Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quantum of Solace

"No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Reign of God." Luke 9:62

In Quantum of Solace, we see a new James Bond like never before. In most of the previous 007 films, it seems Bond either has recurrring amnesia or is just a cold-hearted man who moves on way too easily after tragedy and loss in each episode. But this Bond is different.

Picking up an hour or so after the last film (Casino Royale), Quantum has James Bond (Daniel Craig) still brooding over the loss of Vesper, whom he loved all too briefly. While he doesn't admit it to anyone, Bond has forgiven neither himself nor the people who trapped Vesper and sent her to her death. This is where this 007 is different - more human, more real.

But real or not, Bond has a hard time forgiving. Not that we would want him to forget what happened, as the earlier Bonds seem to have done (when one Bond girl dies and a few scenes later, the British secret agent is bedding another one). Rather, James Bond needs to forgive and allow that forgiveness to make him a better bearer of justice in the world.

Sadly, throughout the film, Bond becomes, as M (Judi Dench) puts it, "a blunt instrument" whose only thoughts are of vengence, not justice. By thinking back on the hurt he felt, he allows anger and retribution ("an eye for an eye") to fill his head - and becomes a killing machine in the name of the law.

But once he looks ahead rather than behind, he learns that true justice does not require equal punishment, but rather righteous justice where killing criminals is not the answer. By mentoring a young woman Camille (Olga Kurylenko) on her own need for vengence, Bond is able to see the error of his own ways.

Jesus once said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Reign of God." (Luke 9:62) At first, this seems harsh, but what he was getting at was that those who live and brood in the past cannot see clearly for what lies ahead. If we constantly look back, we won't be ready to go forward (and the Reign of God is all about transforming our world today in hope for a better tomorrow).

James Bond is called to be a bearer of justice in the world as a secret spy. He is called to protect the innocent and stand up against those who oppress the defenseless and hurt the weak. He is called to set the captives free and make this world a safer, more peaceful place. There is much responsibility in this, and if he dwells in his anger and hatred, he is no better than the criminals he hunts down.

By the end of the film, 007 starts to learn this gospel lesson. This Bond is on his way to becoming the best Bond of them all. He has much to learn, but give it a few more sequels, and we may see a forgiving, compassionate, and courageous champion of social justice yet. For us, when we stumble, God gives us sequels and second chances to learn to love and forgive so that we, too, might be pillars of justice in our own world.