by James M. Wall
The latest James Bond film, The Quantum of Solace, has a vision so different from previous incarnations, that few, if any, film critics noticed the change.
Why? Because the critics for mass culture outlets focused on the film’s chases and crashes and chose to ignore the underlying political plot that reveals Bond as a warrior against imperialism.
A scholar of Middle Eastern studies, Juan Cole, of Georgetown University, noticed. Writing in his Informed Comment blog, Cole found that this new James Bond film “is at odds” with imperialism.
To see how this was missed in reviews, study Rotten Tomatoes, the website monitor of current films. There you will find “leading” critics writing on such profound topics as how much shorter this Bond film is than its 23 predecessors.
Or they point out that this “blue collar” Daniel Craig is different from the debonair British secret agents (e.g. Sean Connery) in previous Bond incarnations.
Leading critics are also eager to point out that Craig, as the new British agent 007, does not utter the trademark Bond phrase,”shaken, not stirred”. He leaves that original Ian Fleming description to a bartender.
All very interesting, but these critics failed to catch the fact, as Cole notes, that this new Bond film has a new and different view of popular movements of the political left. One trailer has only a fleeting reference to politics: “We have already begun to destabilize the government.” Trailers are for promotion; they show only what sells tickets.
Juan Cole ignored the misleading trailer and discovered that. . .
. . . [Director] Marc Forster presents us with a new phenomenon in the James Bond films, a Bond at odds with the United States, who risks his career to save Evo Morales’s leftist regime in Bolivia from being overthrown by a General Medrano, who is helped by the CIA and a private mercenary organization called Quantum. In short, this Bond is more Michael Moore than Roger Moore.
The film refers to Haiti’s former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, when Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) tells the fictional General Medrano that while Aristide was president from 2001 to 2004, he raised the minimum wage from 25 cents an hour to a dollar an hour.
This led the corporations that benefited from cheap Haitian labor to mobilize to have Aristide removed. (Aristide himself maintained that US and Canadian intelligence connived with officers at the coup against him and kidnapped him, taking him to southern Africa.) . . .
. . . [Bolivia’s Evo] Morales is not mentioned in the film, but his movement was in the headlines while “Casino Royale” was being shot, as he challenged the old “white” elite and was denounced by the US ambassador as an “Andean Bin Laden” and his peasant followers (many of them of largely native stock) as “Taliban.”
Morales’s nationalization of Bolivia’s petroleum and natural gas and his redistribution of wealth from the wealthy elite to villagers were among the policies drawing the ire of George W. Bush and his cronies. . . .
. . . [The film’s] producer Michael G. Wilson . . .[earned] a law degree at Stanford in the 1960s and worked for a while at a firm specializing in international law. Outrage at offenses against international law are as much at the heart of this film as the more personal vendettas of Bond and Camille (Olga Kurylenko).
Nestled inside the film’s surface tale of Bond’s anger over the death of the woman he loved, lies the central vision of the film: the outrage over violations of international law. Examples abound, starting with this report of Israel’s illegal treatment of civilians in Gaza:
There can be no dispute that measures of collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza are illegal under international humanitarian law. Fuel and food cannot be withheld or wielded as reward or punishment. But international law was tossed aside long ago. (The London Guardian, November 24, 2008).
Or this televised exchange on Democracy Now, about Evo Morales and the developing situation in Bolivia:
AMY GOODMAN: Jim Shultz, do you think the US is trying to topple Morales?
JIM SHULTZ: Well, that’s been speculation on the internet all week, and I think it’s not black and white. I think the [US] ambassador, Philip Goldberg, was an extraordinarily arrogant and incompetent diplomat. And for him to go and meet with these opposition governors on the eve of their launching these attacks on Morales and calling for his resignation, I mean, what he said to them is known to them and the ambassador, but he is beyond clueless in terms of how this appears in Bolivia and the rest of Latin America. (Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman, September 17, 2008. Jim Shultz is the Executive Director of the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He writes a blog on the situation in Bolivia that can be found at DemocracyCtr.org.)
If the fights, crashes and chases (boats, planes and cars) don’t put you off, then by all means, go and see The Quantum of Solace. Feel free to be outraged by “offenses against international law” which continue to be promoted and sustained by US imperialism. As long as the 007 franchise remains in the hands of Producer Michael G. Wilson, you are not alone in your outrage.