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James Bond: anti-misogynist leftist?

Posted on Nov 21, 2008 by billsimmon in filmmaking, random | 1 Comments

I quite liked the new Bond film. It’s a direct sequel to Casino Royale — so much so that if you haven’t seen the earlier film recently, you might want to bone up on it in order to understand the convoluted plot of QoS, which opens just minutes after the close of Royale. The filmmakers don’t waste a second on exposition and just jump in with both feet and guns blazing.

Stylistically, it shares some of the pacing and mood of Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films, but amped up another notch and with cleaner, not-so-confusingly-choreographed action set-pieces.

Most interesting though, are the ways in which Daniel Craig’s Bond differs from earlier iterations of the character, and I think these differences make him the best Bond yet — if not the most faithful to Ian Fleming’s secret agent.

Gerry Canavan linked to two QoS reviews that talk about the new era of Bond from a couple of interesting angles. Here is Zunguzungu on Craig’s Bond and his relationships with women…

Bond’s character arc within the film is therefore a progression from a position of hatred towards the woman he loved and who betrayed him towards a position of what the movie narrates as understanding, catharsis, and transcendence. At the start of the movie, he is a homicidal maniac who has displaced his rage onto the a series of similarly different bad guys — making every kill an expression of sexualized rage. By the end of the film, however, his choice not to kill the man who is most directly responsible, at the same time as he “forgives” the woman that this bad guy is in the act of seducing out of her duty, is an indication of narrative closure. Perhaps more importantly, a classic Bond movie ending involves having sex with the good Bond girl while headquarters tries (in vain) to locate him, yet this movie ends with Craig and Kurylenko having parted ways, and with (something like) this exchange between M and Bond:

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Dench as M: “I need you back”

Craig as Bond: “I never left”

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If the classic Bond ending emphasizes the simultaneity of sexual power and duty — and even subordinateds the latter to the former — then Quantum explicitly places sex in opposition to duty, and Craig sacrifices the former for the latter. And while so much of the Bond movie is a touristic fantasy of never-ending summer vacation in exotica, Quantum’s Bond chooses to “come home,” and go back to work.

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It’s worth noting, then, that the ending is made possible by this willingness to be brought home, by M’s decision to trust him, and finally by his proving to be worthy of that trust. M is a mother figure — it even sounds like “mum” — and while his earlier response a threat on her life had been psychotic homicidal rage, the ending is a “happy” one only because his response has changed: instead of expressing the problem of attachment to a female by displacing it onto an object of violence, he embraces her. In this sense, M is by far the most important Bond girl in this film, or she would be if it were possible to call Dame Judi Dench a “girl,” which it is not. And this is the thing I dig most about the film: the most important female character in the film, occupying the space where the Bond girl usually goes, is a person who really explodes the series’ most cherished fantasy. While the Bond girl represents guilt-free sex, power, the fantasy of freedom from attachment, and an infantilizing femininity, Judi Dench’s de-sexualized M voices his guilty conscience as a powerful (and deeply respected) maternal figure he cannot disavow, and he denies ever trying to do so. What makes the Bond franchise most questionable, in my mind, is the thing this movie works the hardest to stand on its head. Yet, all that said, where is home? Who is M really?

I wanted to quote more from the review but you can just go read it for yourself here.

Now here is Juan Cole talking about the decidedly anti-imperialist politics in QoS

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.

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The plot of the film was developed by producer Michael G. Wilson during the filming of “Casino Royale.” New York-born Wilson is from a show-business family (his father, Lewis Wilson, was the first actor to play Batman on screen, and his step-father, Albert Broccoli, was long the producer of the Bond films). But Wilson did 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).

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  1. Kick-ass post. (You’re perfectly welcome to post stuff like this at The Contrarian!)

    I saw QoS at a drinking theater, so my ability to follow the plot was somewhat compromised.

    Congrats on the ACLU post, too.

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