Quantum of Solace

In theaters.

In a 2007 Associated Press article that endeared him to me forever, Matt Damon was quoted derisively contrasting the classic James Bond with Jason Bourne, his own franchise character:

[Bond is] an imperialist and a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it. Bourne is this paranoid guy. He’s on the run. He’s not the government; the government is after him. He’s a serial monogamist who’s in love with his dead girlfriend and can’t stop thinking about her. He’s the opposite of James Bond.

Paul Greengrass, director of the last two Bourne movies, agreed:

[Bond is] an insider. He likes being a secret agent. He worships at the altar of technology. He loves his gadgets. And he embodies this whole set of misogynistic values. He likes violence. That’s part of the appeal of the character. He has no guilt. He’s essentially an imperial adventurer of a particularly English sort. Personally, I spit on those values. I think we’ve moved on a little bit from all that, the martini shaken, not stirred.

I quote Damon and Greengrass at length partly because I love how cutting they are in their assessment of the Bond mythos (“I spit on those values”—wow!) but mainly because I think it’s striking how the Bond reboot, starring Daniel Craig, seems to reflect their critique. I’m not suggesting that the Bond crew is responding specifically to Damon’s and Greengrass’s opinions (the timing is off, for starters). Rather, they seem to have recognized independently just how dated—often offensively so—the character is.

The funny thing is that the new Bond looks a lot like Damon’s Bourne: less quippy and gadget-oriented, at odds with his government, and in love with his dead girlfriend. Personally, I appreciate the change—and I adore Craig’s performance—but is he even Bond anymore? I mean, I shed no tears for the loss of the classic Bond, whom I find tiresome, but for those who did love the old guy, it must be weird to see him so inverted.