A buried tropical oasis designed to lure the rich and powerful with the latest environmental technology is the key plot line in the latest Bond film currently nearing completion. The hotel is a front for a tycoon using a “Save the Earth” facade to hide his plan to seize control of South America’s water supply.
It is the only structure for 75 miles and is situated in the thin air of an 8,700-foot elevation, where it’s easy to run out of breath.
The thin atmosphere has been hardest on the new Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, 28, who plays a mysterious Bolivian-Russian rogue agent whose quest for revenge puts her in league with Bond.
Director Marc Forster says setting the climax in the wasteland of Chile’s Atacama Desert fuses the plot with the internal life of Bond.
“I chose the desert because it’s isolated, you feel lonely, and that’s what Bond is struggling with himself,” Forster says. “In the desert, it’s unforgivable. You’re out there, and you might die.”
He’s an unusual choice to direct a big-budget Bond action film; his previous films, such as Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball and The Kite Runner, all were intimate dramas.
“I was very surprised,” Forster acknowledges. He was persuaded to join because the producers saw value in adding depth to the crowd-pleasing flick.
“Heart might be the wrong word, but it’s human,” he says.
In the finished sequence of the Chilean rooftop fight, Bond will shatter the skylights and plunge down atop the fleeing Greene. Forster says the underlying tension of the scene is Bond wrestling with his eye-for-an-eye temptations.
“When they have this moment between them, Bond has a decision to make,” Forster says. “Bond lost someone he loved. But what does it mean to kill someone, when you just lost someone?”
Risks and changes The last time the James Bond producers gambled on major alterations to the long-running formula, there was a huge outcry ‘ and a huge payoff when Casino Royale finally came out.
During filming, many die-hard fans of previous Bond star Pierce Brosnan jeered the choice of the blond, blue-eyed, rough-edged Craig for the traditionally suave and sophisticated British agent.
But then Casino Royale became the highest-grossing Bond film in history, earning $595 million worldwide (about $150 million more than 2002’s Die Another Day), and many fans and critics praised Craig as the best Bond actor since Sean Connery originated the role.
More changes to the traditional formula are in store for Quantum of Solace, among them the notion of a true sequel. Bond has always been ageless, and the previous 21 movies stand largely independently of each other, but Quantum of Solace picks up where Casino Royale ended, with Bond working his way up the chain of command of the terrorists who blackmailed his lover, Vesper Lynd.
“We set something up in motion in the last one that we need to keep in touch with in this one,” Craig says.
Producer Wilson, who is the stepson of the late founding 007 producer, Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli, and has worked on every Bond film since 1979’s Moonraker, says filmmakers might go back to stand-alone plots the next time, but for now they wanted to continue with an evolving Bond.
“He has the realization that there’s no place for him in the outside world,” Wilson says. “And also he’s tempted by revenge and tempted by becoming a cynic, by losing his humanity. He has to fight all of these things.”
Another curious twist is the hint that there may be less romance this time for the notorious ladies’ man. “We felt Bond could not immediately fall into another relationship. And we needed someone who had her own agenda and probably could not form a relationship either because of her situation,” Wilson says.
Kurylenko says her vengeful rogue agent, Camille, is so focused on “what she’s doing, she doesn’t care about meeting a boyfriend or something.”
Bond does bed another MI6 agent, played by British actress Gemma Arterton, 22, a relative newcomer. “He has one relationship in this movie, a kind of fling. It’s mutually beneficial,” Craig says. “I think both parties enjoy it.”
Then there’s the title, a moniker some fans ridicule.
Quantum of Solace comes from a short story by 007 author Ian Fleming, and it’s not a spy story but a tale told to Bond about another couple’s tragic romance. The short story has nothing else to do with the movie.
Wilson explains: “The title we thought was appropriate for a couple of reasons. The villainous organization is called Quantum, and what Bond is looking for in his life is a measure of comfort, and that’s what a ‘quantum of solace’ is. He’s just trying to find a little bit of comfort because his life is in turmoil.”
The Chilean uproar
The filmmakers are hoping for a measure of comfort from the Chilean people, who at first welcomed the production as a source of national pride ‘ and then became annoyed when word spread that Chile’s desert will be identified in the film as neighboring Bolivia.
Sierra Gorda’s mayor, Carlos Lopez, dramatically interrupted filming Tuesday by driving his vehicle onto the set and was briefly detained by police. He previously organized small protests over the Bolivia issue, though Wilson has tried to explain to locals that it’s quite common to film in one place but call it another.
Bond producers preferred the look of Chile’s Paranal location, but chose to set the tale in Bolivia partly because Bolivia has a history of water problems, including takeover of public water systems by private for-profit corporations. “It seemed like the best way to tell the story without making a false country,” Wilson says.
The location question is especially sensitive because the Antofagasta region, with its rich copper mining industry, was seized by Chile in a war in 1879 ‘ cutting off Bolivia’s access to the sea in a move that still generates resentment between the nations. James Bond symbolically returning the disputed land naturally irritates the locals.
Yet many Chileans (and travel guides) agree that the grimy industrial city of Antofagasta is a bad representation of Chile, which has many more beautiful regions. That means the hard feelings, in a sense, are over which country gets credit for an eyesore.