This being Thanksgiving weekend, tradition dictated that we take my nephews to a truly silly action movie. The film du jour is the new Bond flick – “Quantum of Solice”. It’s mostly an excuse to see a gun-wielding Daniel Craig, as well as an army of stunt doubles computer graphic stand-ins, run, jump, leap from burning building to speeding boat to flying plane to swinging girder to whatever fast-moving object looks really cool in the shot. Nothing else in the movie really matters, but then, nothing else in the movie is really supposed to matter. Yes, of course various bad guys and beautiful women get killed and slept with (actually, only the women get slept with – the bad guys just get killed), but that’s all just a kind of background window dressing for the real action: watching James Bond do all these amazing feats of running, leaping, etc., while somehow managing to not drop his gun.
It all worked splendidly for my nephews, and for me as well, except for one place in the movie. There was a scene where James and his beautiful yet mysterious lady of the moment are falling out of an airplane, one parachute pack between them. There’s a tense moment when they try to reach each other while plunging through the air, and then – just in time – they come together, the chute opens, and they land without getting smashed like bugs.
The problem for me is that, unlike just about everybody in the targeted audience, I’ve actually been skydiving. So unfortunately I know first-hand that if you’re not around ten thousand feet up in the air when you pull the chord to open the chute, you’re going to get squashed like a bug anyway. In the movie they were about twelve feet in the air when the chute opened. The odd thing about this for me was the realization that if I had not actually ever been skydiving, this entire sequence would have worked perfectly for me. I wouldn’t have given this flagrant violation of the known laws of physics a second thought. “It’s James Bond,” I probably would have told myself. “Of course he can land safely in a parachute that has just opened a mere twelve feet off the ground.”
And of course that realization calls into question all the other parts of the fantasy – the jumping in and out of speeding boats, the falling onto cars from the top of a building, the getting blown out of a fiery bad-guy hotel just as it’s about to explode. Maybe even James Bond couldn’t do such things, I start to wonder, and I start to feel the entire edifice of my willing suspension of disbelief beginning to crumble.
And then I remember the most important thing that makes it all ok: It’s only a movie.