More than a decade ago, back when I was staying with my grandparents in Cotabato City in Mindanao, my late grandfather used to watch films on a VHS player. Most of the time, he’d let me have my way and we’d rent cartoon shows. On other days, instead of borrowing Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry, he’d rent old James Bond flicks. Introducing me to Roger Moore would always bring a smile on his face.
Years later, when my grandfather would visit the family in Cebu City, we’d watch Pierce Brosnan playing James Bond on VCDs. A spark of interest would run in his face and then he’d shake his head and say that Sean Connery was better. My own favorite is From Russia With Love.
A few days ago, I saw Quantum of Solace on DVD. It would have been interesting to know what my grandfather thought of the new Bond since he followed all of the films in the series. Sadly, we can only guess how he would receive Daniel Craig as the new Bond.
I’ve heard many complains about the film’s not being true to the original James Bond. The pace is faster. Gone now is the part about the spy gadgets. The famous line “My name’s Bond, James Bond” is absent. Also missing are the more flagrant womanizing and smooching parts with the Bond girls, etc.
On the other hand, I think the effort to do away with the cliche is laudable. The blog SPL Reads! comments that “the truest portrayal of Fleming’s Bond [–the books] is probably Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, which stays fairly close to the source material.”
But there’s a far more important departure in the new film, Juan Cole of Informed Comment remarks. And it’s that of “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 the new film, Dominic Greene is a secret member of Quantum, a mercenary coup-making consulting firm. That is, it is represented as a private contractor to which the CIA is willing to farm out coup-making instead of doing it directly. Greene’s cover is that of the head of a conservation organization that buys up land in poor countries to ensure it is preserved from despoilment. In fact, he despoils it. In a complicated and not very plausible plot twist, Greene appears to be buying up land under which he is convinced there is oil, but in fact is trying to corner the market on Bolivia’s aquifers so as to overcharge the country for its water after the military coup unseats Morales.
James Bond stands up to US imperialism in Quantum of Solace:
[T]his Bond film is explicit that the United States under Bush has become the bad guy, that US intelligence is in league with rogue mercenaries and brutal, rapist-generals who plot coups against elected governments. Bond therefore has to take on the United States government (at one point, a SWAT team from the CIA Special Activities Division tries to capture Bond in a bar in La Paz, but fails because Leiter tips Bond off to their approach. The good American in this film is the one willing to betray the US government to a more virtuous MI6 field officer).
Cole concludes: “It is a sad state of affairs that Bush’s America now appears in a Bond film in rather the same light as Brezhnev’s Soviet Union used to.” ■