I love James Bond. I just enjoy the whole idea of there being some Secret Service out there, sponsored by some subterranean government organization, protecting all of us in the hapless populace from the really bad guys. And I like to think they do it with incredible savoir faire, and characteristic aplomb, and high-tech sophistication, and with such swagger and self-confidence that they just exude suave and cool, without even appearing to be trying very hard.
Well, that was Ian Fleming’s original idea about James Bond, anyway. We all know that it’s undergone quite a transformation in the movies during the last 50 years. The current James Bond, Daniel Craig, is more edgy and physical and humorless. He battles bad guys with more of a grim determination than with sweatless stratagem. But there are some of the characteristics of classic Bond that we still savor: the unforgettable theme music. The incredible feats of athleticism. Dressing up in a tux and knowing what to do around high-stakes gaming tables. Shaken, not stirred. Elegant weapons and even more elegant automobiles. Glamorous women just provocative enough to be interesting, but never on the other side of trashy. And a bad guy who is smart enough to be scary, but smooth enough to be a formidable opponent. Sure, we’ve lost the classic tongue-in-cheek somewhere along the way. But we’ve gained a kind of gritty believability.
“Skyfall” will be known as the James Bond movie where Judi Dench bade us farewell as M, the mysterious head of M.I.6, the British arm of the Secret Service. She impressed us as the kind of person who knew how to make the tough decisions in the rugged underworld of counter-espionage. We’ve already said good-bye to the old Q, the Quartermaster Extraordinaire who was always coming up with clever devices like exploding ball point pens. The new Q is Ben Whishaw, yes, the 30-something actor who looks even younger, but naturally they play on the age difference (Craig is 40-something but his natural cragginess and not-premature gray makes him look every bit of it). And yes, of course, Q is more of a computer whiz, who suspects that “field” skills like Bond’s are archaic and unnecessary, until he is personally confronted with the kind of bad guy only Bond himself could dispatch.
Yes, Javier Bardem practically steals the show, as Silva, the former agent turned rogue, who has a revenge agenda of his own, but he’s just menacing enough to be creepy, and just accomplished enough to be credible. The chase scenes are exhilarating, and as in “Lake Woebegone,” the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the narrative is just interesting enough to carry us along with interest, even though we know it’s just a homespun yarn on steriods.
Bond. James Bond.
Gotta love it.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas