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Quantum of Solace: New Bond Film an Enviro Thriller?

The scary fact is that the plot of the new Bond film is eerily true and an environmental nightmare.
 
 
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Chasing a nefarious mastermind feverishly around the globe in the action-crammed Quantum of Solace, James Bond works up quite a thirst.

The hero requires just two manly swallows to down a hefty helping of top-shelf Scotch after evading a pair of automatic weapon-wielding bad guys in the tense opening car chase in and around picturesque Siena, Italy.

A few escapades later and in need of an ally, Bond savors a glass of white wine on a cliff-top island villa overlooking the bluer-than-blue sea with an Italian spy he hopes to lure out of retirement.

Gearing himself for future combat aboard a jet to South America, Bond's drink of choice is a designer martini. Well, not just one, if you must know, but six.

The invigorating beverage the British superspy is never seen quaffing, however, is water. Going all the way back to Dr. No in 1962, jet-setters with sophisticated tastes in the Bond movies wouldn't be caught dead drinking plain old water.

It's a bit strange, however, that the Quantum of Solace filmmakers don't break the unwritten rule and have 007 knock back at least one glass of H2O. After all, the evil megalomaniac Dominic Greene's heinous plot involves (spoiler alert) covertly cornering a certain South American country's fresh water. If it's such a vitally important resource, worth killing and dying for, shouldn't Bond—played by the maximally hunky Daniel Craig—at least knock back a chaser of the stuff? It would be an especially effective endorsement given Craig's impressive physique: Water. It does a body good.

Greene's name is perfect, since he uses the claim to being a great environmentalist to cover up his Bolivian land acquisitions and pipeline orders. It's called greenwashing, and it's all the rage among water and oil companies that buy TV and newspaper ads trumpeting their concern and commitment to saving a planet they continue to maraud and plunder for private profit.

By revealing Greene's game, incidentally, I have in no way affected your enjoyment of the movie. Nobody goes to a James Bond movie to see what crazily ambitious multinational crime the British agent is assigned to break up. Bond fans and casual moviegoers alike can instantly name their favorite villains in the long-running series, but it's the rare obsessive who can relate two plans for global domination in the entire wacky canon. (I set the bar at two, because Auric Goldfinger's Fort Knox scheme sticks in everyone's mind.)

For many, many moons now, the lunatic enterprises Bond's been called upon to foil have been unapologetically ludicrous in real-world terms and borderline irrelevant within the movies. Alfred Hitchcock famously used the term "MacGuffin" to describe the whatzit in his films that the principals are smuggling, chasing and fighting over, and is of decreasing importance in keeping the audience interested as the story unfolds.

All of which is to say that the veteran hands in charge of the James Bond franchise don't slow down for a nanosecond in Quantum of Solace to lecture us about water scarcity and the dangers of privatization. To the contrary, Greene's plan is described so vaguely, and fleetingly, that it will slip right by most moviegoers unless they've seen documentaries such as Thirst, which recounts the efforts of Bolivians and many others to resist the efforts of multinational corporations to privatize water.

But even if entertainment (and, a short ways down the road, DVD sales) is the producers' top priority, one discerns they are at least minimally knowledgeable about the issue of water. There is a germ of scary truth submerged in the film, along with a number of subtle references to the ongoing campaign of a few large companies to convert drinking water from a basic human right into a grossly profitable commodity.

 
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