Monday, December 04, 2006

Bondian, Yet Not Bond Pt. 1

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.


Mikey said...

I think the word needs two variants:

goodbondian - e.g Clive Owen throwing his Beamer around like a sleepy Nigerian minicab driver

badbondian - e.g Jason Statham fending off a LAW missile with a tea-tray

Ultimate goodbondian: Throwing an electric fire in the bath to wax an assassin.

Ultimate badbondian: Using a magnetic rheumatism bracelet or whatever to unzip a chick's dress.

Anonymous said...

Hey, did you catch the "first season" of Hire movie/commercials? I think the best one was there, by Wong Kar Wai. The first one to shake off the car commercial feel. Arguably the least Bondian one of the lot, though.

rachelle said...

Also, Clive Owen was in the Bourne Identity.

Dude was born to be Bond!

Anonymous said...

OK, I was unfamiliar with the BMW promos and so wiki'd them, where I was faced with possibly the greatest sentence ever written:

"The Driver drag-races the Devil (!), in order to earn James Brown (!!) his soul."

Of course, the film itself failed to properly deliver on such a high concept and ended with a pathetic joke, but it still gets full marks for its premise.

Anonymous said...

What's ironic is that The Bourne Identity novels are far more Bondian than the films are, at least in terms of plot and its mirror image supervillain but I consider the films an improvement over Robert Ludlum's lubrigious prose.

The Hire is a terrific collection of shorts with some nice acting from Owen. The Ritchie directed segment Star is worth seeing juse because it's Ritchie using a movie to utterly humiliate his wife- Madonna, who the Hire tortures with crazy driving. It's so very, very weird. In the commentary, Ritchie notes that she's pretty easy to work with. For him at least.

Anonymous said...

If I had to pick a goodbondian moment in the Transporter movies, it would be the second one when he opens his trunk and you discover he's got many more suits where that came from. It's such a "Well, he's always prepared!" moment.

Anonymous said...

How is it that I never saw The Hire in any form? I am a sucker for car fu.

Do any cars drive through buildings? If so, I need to get my hands on it.

word verification - iatzetk
aztek's 5th dimensional counterpart.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I had gathered from your previous post that in the books Bond was not superhuman as he is in the movies; now you tell me that the improbable staircase scene in The Bourne Identity is "Bondian." I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to guess that 'Bondian' is basically shorthand for any F#$% YEAH moment that involves a spy, plausible or no.

Anonymous said...


I see what you're doing.

You parlayed your comic blogging into a position atop the pro comics universe, and now you're going to do the same with film.

Well, fix me up with Christina Applegate, wouldja? I hear she's single again. Or Audrey Tautou. But give me warning so I can take the poster of her down, because, like, if she came over and saw the poster, she'd be all creeped out.

Edward Liu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Also Bondian from The Bourne Identity:

In Paris, fighting the assassin with a pen, attacking the same arm to render it useless.

Then, in Germany, fighting with a rolled up newspaper/magazine.

In Mission: Impossible 3, Ethan Hunt sneaks into a Shanghai company's headquarters (to retrieve the rabbit's foot) by swinging from the top of one building to the other, shooting the rooftop guards as he slides down the glass, angled rooftop of the other, only to catch himself before falling off of the edge!

Anonymous said...

bonddignagian - something that is colossally bondian?

Reel Fanatic said...

The simply sublime Croupier had me sold on Clive as the next Bond, but of course it was not to be .. I do think Mr. Craig did a damn fine job though

Anonymous said...

Considering how well-reviewed Casino Royale turned out to be, I wonder if Clive Owen is kicking himself for being all "Hell, no, I won't ever appear in that stupid-ass, over-the-hill franchise!" after he was courted to be Bond.

Anonymous said...

Do we need any sense of morality established in whether or not something is Bondian?
Case in point: In "The Killer," is Chow Yun-Fat stabbing a psychotic footballer/assassin in the back with a kitchen knife (and not getting any blood on his white suit) Bondian?

Also, Kudos to 'The Hire' for having a sense of humor and letting Gary Oldman play the devil as a maniacal game show host. And Marilyn Manson as his bible-thumping neighbor was a nice touch.

Anonymous said...

Laser pointers are only superficiallly Bondian. Now, if you could use a laser pointer and cut of some guy's ear, then they'd be fully Bondian.

Anonymous said...

Laser pointers that cut off peoples ears? Sounds more like Tarantino does Star Wars to me ... Tarantinoian?

Anonymous said...

I liked the BMW promo by that Mexican director whose name I'm not even going to attempt to spell. Very different from the rest of the series. That last scene was a doozy.

Mikey said...

I just recieved some borderline Bondian spam

Anonymous said...

Except for Casino Royale, the past four or five Bond movies have been very Hollywood. Lots of action and SFX.

The Jason Bourne series reminds me of the classic Bond films. Action when needed but a solid story. The Jason Bourne films take spy movies to another level though. Where Bond makes spy life look to be fun and enjoyable at moments, the Bourne series is probably closer to a real spy life. Stressful, dangerous with intense paranoia.

As Deep Throat and X said, "Trust no one Mulder."

Booksteve said...

A couple years back some magazine put out a special DVD with all of the HIRE films to date on it and I loved 'em! Yes, the James Brown one is cool! It also features Gary Oldman as the Devil!

K.Fox, Jr. said...

cool, dude. i don't know why i bother reviewing these days, seeing as how i hardly have any thing to say, but, whatever. sick.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with you that the most recent (exceedingly kick ass) Bond film owes a to the success of the Bourne films, its opening sequence owes even more to semi-obscure little French film called District 13 (well, that's the English title anyway) which the director clearly modeled his hyperkinetic foot chase after.

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