Breaking the Bond

Have attempts to recast the Bond franchise gone too far?

Steely and smooth
Image supplied by: Supplied
Steely and smooth

Take a double-shot of gin, shake it with a good-versus-evil dichotomy, pour it over a rock-solid myth of British imperialism and you’ve got the biggest film franchise ever. The appeal of Bond, James Bond, has typically been timeless. The Sci Formal theme of a couple weeks ago is a testament to that. But I’m not sure the latest flick in the 22-strong line properly does justice to Sir Ian Flemming’s steely, cold-blooded character. But first let’s consider the title. While Quantum of Solace does boast a pleasant-sounding parallelism, it smacks of something a high school student would come up with whilst playing fast and loose with the thesaurus in Microsoft Word. Has the 007 empire really deteriorated—like the shambles of the British imperialism that conceived it—into what translates into “a discrete package of alleviation”? The title is more than a tad melodramatic.

Not to mention the fact that nothing about Quantum of Solace is alleviating. Bond, played for the second time by Daniel Craig, stepping over the pieces of his hitherto non-existent heart sets out on a rampage of crash-bang proportions to avenge Vesper Lynd, the lady that nestled down all cozy-like into the backroom of Bond’s left ventricle in the franchise’s last instalment, Casino Royale.

This new Bond with emotional depth is wildly unsettling. The brute revenge he excises from his elusive enemy, Dominic Greene—a character who in his youth surely suffered from a perpetually runny nose and as such was cast out by even the Dungeons and Dragons crew—does indeed cut an odd shape on 007. Bond globetrots shamelessly—Haiti, Italy, Austria, Bolivia and Russia are but a few of his illustrious stopovers—wasting scads of carbon just so he can destroy a baddie who broke his heart. It’s an unprecedented depiction of Bond’s interiority that holds a light up to the cracks in the uber-masculine paradigm from which our favourite agent emerges. Everyone has had their heart broken, but few of us go on a killing spree to get over it. Of course, in the process of beating the path of revenge, we get the promised crowd-pleasers that have by now become staples to the Bond genre. Airplane fight scenes, boat fight scenes, car chase scene and hydrogen-fuel-cell-blowing-up scenes abound, from which, our well-heeled anti-hero naturally escapes relatively unscathed. Each of these expensively-produced episodes have been formulaically co-opted into the Bondre and I would imagine if any upcoming 007 feature was to be produced without a heart attack-inducing opening chase sequence, outraged viewers everywhere would storm the box offices, brandishing pitchforks and other weaponry suitable for angry villagers. That said, this latest instalment in the Bondre—now in its 55th year—lacks one defining feature: a harem of throw-away hot chicks. Indeed, if you’re looking to gaze at lithe female bods ripe for womanizing, I suggest that you take your admission money elsewhere. Other than the ever-suggestive opening credits that depict silhouettes of women who suddenly lost their apparel lolling about in the sand, there’s a marked dearth of disposable females. The exception is, of course, agent Fields (Gemma Arterton) sent to tug Bond back home to Blighty and implicitly ends up tugging something else, but she meets an untimely end within 15 minutes of her arrival on scene without another eager bimbo to fill her shoes.

The most interesting addition to the Bondre in Quantum is a woman, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who has got her own revenge agenda. While the viewer waits less-than-patiently throughout the film’s 106 minutes for Camille and Bond to find a discrete package of physical solace in one another, these wishes for titillating voyeurism remain unfulfilled. The addition of a woman—other than the formidably asexual M (Judi Dench), whose role is not to bolster the mythos of Bond’s masculinity—is a welcome experiment. Although a character like Camille counters 007’s machismo, I’m not entirely sure an empowered and well-rounded female character can really work alongside a lone-cat like Bond.

The movie is not what I would call satisfying or good, especially given the expectations we’ve come to hold when evaluating another instalment of Flemming’s generic brain child. By altering how we see Bond, by adding in emotional depth and deleting his infamous sex drive, director Marc Forster has made a movie that doesn’t fit within the genre from which it comes nor does it blaze this new path confidently. If Daniel Craig didn’t play the man wearing the suit throughout the film, Quantum would not be a Bond movie. Suffice to say, with these bizarre twists to audience expectations, after watching Quantum of Solace you’ll leave the theatre feeling like one of 007’s infamous dirty martinis: shaken, not stirred.

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