The plot revolves around the overthrow of the Bolivian government. Bolivia's Indians make a few minor appearances, but the plot is implicitly about them. That makes it fair game for my blog.
[* spoiler alert *]
To be specific, the plot revolves around Dominic Greene, a phony eco-philanthropist who's secretly head of Quantum, a global crime syndicate. His latest scheme is to overthrow the Bolivian government and restore a brutal general to power. All he wants in return is a supposedly worthless parcel of desert land.
In reality, he's amassed 60% of Bolivia's water supply under the land. When the general is in charge, Greene plans to charge him an exorbitant rate to continue supplying Bolivia's water. Because that's apparently easier than earning money the old-fashioned way.
Okay, this is kind of the standard comic-book plot seen in old Bond movies. In those days, it was Goldfinger trying to corner the gold market. Now it's Greene trying to corner the water market.
But these days we expect more sophisticated plots--or at least I do. Quantum of Solace has several major problems that make it a mediocre Bond movie.
First, Bolivia is headed by Evo Morales, a popular and democratically elected Aymara Indian. With his pro-indigenous, anti-capitalist agenda, he's a player in regional and even world politics.
The idea of overthrowing his government without massive international repercussions is flatly ridiculous. A Bolivian coup would play out roughly as the recently turmoil in Egypt or Syria has. There would be massive riots, troops trying to keep the peace, diplomats trying to broker a solution, constant media coverage, etc.
Bolivia isn't some sleepy backwater Latin "republic" in the mid-20th century. Morales has made it a showcase for government based on indigenous rights. Which means it's in the world's spotlight.
Cornering the water supply
Greene's plan to corner Bolivia's water supply is equally ridiculous. Bond falls into a sinkhole and discovers an underground dam that's created a huge reservoir of water. He surmises that there's a whole network of dams corralling the water.
Never mind that Bolivia is a country of high plains and mountains. That much of its water comes from glacier melt. Let's assume that there are indeed underground aquifers within easy reach.
So Greene's plan is to dam this underground water? Building a dam is a colossal effort requiring millions of man-hours, mega-tons of equipment, a transportation network, international financing, etc. Between spy satellites and local observers, there's no way Greene could build even a single oil derrick without everyone's knowing it. Building a series of dams would be a hundred or a thousand times more difficult.
And underground dams? Even harder. I'm not aware that manmade underground dams even exist, yet Greene has secretly built several of them.
Tying the two points together, Greene meets with the general to sign agreements. First, to put the general in power; second, to charge him for the water under the land he just acquired. Hello? As far as the movie is concerned, the Evo Morales government is still in power. There's been no hint of an actual coup. The general has no authority to 1) give away Bolivian land or 2) sign utility agreements for water. He's a disgruntled nobody, not the head of state.
The water-privatization plot supposedly was based on the 2000 Cochabamba protests in Bolivia. But the reality of these protests shows how superficial the movie is:
The missing Indians
The Aymara Indians are most notable by their absence. Bolivia is something like 60% Aymara, but there are no obvious Indians in the initial Bolivian scenes. Quantum's version of the Bolivian capital La Paz is white and bland enough to be any European city.
Eventually we get three scenes featuring the Aymara. First, Bond walks to an Aymara village where the well is conspicuously running dry. Second, back in La Paz, a saloon is suddenly full of Indian types, and a couple are shown in the streets. This is a notable change from the previous Aymara-free scenes.
Finally, Bond leaves Camille, the latest Bond girl, in what looks like an Aymara town. The only residents appear to be Aymara, anyway.
Note: Quantum of Solace was filmed in Panama and Mexico. I presume these Indians are Panamanian. But they wear Aymara-style clothing and look reasonably authentic.
And about that Bond girl: Camille is a member of the Bolivian secret service. Her father worked for the corrupt general, and the general killed her family. She could be an immigrant, but all this plus her brown skin and her return to the Aymara town implies she's a Bolivian native.
But, she's played by Olga Kurylenko, who looks like an exotic Caucasian, not an Indian. In fact, she's Ukrainian:
Quantum's producers supposedly conducted "extensive casting searches for a Latina actress from South America." Great, but what about Latina actresses from North or Central America? Not to mention Native actresses?
Kurylenko supposedly got the job because she was the only one who seemed "comfortable" doing action scenes with Daniel Craig. Uh-huh, sure. In other words, the producers were more comfortable with a hot Euro-model type than someone who could look and act Bolivian.
So Quantum of Solace whitewashes the complexity of Bolivian politics. It whitewashes the indigenous Bolivian populace. It whitewashes the female character who should, by all rights, be an Indian or at least a Latina.
Not the best Bond
As for the rest of the movie, Roger Moore summed it up well, saying Craig was a "damn good Bond but the film as a whole, there was a bit too much flash cutting [and] it was just like a commercial of the action. There didn't seem to be any geography and you were wondering what the hell was going on."
I agree. I could follow perhaps 80% of the plot and 80% of the action. Like a trailer, it was chopped into pieces so you couldn't follow it more closely. I guess this is a trend in action films: to cover up your lack of special-effects money or skill with a collage of confusing shots. Whatever the reason, it's inferior filmmaking.
Quantum of Solace isn't as good as Casino Royale or other Bond films. Because of all the action sequences, though, it's moderately entertaining. Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.