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  Bobby & James

 

            "Bobby" is part documentary, part serial drama, part ensemble cameo opportunity for a wide variety of familiar actors, all of whom play real-life people who found themselves at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, that fateful night of June 6, 1968, when Robert Kennedy was shot there.  He'd just won the California primary, by a wide margin, over Eugene McCarthy.  He had just addressed a crowded ballroom of enthusiastic supporters who were excited about this election, and their charismatic candidate.  Then Senator Kennedy took that fateful walk through the kitchen, where he was shot by a stranger. As his life ebbed away on that cement floor, so died the last great hope that that election would offer anything remarkable, anything exciting, anything truly representing the promise of significant change.  Instead we got Richard Nixon.
            In this ambitious film, which seeks not only to powerfully depict an event but also to accurately represent a chronological context, we view that eventful day through the eyes of the unwitting participants:  the busboy who was reluctantly working a double shift instead of going to the Dodger game that night, the fading lounge singer in a perpetual drunken fog, the food service supervisor, just fired that morning by the philandering manager, the emotionally desperate switchboard operator, the retired doorman who just can't stay away, even the hippie selling drugs to student campaign workers---all converge on that single moment in time.  And all were permanently affected, even as the politics of this country were permanently affected.  With the young, photogenic, enthusiastic Robert Kennedy, many people began to hope that the United States, instead of continuing to split into fractious factions, could begin to embrace differences, and work together for the common good.  Instead, we got Richard Nixon.
            Speaking of fractious, "Casino Royale" features the newest James Bond, Daniel Craig, who brings to the familiar role an edginess bordering on anger.  Gone is the suave, sophisticated, tongue-in-cheek, self-parodying demeanor of the old 007, the fictional British Secret Service agent inspired by the novels of Ian Fleming.  Instead, we get a muscular tough guy, a jaw-clenching Steve McQueen-type who radiates a single message:  "Mess with me at your own peril."  That's true of his relationships with women, as well, who are always young and beautiful, but not necessarily involved emotionally.  This James Bond, at his peril, cannot remain aloof, either from the women around him, including his boss, the not-as-mysterious M (memorably portrayed by Judi Dench), but also with his enemies, whose shared enmity is oh-so-personal.  And can it possibly be a Christological moment if the intentional self-sacrifice for others' salvation is performed by the not-exactly-sinless?
            This James Bond movie is more serious, and delivers more visceral impact, than its many predecessors.  It trades cool spoof for passionate adventure, emotions stirred but convictions not shaken.  It's "Die Hard" with a vengeance.
 
Questions For Discussion:
1)  Should there be such a thing, in the real world, as secret service agents who have a "license to kill"?
2)  What are the similarities, and the differences, between the American political context of 1968 and today?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Terrell, Texas