How do you feel when somebody betrays your trust?  Hurt? Angry?  Furious?  Do you want revenge? Do you want them to suffer every bit as you have; more if possible?  Well, imagine how volcanic, how vengeful you might feel if that person had compromised and then killed the woman that you loved.  You would want them to die slowly and painfully.    Nothing less would suffice. 

 

James Bond, in his latest reincarnation, as personified by the actor, Daniel Craig, is such a dangerous man.  He has lost the suave insouciance of Sean Connery, the lounge-lizard innuendo of Roger Moore.  Craig is edgy, vulnerable, driven and lethal.  To my mind, this makes the character more credible, more understandable.   

 

Craig’s Bond is a sociopath, somebody so damaged, so lacking in trust, so defended that he can only function in a paranoid-schizoid mode.  He doesn’t bother to try to understand, to negotiate, to compromise.  His world is sharply demarcated into the good and the bad.  The good are tolerated and exploited. The bad are exterminated.   

 

In Casino Royale, he falls in love with Vesper Lynd, but she is blackmailed into betraying him and then killed.  Out for revenge, he hunts down the shadowy group responsible for her death.  With single minded efficient fury, he indulges in a spate of indiscriminate killing. 

 

A link to a bank account in Haiti puts Bond on the scent of  Dominic Green, whose chilling arrogance and sinuous manipulation, make him one of the most sinister Bond adversaries. Green plans to destabilise the Bolivian government, install a corrupt dictator and take control of the biggest reservoir of fresh water in the world.   In an environmentally challenged world, control of water may mean global domination.  Bond’s plots always seem to keep up to date.

 

But Bond’s psychology is too dangerous to be let out into the world without a minder.  He operates at the level of a toddler with the body of prize fighter and guns to match.  He is lethal.  Only the head of MI6,  M (for mother?), played with toughest of tough love by Judi Dench, has any hope of controlling him.  Bond respects her, but not her office. 

 

 “When you can’t tell your friends from your enemies it’s time to go,” she growls as she grounds him by removing access to his credit cards and blocking his passports.

 

But Bond cannot be contained by such means.

 

Of course, Quantum of Solace has the usual Bond caberet of terror: visceral violence, death-cheating stunts involving motorbikes, speedboats, jet fighters and expensive cars, spectacular pyrotechnics, impossible survival, ruthless villains and high level political duplicity -nobody does it better than the new 007.  But director Marc Foster has stripped away the frills to produce a film of raw, brutal, bare-knuckle intensity.

 

There are no gadgets.  Q has retired; so has Miss Moneypenny. MI6 is less gentleman’s club and more high-tech mission control room.  There is hardly any sex. Craig’s Bond has less time to play. He is no longer the sophisticate who enjoys his martini shaken but not stirred.  That belonged to another age. He is more of a terrorist, a man with a mission and a licence to kill; too psychopathic to be comfortable for long in a cocktail party or a lady’s boudoir without unleashing his destructive rage.  Nevertheless his combination of hardness and vulnerability is fatally attractive to women.

 

Bond’s women are no longer Playboy babes.  Camille, whose dusky beauty is exceeded only by her ruthless courage, will do anything to get heir revenge.  She works undercover and set herself up as Green’s lover to get close to the would-be president who killed her father and raped her mother. Bond is tender with herr in the face of extreme danger but there is no sex.    

 

He also demonstrates affection for his friend (symbolic father), Renee Mathis,  the retired Italian secret service agent he persuades to accompany him to South America, cradling him in his arms as he dies, but then tossing his body in the rubbish skip. ‘He wouldn’t care,’  he tells Camille.  

 

This combination of affection and ruthlessness reveal Bond as a needy, vulnerable man, who defends himself strenuously against compromise and exploitation.  Craig’s tight unsmiling lips and the wariness around the eyes fit the part perfectly.  I doubt there is a better actor for bottling rage.  

 

As the narrative, crashes and explodes its way to its inevitable conclusion, Bond leaves Green to die in the middle of the desert with just a can of motor oil to drink. 

 

Camille kills President Medrano while Green’s operations centre explodes around her, but this gives her little satisfaction. Her pain and loss cannot be expunged by killing the perpetrator, but it helps. 

 

Then cut to a town in Russia where Bond meets his girl friend’s killer, and despite his killing frenzy and the trail of bodies in Italy, Austria and South America, he does not assassinate him.  Meeting M outside the hotel, he acknowledges in the futility of another death, his love for Vesper, and so realises what it is to be human. 

 

To live is the society of others is not to act out in revenge, it is to understand, to forgive, to negotiate, to tolerate difference and to temper frustration.  That is his quantum of solace.             

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