The reviews of director Mark Forster's "Quantum of Solace" have complained about the film's hectic pace (reminiscent of Doug Liman's and Paul Greengrass's Bourne thrillers), about the humorlessness of Daniel Craig's Bond, and even about the squalid surroundings, so unlike Monaco and Prague, in which the film is set (with many scenes in Haiti and Bolivia). They have missed the most remarkable departure of all. 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.Hey, if A.O. Scott (New York Times) panned the film, it must have something going for it.
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The present film takes, to say the least, a different view of popular movements of the left. [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.
If Morales is not mentioned, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti is. The villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) remarks that while Aristide was president 2001-2004, he raised the minimum wage from 25 cents an hour to a dollar an hour. It was, he said, little enough, but caused 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.) The Left analysis of American imperialism in the Western hemisphere is put in the mouth, not of a worker or ideologue, but rather of the collaborator in capitalist exploitation of America's poor neighbors. Aristide's story is a clear parallelism for the fate the CIA and Quantum are depicted as plotting for Morales.
Note that director Mark Forster's father was from conservative Bavaria, and that the family was forced to relocate to Davos in Switzerland because they were targeted by the radical Baader-Meinhoff gang after the father became wealthy on selling his pharmaceutical company. Forster's previous film, "The Kite-Runner," sympathized with the Afghans oppressed by the Soviet invasion and even shows one character refusing to be treated by a Russian-American physician. That is, Forster is no glib Third-Worldist. He and his screenwriters are simply performing the work of the intellectual, interrogating the way the wealthy and powerful in the Bush era casually overthrew (or tried to overthrow) foreign governments in the global south to get at the resources they coveted.
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Craig's Bond is an intimation of the sort of Britain that could have been, if Tony Blair had stood up to Bush and refused to be dragged into an illegal war of choice, and into other actions and policies that profoundly contradicted the principles on which the Labour Party had been founded (and you could imagine Craig's Bond voting for Old Labour, while Flemings's was obviously a Tory). In a way, this Bond stands in for Clare Short, who resigned as a cabinet minister from Blair's government in 2003 over the illegitimacy of the Iraq War.
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. One can only hope that President Barack Obama can adopt the sort of policies that can get Bond back on our side.