November 17, 2008
The classic interpretation of Ian Fleming’s James Bond character is that he stands as a kind of fantasy of Britishness the British people, and especially the elite, could indulge in during the rather grim 1950s”when the Sceptred Isle lost its empire, was usurped as a Great Power and banker to the world by Uncle Sam, and suffered under a social democracy in which goods were being rationed long after the country Britain supposedly defeated in the last world war had gotten back on its feet. With James Bond’s global hobnobbing, his bedding of exotic women, and uncanny ability to battle the Commies with a debonair smirk on his face, Britons could imagine the revival of that world institution on which, they thought, the sun would never set.
The Bond of yore, of course, doesn”t much “fit in” in the modern world, with all British school children taught to loathe their history, with discreet affairs d”amour replaced by vulgar Internet “hookups,” and bereft as we are of intriguing archvillains who ride around in wheelchairs while stroking white cats and threatening to launch nuclear warheads from out volcanoes. And let’s face it, no one really wants to watch Jimbo seduce one of Osama bin Laden’s burka-clad wives””Anything for England, right James?”
I”m not sure exactly what James Bond in his contemporary Hollywood guise represents for us in the movie-going West. But I”d reckon that he stands as a fantasy”or perhaps a desperate hope”that our governments aren”t as hapless, massively bloated, and downright silly as we suspect they are. We want to believe that within the Gordon Brown regime, there are still a few ruthless and duty-bound operatives who could snap a man’s neck with their bare hands, and less of those finicky feminists instituting Diversity Training at the public zoo and incompetent treasury managers, fresh off sending their once-established firms into bankruptcy and now promising to rescue the world economy.
Daniel Craig fits this role well, as his Bond is most definitely tough and lacking in scruples”or at least, he shoots more people in cold blood than any previous 007. And, in this line, it’s worth noting that Fleming’s original Bond was darker and more taciturn”having a scar on his right cheek and being a bit dÃ©classÃ© as a Scotsman”than the ultra suave and sarcastic depictions of the character by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Still, Craig’s Bond is also part thug”a barely guided missile who uncouthly breaks into M.’s apartment in his fist appearance two years ago. And he’s also not exactly an inheritor of any British tradition. Craig’s Bond seems less of a connoisseur and more like a guy with a drinking problem, certainly not one who could, as did Sean Connery’s Bond in From Russia with Love, pinpoint a Russian agent masquerading as a Brit by the fact that he ordered a cabernet to accompany a meal of fish.
Much like Christopher Nolan was assigned the task of reinventing Batman, the Bond series was, in effect, started anew in 2006 with Craig and Casino Royale. The opening sequence of this film even narrated Bond’s “first kill”: “How did he die?” Bond: “Your contact? Not well.” And the latest installment, Quantum of Solace, certainly tries hard to be fresh and relevant. And, interestingly, the locales for this adventure are not elegant high-stakes casinos but the dangerous third-world squalor of Haiti and Bolivia”where Bond definitely stands out with his piercing blue eyes, flat-front chinos, and Ralph Lauren parkas. Unfortunately, however, director Marc Forster has gone in for some Bourne Ultimatum-style action sequences: Thus Bond is filmed frantically running, jumping between rooftops and balconies, and slamming up against brink walls in extreme close-up and with nauseatingly shaky camera work, often rendering these scenes incomprehensible.
The late-Bush era Americans are depicted as a bunch of below-their-pay grade lowlifes, jetting around South America looking for oil and pro-American dictators to back. And we”re even treated to an inaccurate lesson in “Geopolitics for Dummies” when the British foreign secretary informs M., “The world is running out of oil. The Russians won”t play ball, and the Americans and Chinese are dividing up what’s left.”
And the latest Bond Girl is a hot Latina: Camille Montes, the Bolivian secret service agent out for revenge”though the actress, the very toothsome Olga Kurylenko, is actually Ukrainian or something. Though for some bizarre reason, the studios decided not to let Bond get Agent Montes in the sack—what gives!?!
The archvillain is a global environmentalist! And he’s even named Dominic Greene, who runs the organization “Greene Planet” and has become the darling of the naively “green” British government. The nefarious Mr. Greene is played as a slimy, bug-eyed creep by the great French actor Mathieu Amalric, but it was hard for me not to secretly root him on as he fleeced stupid international do-gooders telling tales of the coming environmental collapse, all the while using the capital to finance his evil schemes”huhuhahaha!
Of course, Quantum still includes more than enough PC buncombe to go around. For instance, some of Mr. Greene’s evil deeds include things like stopping a socialist dictator from instituting a minimum wage and preventing the equitable distribution of natural resources in Bolivia. But at least, this supervillain embodies the public’s rightly held suspicion that the Al Gores of the world are up to no good. One can take some solace in that.