Since we’re pretending that “Bondian” is a real word, we should clarify what it means.
Bondian is something that has the same qualities as a James Bond book or film. As an adjective, Bondian can apply to a person (“Danny De Vito is not very Bondian.”), a place (“The Seattle monorail has a very retro-tech, Bondian vibe.”) or a thing (“Yo, check out my new laser pointer – it’s totally Bondian!”).
It stands to reason that there are scenes or elements in non-Bond films that have a certain Bondian quality, yes? Pull up a chair, won’t you? Let's pretend to enjoy a nice Chateau Margaux and some excellent Cambozola cheese and crackers and chat about those Bond-yet-not-Bond moments in film.
The Hire – Car Fu
BMW produced a series of short online promotional films to showcase their cars called The Hire. In case you haven’t seen them: each commercial stars Clive Owen as the unnamed driver-for-hire of a series of different model BMWs, and each one is directed by a different big-shot director, like Tony Scott or Guy Ritchie, who is married to Madonna. I don’t know why I threw that in there. Just to be catty I guess.
Anyway, The Hire films are tight vignettes that focus on how sleek and bad-ass Clive and his car can be. I don’t know how well they did as a promotional tool for BMW (pretty good I bet), but as miniature action movies they work pretty well.
Since most of the films focus on a cool British dude racing around in an expensive European car while guys with sunglasses in shittier cars or helicopters shoot automatic weapons at him, they obviously do bring James Bond movies to mind. But a few of the films, like John Frankenheimer’s taut Ambush and John Woo’s melodramatic Hostage, have some great car fu and have the same feel as the pre-credit sequence of a Bond movie.
Plus, come on. Clive Owen could easily play James Bond. Ever seen Croupier? Dude looks good in a tux. I’m not saying that in a gay way or anything, I’m just saying. Let’s move on. More wine?
The Bourne Identity – That Ridiculous Stairwell Scene
My hunch is that the success of the two Bourne films had a lot to do with the kinetic, down-to-earth vibe of Casino Royale.
The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy are well-crafted movies starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a young American super-spy on the run in a series of exotic locations. The Bourne movies take themselves seriously, and that’s why they’re so fun. Plus, both films have intense car chases that rival anything in a Bond film – cars are weapons in these movies.
Although Matt Damon looks more like a Canadian backpacker than a highly trained assassin/spy, his Jason Bourne possesses resourcefulness and poise that are Bondian. Bourne is always looking for an angle, thinking laterally, and using whatever is at hand to turn the tables on the endless number of hitmen and agents and cops hunting him. The Bourne movies maintain a degree of plausibility and verisimilitude, which is one way they’re different from most Bond films.
However there is one scene at the end of The Bourne Identity that snaps the viewer’s suspension wire of disbelief, sending disbelief falling, screaming to its death. It’s the stairwell scene, where Bourne performs a dazzlingly implausible stunt that is 100% Bond.
Briefly, Bourne is being hunted by Evil Government Agents. He's at the top of a six-story circular stairwell. He kills one of the agents in a gratuitously bone-snapping manner, but there's a dude with a machine gun coming up the stairwell. Bourne launches the dead guy into the open stairwell and then - this is awesome - he rides the dead guy down the six-story drop, shooting the machine gun guy on the stairs in mid-air. He lands on top of the dead guy, who is pretty heavy-set and apparently absorbs Bourne's fall. The film makers throw reality a bone and have Matt Damon groan a little bit because hey, a fall like that could knock the wind out of you.
I saw The Bourne Identity in the theater, and when Matt Damon gets up after that, the entire audience groaned - except for me, I was all, "Fuck yeah! That ruled!" I said that inside, anyway. I like to keep it down in theaters.
The stairwell gag may not fit with the rest of the movie or obey physics, but I think it's great. It just belongs in a different movie - a James Bond movie.