, insofar as it dealt with the real villains of our existence, BIG CORPORATIONS, and we cheerfully bought into the revenge meme as the motivating reason for so much violence.

Craig - in this film and the last - is Bond, every bit of him, without the romantic notion of the need to be ultra-suave, hip, sexy, but accomplishing all of that just the same.

Good flick for a rainy afternoon, and we apologize to no one for our enjoyment of it.

So there.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Sat Nov 15, 11:38:00 PM:

I wonder how many of us remember reading Ian Fleming's books as they were published! They were good reads.

Bond was described as a prep-school ne'er-do-well with a "cruel lip" who kind of fell by default into government service. Some say that Fleming wrote the character for Sean Connery.

In any event, like most people, I thought the original Connery films seemed to present the most "valid" Bond. I fondly remember the line from Dr. NO, "That's a Smith & Wesson and you've had your six..." as Bond shoots the guy dead in cold blood...kind of a new deal for films back then...but quintissentially cool.

The new Bond is a close second to Connery. Cold, ruthless, cruel and yet not superhuman...like Fleming intended.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 16, 03:14:00 AM:

> The Daniel Craig version of Bond
> has enormous potential. There is
> no obvious reason why he could
> not go on missions against Iran
> or North Korea, Venezuela, Russia,

Russia? This guy looks like a Russian.


By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Nov 16, 08:02:00 AM:

This guy looks like a Russian.

Then he would be well-suited to spy on them.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 16, 11:57:00 AM:

I, too saw it at a matinee yesterday.

Pretty violent, but there was also some very funny moments (in my demented opinion) such as the boat chase in Port-Au-Prince harbor that was reminiscent of boat chases in "Live an Let Die" and the "From Russia With Love" (I think?). The opening car chase in which the Aston Martin gets trashed was also funny, especially at the end when Craig tells his passenger in the trunk to "time to get out!". The was also homage paid to "Goldfinger", when the dead British girl was found in Bond's hotel room covered and choked by oil (not gold).
The so-called villain was actually an extension of the villain in the first Craig/Bond film, plus the motive for revenge, or the "Quantum of Solace". A modern day "SMERSH"? Of course, the real "SMERSH" organization was actually an appendage of the NKVD (before it became the KGB, and who knows what it is called today).

The nature of international marketing does preclude making the Russkis, Chinese or even the Norks the bad guys. Somebody would have a hissy fit otherwise.

But it did seem mechanically violent, and Craig is pretty ice-cold. It's them blue eyes, I think.


By Blogger Mike Beversluis, at Sun Nov 16, 01:03:00 PM:

Craig is the doberman pincher of Bonds.

And I laughed at the Euro line too.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Nov 16, 02:48:00 PM:

"why the British, or even the Americans, would give a rat's ass about the problem posed in the story"

Neither Britain nor America gave a rat's ass about the planned coup, (and said so) and they didn't know about the water angle. (they were hoping for oil, which was just a lie to get the big powers to close their eyes) Bond was running on auto-pilot for pretty much the whole film and had to escape seizure by both British and American agents, twice.

"the unseen villains behind the bad guys were "corporations,"

The bad guys were Quantum, and the ones that were identified from the pictures taken at the opera were all former intelligence professionals. (one was former Mossad, one was an adviser to the English Prime Minister, and I forget the third) Greene and his 'eco crusade' were only important because it was an appendage of Quantum and had the misfortune of being identified as such first.

The driving motive for both operatives was revenge, and the rest was just coincidental. Everything made perfect sense. I liked it.

The only complaint I voiced to the wife was that Bond is approaching a threshold of unbelievability. He pilots cargo planes, crappy wooden boats, and sports cars with precision, never seems to have to aim with his pistol that is always loaded, chambered, and perfectly hidden, and is at least conversant in like 4 languages (so far). [French, Spanish, Italian, and English, that I can remember] Oh, and a super skilled Poker player skilled at martial arts and making precision strikes with improvised weaponry, like when he cut open the femoral artery of that dude in Haiti and just sat for a minute waiting for him to bleed out.

If each new film reveals new skills at a constant rate like this, by movie 4 he'll be a master acrobat astronaut sushi chef capable of composing multi-lingual poetry.  

By Blogger stavr0s, at Sun Nov 16, 06:17:00 PM:

Send him after Pelosi and Reed. Have botoxed Pelosi, dressed in nothing but boots capture him and torture him by making him look at her. A true test of the mettle of Mr. Bond.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Nov 16, 08:55:00 PM:

All fair points, Dawnfire, but my broader point remains: They had not actual geopolitical problem for Bond to work on, so they had to come up with the revenge angle. Let's get him back to advancing the interests of the good guys. Surely you can pick on the Iranians without losing a lot of ticket sales.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 17, 01:29:00 AM:

Ironically, modern Bond most resembles Red Grant (Robert Shaw) from 'Russia with love'.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 17, 07:08:00 PM:

I wish they'd send 007 after a truly evil corporation, the New York Times Company. Carver Media wasn't anywhere near evil enough a media company- go after Pinch or Punch or Paunch, or whatever we're up to in the line of Sulzberger succession. Take out that evil guy Bill Keller too, while you're at it too!  

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