Button Up Your Quantum of Gran Torino

Traveling among the rural reaches and small towns in an RV (with, supposedly, work to be done) can make film-going an uncommon occurrence. We’ve seen only three since leaving Los Angeles in early November. (My college self disdains me.) We are currently seventy-five miles from the nearest movie theater, in Safford. Back in Banning, California we saw Quantum of Solace, in which Daniel Craig reaffirms his place, with Connery, in the two-member class of finest Bonds, with Craig, in fact, by far the closest to the fictional Bond. Quantum, though, is more one-note in its hyperkinetic action than was Casino Royale, and it lacks the dramatic variety and range of situational color that is characteristic of the best Bonds, including Casino.

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino is fun if preposterous and most notable for its valedictory quality and the elegiac note of its theme song, of the same title, which seems destined to become a jazz standard. However, the next time a director is tempted – even the great Eastwood – to place a dead body in a Christ-like pose, he should be asked if he might rather instead hammer a symbol into his head.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button manages to promise much and deliver little, which is an achievement of a kind. The romantic premise, of two lovers aging in different directions, is almost ineffably sad, taking the natural melancholy of mortality and loss and ratcheting up the level of their ultimate disconnection and loneliness. But the screenplay, in part, is by Eric Roth, who foisted the votimable Forrest Gump upon the world, and there is no dramatic situation from which he cannot drain the genuine and meaningful. Thus, the empty framing device of Hurricane Katrina is cheapened further by a closing refrain of odd-character descriptions, as if, a la Gump, the mere recitation of human peculiarity is an ascent into profundity. In the end, then, nothing.

But there appears much promising stuff out there – in the land where movie theaters reside and people go to them. Maybe in New Mexico we’ll see something truly good.