The sky did not fall on Bond

We could survive the anti-feminist objectification of all Bond Girls... What we cannot survive is how the latest Bond film turns Bond’s nadir into a bizarre ‘resurrection’

You can love them or hate them but you cannot ignore them. Bond films have been cult for five decades now, and the new production from the stable of the great franchise is no exception.

The entry of the somewhat brooding and relatively cold-looking Daniel Craig as James Bond and “rockstar” directors has made the last three Bond films take a turn towards “realism” (it’s all relative). Some of the classic pillars of the Bond film have been slowly stripped away (no Bond pun intended). Bond’s irrepressible charm that got him easy and frequent (more than three per film) access to hot women seems quite repressed. The Freudian extension of his libido — a battery of fancy gadgets that Q spins out for Bond — has thus also depleted. One would have hoped his tongue-in-cheek wry sense of humour would stay intact. Alas, no. In a world where the great Anglo-Saxon agenda to make the world safe from evil (aka Russians, Chinese, media barons, Energy smugglers, North Korea etc), James Bond is humourless. So what are we left with — an ageing Bond who loses his heart (hopelessly so) to Eva Green? In case you thought that was realism, Sam Mendes has news for you.
Skyfall is a new nadir in the politics of Bond. We could survive the post-War Anglo-Saxon chest-thumping supremacy, the anti-feminist objectification of all Bond Girls, the race-laced frames of the bad guy. What we cannot survive is how the latest Bond film turns Bond’s nadir into a bizarre “resurrection” (I borrow this from Bond’s own description, shudder) of Britain.
While the Anglo-Saxon agenda to make the world safe has had a fair struggle since the Cold War ended (barring some new Axis of Evil drama Dubya tried to create) over the past two decades, Bond has managed to find newer enemies to fight, like tinges of China (that hasn’t really struck because China has been such an under-the-flash-radar world power!), world dominating media baron and the old faithful enemy, the Latin drug-lord) it is only in this film that the Bond franchise stops looking for “other evil” to define the purpose of Bond’s existence and fights the “evil inside” (how charmingly biblical). There are about four layers of politics that the film bravely addresses in one go.
First, is the film’s valiant attempt at riding out MI6’s crisis of identity in a post-cold war. There is no real “enemy” left for the British intelligence to fight. In the film, the enemy is from within and thus particularly dangerous. Of course, the only ideology that our new villain from inside (who was in MI6 but speaks with a distinct Southern European accent) has is that he must avenge himself on M.
Which brings us to the second layer of Skyfall’s garbled politics — the avenging on M becomes a crisis of the Queen. M is portrayed (not least because she is an old, retiring monarchic matriarch of the MI6 according to Mendes) as the hapless monarch who is targeted by an “insider”.
Bond, a la London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, rescues her and sweeps her up to remote Scotland (not quite Balmoral estate but the environs are close enough). Bond’s mission in part is to rescue this “Queen” and her monarchy (MI6) from the evil (anti-monarchists?) inside Britain/MI6. It isn’t a coincidence that M has never been referred to as Ma’am as often in Bond films till our imperialist friend Mr Mendes took the reins.
Thirdly, and most ludicrously is the evocation of faith in a Bond film! M is now the divine mater we all must revere. In the last but one scene of the film, Mendes provides us the disturbing image of an inverted Pieta as M (for Mary?) breathes her last in the loving lap of her saviour Jesus, oops Bond in a sparse but markedly Anglican church. Must we now resurrect our faith, Mr Mendes, to be bonded to Bond?
The final delight is the film’s delightful resolution of the crisis of Britain aka, its struggle with its decline in the global world order. Mendes evokes Britain’s glorious past when Rovers and Bentleys weren’t owned by outsiders by making Bond pull out his vintage Euro-non-compliant Aston Martin and drive us to Scotland and back in time, where he believes he (read Britain) has advantages. In the glorious past, stabbing with knives overrides dismantling digital security with genius computer programmes. Which is when Britain was last a powerhouse?
Of course, Skyfall still has its delights: the rasping Aston Martin being driven out of its shed; the glorious chase inside and on top of the Grand Bazaar; Javier Bardem as the fabulous fag bad guy (he is electric in his first three minutes onscreen, and then Mendes decides to caricature him into oblivion); the delightful flirtation between Craig and Bardem; and the surreally cold yet beautiful Scottish countryside.
Sam Mendes in his attempt at intellectualising James Bond has taken us to a dark corner of the conservative insecure Anglo-Saxon world when Britain was still Queen. Why in 2012, Mr Mendes? The year in which Britain hosted the London Olympics, is certain of overriding Scottish cession, is declared the fashion capital of the world, celebrated the Queen’s anniversary and won a tennis Grand Slam? We miss our anti-feminist, flirtatious, slick, gadget-laden, world-rescuing and unassailable Bond. Hopefully, he will be back.

The writer is an adviser on strategy, media, education and healthcare. He wishes to be a filmmaker.

Comments

It delightful to read such

It delightful to read such reviews that dare to speak out against popular opinion and blockbuster tags manufactured by the marketing muscle of big franchises. Bond today is nothing like the bond of the yore who liked his martini shaken not stirred.Not only does Daniel Craig fail in style and demeanor to match the panache of previous 007, he is no where close in appearence to the image icictransfixed in bond fans. Looking more like a heartbroken soldier of the Nazi SS cast out because of his softness than a witty and bold agent of the MI6, Craig falls short of carrying on the legacy

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