BMW Films was a masterstroke of automotive marketing, as the short film series instantly made not only the brand cool but it also made customers lust after specific cars. The original BMW Films series “The Hire” featured Clive Owen (Children of Men) as the unnamed driver of various BMWs, in various nefarious situations. The original series ended in 2002 and BMW has tried to revive it a couple of times since, without much success. Now, though, it seems as BMW is trying to bring a new film series to market, with an entirely new protagonist, and its first short film is called “The Calm.” But can it work in the long term?
(SPOILERS: If you haven’t seen The Calm yet and don’t want spoilers, stop here)
This new short film features Pom Klementieff (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 & 3) as the new unnamed protagonist. In the film, she gets into the backseat of a BMW i7 M70, after her driver pretty shamelessly plugs all of its gimmicky infotainment tech, and is immediately whisked away in mystery. After she realizes that they’re being followed by motorcycle-riding baddies, and that her driver is in on it, she gets into a Bourne Identity-style fight inside the cabin of the i7.
After violently ejecting the double-crossing driver from the car, she drives to a hotel where she meets Uma Thurman’s (Pulp Fiction) character, who was waiting for Klementieff in a room full of recently dispatched baddies. They exchange some typically cryptic dialog, Klementieff grabs the briefcase McGuffin (which emits a mysterious golden glow upon opening, in a not-so-subtle nod to Pulp Fiction), and leaves in the i7. Afterwards, Thurman receives a phone call, telling the unknown caller that Klementieff’s character took the bate and then the film ends.
Clearly, BMW Films left The Calm on a cliffhanger, so there can be a follow up. There are questions we, as the viewers, are supposed to want answered. Who is this unnamed protagonist? Why was she ambushed by baddies? Who is Thurman’s character and why did she set up the protagonist? But should we be curious about these questions and should BMW keep this film series up?
I think so but it needs some work. The Calm wasn’t great, and it was certainly not up to the standards of the original BMW Films series, however that had nothing to do with the characters, actors, or the story. I think Klementieff did a great job. She’s clearly a veteran of action films, having been in four Marvel movies at this point, and her fight scene in the car was the best part. Also, Uma Thurman as the campy, mysterious, double-crossing contact was as fun as it should have been. But if BMW wants to keep this up it needs to do two things.
For starters, its marketing team needs to allow even more creative freedom. The original series with Clive Owen worked so well because it wasn’t a series of commercials. It was a series of short films, made to be entertaining films first and foremost. The car was just the vehicle (pun unintended) that helped the film along. So much of The Calm was eye-roll-inducing advertising that it ruined what could have been a really fun little film.
I get it, it’s still a commercial at its core. But the reason car enthusiasts still talk about The Hire is that it was a short film first, a commercial second, and the action did all the advertising for the car. Clive Owen wasn’t telling Madonna or Don Cheadle about his car’s features. The car looked awesome because of the action, not the other way around.
The second thing BMW needs to do is to commit to these. Don’t just make one and pull the plug after a mediocre audience reaction. The initial reaction is always going to be pretty lame. Not only is this is an entirely new concept to so many younger viewers but older viewers have to get used to a new protagonist. BMW needs to give Klemetieff and this new series room to breath, let audiences get accustomed to a new face and new cars, and let directors give each film their own unique spin.
Most of The Calm looked and felt like a normal BMW commercial. I was waiting to hear the typical BMW ad voice eventually talk about some sort of summer sales event. But if the suits in Munich can just back off and let the directors and Klemetieff cook, the world could have another awesome short film series featuring cool BMWs and that’s something I think we can all get on board with.