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Posted in: Jihad & Terrorism

Published on Nov 17, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

James Bond in the Time of Bin Laden

No Solace, No Engagement


So, I'm guilty, I also stood on line with everyone else and contributed to James Bond's record-setting weekend box office receipts of $70.4 million dollars in hard American currency. Daniel Craig's Bond in Quantam of Solace has just trumped his earlier record in Casino Royale of $40 million dollars for an opening weekend.

It makes sense. We are finally beginning to understand how really serious the economic recession is and we need an escape, a quick-fix distraction from our many justified worries. It will be a long time before most of us will be able to afford a visit to any of the movie's location sites, (Italy, Austria, England, Haiti, Bolivia), but for $10.00 we can sit back and enjoy the stunning foreign sights and luxurious hotel rooms anyway.

And guess what else this movie helps us escape from? You guessed right. There are no Arabs, no Islamists, no jihadists in this film. All the villains are European and American white men, including that ever-popular Hollywood villain, the man from the CIA; ah, well, there is one South American dictator who plans to steal the water supply from his own people and who is in collusion with a shady, slightly repulsive fake environmentalist whose people "are everywhere." (Don't ask me, I did not understand this either).

When James Bond first surfaced in 1964, there was a real Cold War going on and the film, From Russia with Love portrayed that war. We, who still can't find Bin Laden, who could not prevent 9/11 in America, 7/7 in London or 3/11 in Madrid or the thousands of suicide attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel, deal with such considerable real-life menace by banishing it from our big-budget movies and scapegoating ancient, toothless, villains.

Mind you: I like Daniel Craig's ugly boxer/super masculine face and his suits are a credit to Savile Row. I love, love, love Judi Densch who plays "M," the head of MI5–no, not because she plays a woman who is as thrillingly cold-hearted as any of her male counterparts but because she is a great actress and looks her age; she does not seem to have had four face lifts. I happen to love the way older women look, they have a beauty all their own, one that a youth-obsessed culture often fails to appreciate.

I loved the first Bond movie, From Russia With Love. There was plot, character, a love interest, seemingly "real" people who engaged in the inevitable battle between good and evil. Who will ever forget the fabulous Lotte Lenya, a deadly KGB operative dressed as a hotel maid, trying to kill Sean Connery's Bond with a knife in her boot? Yes, that first film also had scenes of glamorized travel and luxurious hotel rooms but it did not descend into gratuitous sex. The series did. Bond became a killer…playboy, bedding woman after woman, and yet, at least for awhile, the movies still retained credible fantasy plots and they had "real" (male) characters, and "real" (male) villains whom we actually got to know.

Quantum of Solace was one long video game, one explosion after the other, one car chase after another, ending in crash after crash, heart-stopping chases on foot over roofs which require acrobatic leaps and plunges which shatter glass skylights, and of course, the obligatory scenes of torture and murder. I suppose for those who have grown up on video games and are now "hard-wired" for them, this might excite the right neurons and pass for a real movie.

Well, there is one love affair in this movie and its the unspoken one between Craig's Bond and M. Yes: A virile, younger man and a powerful, older woman. Shades of Oedipus and Jocasta. But, their intimacy, which includes anger, rebellion, fears of betrayal and punishment, and above all, their deep, mutual dependence, is real.

I, who am spoiled by having grown up on books and European "art" films, am neither moved nor amused. But I do look forward to seeing Craig in Defiance, a film about armed Jewish partisans who took to the woods and fought the Nazis. This film opens next weekend.

And, yes, I'll probably keep seeing James Bond movies. They are in my blood, he's a familial cultural hero. I hope the next Bond movie returns to its roots and deals with some real-word realities.


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