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Where were you when? Kennedy was shot, Nixon resigned … Where were you the first time you saw a James Bond movie? The novels were already obscenely popular, something no amount of confession should earn us forgiveness for, but the movies were something else again: and Sean Connery was no small part of it.
I know where I was: when Dr. No launched the Hollywood arm of the franchise: the first Bond flick, Camp Drum, NY, up toward the Saint Lawrence, in my last months of the army, a helpless, protesting draftee. (A main reason I protested is that I believed those decades ago that I was a Christian, that America were supposed to include “moral” among their behaviors, and James Bond was just a jingoist bloodbath: embarrassing how Americans took on the fell prejudices of England and its Great Britain.) But: Sean Connery had charisma. Sean Connery was gorgeous: and what a wonderful scots accent: that‘s how English should sound! (Decades passed before I learned that he was a body building: must have practiced moving as well as posing.) After N jingoist bloodbaths Sean said he’d had enough, the bankers beat the bushes, came up with poor Roger Moore. It was only last month or so, these fifty-odd years later, that I permitted myself to see a Roger result. (Not bad actually.) Several successors were decent actors, good looking guys, but …
But still: in my in-no-way-humble judgment, Sean, though the original icon, was not the best Bond. I just watched the opening carnage of SkyFall. Wow, my pulse is still racing. Daniel Craig is perfect for this gumbo of hunk, poise, grace, black-tie savagery … moral obtuseness. The girl is pretty too, and sounds great: Naomi Harris.
What was ever more overrated than a Bond girl? but this one is nice.
A few hours later, I’ve finished it. pk, wash your mouth with soap. The whole Bond thing may be dreck, but this one is transcendent dreck. Haute dreck. The best. Javier Bardem was just great. And Dame Judy had more than one thing to do. I also liked Ralph Fiennes reprise of the son-of-a-bitch boss he played in In Bruges. I loved it, will share it with Jan.
That opening was a visceral thrill. I remember an intellectual thrill: reading the opening pages of Barbara Tuchman’s Distant Mirror, her history of the calamitous Fourteenth Century. She tells of French peasants tending their fields, never having heard of knights, never having herd of their supposed king, suddenly get run down, cut up, trampled, their bowels opened by mounted knights contesting turf. Capone and his gang killed people in the open. They bombed the bar not to murder the paying drinkers inside but to make a point to the bar owners who weren’t buying from Capone obediently enough, but the innocent drinkers got blown to bits anyway. When Lincoln gave Sherman license to burn the south the license extended to collateral damage. No government can afford to kill all the hosts its preying on, but it will slaughter generously, up to 10% casualties, to cement its positions as alpha pathogen.
SkyFall. Bond enters some killing ground where the fallen are still bleeding. He reports by cell to the alpha female, the proto-hyena dyke, the great Judy Dench, that some hard drive is missing. He wants to give first aid to another blood-letter spy, but she, his hierarchical kleptocrat handler, says the hell with the dying spy, go after the thief-spies. And 007 does. Road, bikes, trains, planes … heavy equipment: parallel road mayhem, the pretty black girl participating at a distance: this is a women’s-lib-conscious patriarchy: Bond does the choice killing but the women folk get to slash and burn too, aplenty.
I think Daniel Craig has lifted a few weights himself.
I’m telling you, the movies have always loved mayhem, industrial scale chases: this one uses all of the filmmakers’ tricks, to fabulous effect. But, notice: my emphasis is on the innocents that get chewed up along the way. If Hitler and Stalin gouged each other’s eyes out, rolled in the dust, I wouldn’t mind: so long as the dust was in a hall in Berlin, or on the Nuremberg rally stage, or in Moscow. I wouldn’t care if FDR sucker-chopped Musolini, ran over his toe with his wheelchair, so long as he did it in the Oval Office and not on the Vermont piste I’m skiing on. No, no: in SkyFall no one is exempt from the state’s violence: in the room, in the hall, on the street, the road, in the parketplace: on the viaduct, on the aquaduct, in the plane, on the train. The Indianapolis 500 is fine; but not on Orchard Street at the height of shopping: not in the market on market day. I wish Hitler and FDR had had their war on an asteroid, out beyond Mars.
And there’s Daniel Craig, straightening his cuffs, brushing wrong-side blood from his sleeve.
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