Quantum Of Solace: Don’t Buy Bond

Bondmania is back! Everyone loves Bond, especially since the franchise’s gritty 2006 reboot, fronted by a brooding, steely-eyed Daniel Craig. As with recent Bond films, Quantum Of Solace is being used to sell various lifestyle products. Big name brands pay handsomely to be associated with Bond, and Quantum Of Solace has racked up £50 million pounds for product placement. Let’s take a look at what the film is selling.

Promotional tie-ins for Quantum of Solace include Heineken lager, Smirnoff vodka, Coca-Cola, Ford cars, Virgin Atlantic airline, Sony TVs, National Lottery Scratchcards and The Sun newspaper. Launching a new perfume, Avon claims that “through this unique partnership, every woman can feel like a Bond Girl – smart, empowered, confident, and sexy,” while package holiday company Orbitz tells us “you can’t do it better than Bond, but you can certainly travel like him.”

If some of those promotions make you feel slightly queasy, hold on; the best is yet to come. The new Bond films feature product placements for, yes, you guessed it, Heckler & Koch firearms. In Casino Royale, Bond defeats the villainous Mr White with a H&K UMP9 submachine gun – a weapon that he carries on using in Quantum of Solace.

Promotional graphic for Quantum of Solace showing James Bond wielding a Heckler & Koch UMP9 submachine gun

Promotional graphic for Quantum of Solace showing James Bond wielding a Heckler & Koch UMP9 submachine gun

But why would Heckler & Koch spend money widely promoting a weapon that is only available to military and police forces? Perhaps because H&K also sells guns to civilians in the USA and Germany, including one based on the UMP.

The US civilian firearms market is huge: A staggering 4.5 million new firearms are legally sold in the US every year. Naturally H&K wants to maximise its profit from this lucrative market, but US and German gun laws prevent the company from selling the fully automatic UMP to the public. To get around the laws, the company designed a semi-automatic version called the USC.

Advert showing USC fully converted to UMP9 (silencer not included)

Advert showing USC fully converted to UMP9 (silencer not included)

Since the Bush administration failed to renew the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, private owners have been able to legally convert the USC to the UMP by switching to a larger magazine and a shorter barrel, thus making the weapon less accurate but easier to conceal.

Bond’s iconic use of the UMP9 has undoubtedly stoked consumer demand. The weapon is discussed on various online gun enthusiast forums, with one contributor saying “I’ve wanted to build one out of a USC ever since I saw Casino Royale.” Wannabe 007s can pay for a USC to UMP conversion, and if they can’t afford that they can buy a conversion kit and follow the instructions on YouTube.

So far so bad, but Bond films are not unique in this regard. Heckler & Koch weapons have appeared in many other films and TV shows, including Independence Day, Bad Boys II, Terminator 3, Die Hard 4.0 and V For Vendetta. The Interbrand movie product placement database lists half a dozen other films under Heckler & Koch, with a link to Amazon.com, where loyal customers can by H&K books, T-shirts, gun accessories and knives.

But there is something else that Bond is selling – something more insidious than cars, phones and guns: Since his first film in 1962, James Bond has been selling the UK Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6.

The Real James Bond

The fictional Commander Bond is by far the world’s best known SIS agent. His glamorous adventures driving sleek sports cars, seducing beautiful women, and dispatching diabolical villains are the best propaganda the British establishment and its secret service could ever dream of. The SIS exploits 007’s recruiting potential on its website: “Staff who join SIS can look forward to a career that will have moments when the gap [between truth and fiction] narrows just a little and the certainty of a stimulating and rewarding career which, like Bond’s, will be in the service of their country.” So just how wide is that gap? Let’s take a look at the real MI6.

James Bond has battled a series of megalomaniacs wielding stolen nukes or laser satellites, but for the real SIS the biggest enemy has been socialism. Driven by a fear of the Red Menace, the SIS has a long history of supporting right-wing politics and undermining the left. In 1924 agents forged the Zinoviev Letter, which was instrumental in ending the UK’s first Labour government and restoring power to the Conservative Party.

After World War II, the SIS helped Nazi war criminals to escape justice in order to recruit them, including Walter Rauff, the inventor of mobile gas chambers, and Horst Kopkow, who was responsible for hundreds of executions. In Albania the SIS recruited Nazi collaborators for its plan to overthrow the communist government, and in Germany the SIS employed the leader of the country’s most notorious post-war neo-Nazi party.

In the 1950s the agency plotted to overthrow or assassinate leaders of countries that dared to nationalise their assets out of British control. The SIS tried to kill Egypt’s President Gamal Nasser in retaliation for nationalising the Suez Canal, and collaborated with the CIA to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in order to keep the country’s oil in the hands of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP).

Throughout the Cold War the SIS helped the CIA to overthrow left-wing governments around the world. They replaced the Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister with dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who went on to become the most corrupt African leader ever. And in Indonesia the SIS armed insurgents in order to oust President Sukarno, thus paving the way for the military dictatorship of Suharto, who immediately set about slaughtering a million suspected communists.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the SIS was left purposeless, without an arch-enemy… until the War On Terror that is! In order to shift public opinion in favour of invading Iraq, the SIS planted exaggerated stories about Saddam Hussein’s WMD in the British media. The agency has since been implicated in the abduction, torture and “extraordinary rendition” of terror suspects around the world, as well as the use of “intelligence” obtained through torture.

This then is the work of the real secret agents of MI6. Perhaps a more authentic movie could show James Bond feeding pro-war propaganda to the press, or wiretapping, kidnapping and beating Muslim radicals before handing them over to the CIA to be flown to Guantánamo Bay.

Of course Quantum Of Solace is an entertaining film, and many people will take no more from it than that. However, those who want to see the film may want to find a way to do so without paying, so as to avoid supporting a global marketing platform for some very dodgy brands.


2 Responses to “Quantum Of Solace: Don’t Buy Bond”

  1. 1 David
    2008-11-05 at 17:29

    I think this review is overly harsh on the bond films and other films like them.

    The criticism of product placement is wrongly directed, yes it is a shame that we have to endure shameless advertising, but at the end of the day its how film studios and film franchises make alot of money (especially as so many people will watch this film online or on a pirate dvd, as this very site suggests). If they did not make so much money they would not put as much funding into producing the films we enjoy, less profit made means that studios will put up less money for scripts, actors, special effects editing etc thereby reduceing the quality of the films produced.

    Secondly, the criticism of the use of H + K in the film is unfair. This is because H+K products are used in real life in combat situations, I am not sure what else you would expect bond to use but it would no doubt be some kind of gun at some point (as is fitting with his character) if it wasnt a H+K it may well be a colt, sig, IA etc. The further criticism of gun advertising in films is far more interesting as it is indeed very beneficial for h+k to be promoted in this way. However you need to consider the implications of what you are arguing, yes bond films promote certain types of guns, but at the same time Top Gun promotes certain types of fighter jets. The failing is with governments to properly regulate the availability of arms in thier country, not with a film for useing them as a means of telling a story for our entertainment.

    Finally your point about Bond not portraying MI6 accurately is 100% correct. What you have failed to understand is that it is entertainment, fiction. Of course they show a very exicting idea of being a government agent fighting the baddies because that is what sells. Few people would enjoy a film where bond makes a series of press statements, rather than film where bond shoots his way through a dozen anonnymous henchmen and saves the world whilst driveing a nice car and flirting with a random woman. People go to see a bond film to be entertained, not because they want to see a documentary about the day to day working of MI6.

    To sum up, in order to produce entertaining films that include an element of action in them: studios need to make lots of money, use some kind of weaponry (as accurately as possible), bend the truth of the real world in order to make those 90 mins more entertaining.

  2. 2008-11-08 at 14:08

    David, you say that if the studio didn’t take so much product placement money then they wouldn’t have the money to make such a shiny movie. As the Bond films are surefire successes (Casino Royale is one of the highest grossing films of all time), this is blatantly untrue.

    The more profitable the film, the more it will attract product placement. Nobody wants to put their product in a film nobody’s going to see.

    You are, of course, right that H&K guns are used in real life situations. Neither the piece above nor anyone else questions that. The point being made is not that they use realistic items, but that there is prominent paid display of a particular brand of such items.

    As H&K make a great many civilian weapons, they would certainly benefit from being seen as cool in the Bond movies. There most certainly *is* a ‘failing’ with a film that tells us that H&K guns are extra cool, more so than other brands of gun.

    The idea that a realistic portrayal of MI6 would be too boring to watch is so far wide of a rebuttal that I wonder whether you’re deliberately missing the point.

    The article is pointing out that the Bond image is actively being used by MI6 to imply that it’s sexier than it is, and thereby encouraging people to be doing extremely vicious and unethical things. There’s a quote from the MI6 website that uses Bond’s name to that effect. How clear can the point be?

    Yes, absolutely, films need to bend the truth of the real world to make things entertaining. Yes, they need to use some aspects accurately. Nobody is disputing that. The question is over the endorsement of particular brands who use murderous methods, and whether we feel comfortable giving our money to that.

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