Blog on Bond
The world is endangered yet again, then saved by a man in a dinner jacket. That’s basically the story line of every James Bond film since Dr No in 1962 – but No time to die is different. Jacqui and I went to watch the film in a near-deserted auditorium last week – a midweek, early afternoon showing. And if you are planning to see the film, you will be relieved to know that I won’t be giving anything away. No spoiler alert needed. I remember going to the Odeon cinema (as it then was) in Waterloo to see Goldfinger, feeling mildly guilty as a young Christian. I loved the action, those speedboat chases, lethal poisonings, exploding hotels, scintillating skiing, and world-destroying maniacs. But I found the sex scenes not just hugely embarrassing but simply immoral. This was the Bond played by Sean Connery sophisticated, daring and sexually avaricious. However, we were not allowed into 007’s inner life. We assumed that as a psychopath he didn’t have one, simply a vacant character. And this was the Bond until Daniel Craig was cast in 2005. He was introduced to the world on 14 October, 2005 (I’ve just looked this up), alighting on the banks of the River Thames from a Royal Navy assault as the sixth James Bond. However, because of health and safety regulations, he was wearing an orange life jacket! Hardly Bond. However, over his 14 years Craig has brought to the franchise a determination to discover Bond, to understand him as a person – to portray a character he could relate to: cold, messed up, human. Moreover society has moved on, especially with the #MeToo movement. You may remember the opening scene from Skyfall when Craig’s Bond is chasing an enemy on a Turkish train. He rips off the roof of the train with a mechanical digger and drops into a crowded carriage. His suit is dusty and smeared with blood. What does he do then? He straightens his cuffs, typical Bond. Apparently this was not in the script, Craig instinctively just did it; he had becomes James Bond. No wonder that he was the first Bond actor to be nominated for a BAFTA. In fact, you can tell that all the actors in this latest Bond outing take their roles seriously and invest in their characters the energy and insight which they would give a Shakespearean play. It shows. So over Craig’s five Bond movies, Bond grows into maturity from the closing scene in Casino Royalewhere he simply turns his emotions off and retreats into himself, having suffered the loss of Vesper Lynd. We learn from Skyfall that Bond is an orphan, his parents cruelly killed at Skyfall. And M knows that orphans make good agents. However, Craig makes Bond begin to realise who he is, what he has become. And women are not there to be seduced; he refuses to take advantage of his looks. So in this latest film Bond shows women respect, even deference. No sexual innuendos with Miss Moneypenny. And the women in this film show as much daring-do and skill as the old Bond. The heart of the film is his relationship with Madeleine Swann (as played by Lea Seydoux). He clearly loves her and is deeply, deeply hurt early in the film, as shown by his delayed response to being ambushed in his Aston Martin. (You will have seen some of that sequence in the trailers). Clearly I can’t say more about the film but he shows himself to have even a profound Christian understanding of relationship – and that has to be both a huge surprise and a testament to Craig’s development of the character. Of course, as Christians we are wary of role models, especially those who seek to hide their weaknesses behind expensive suits. We refuse to define ourselves by the car we are driving, the watch we are wearing. To that extent Fleming’s Bond was superficial, even childish. We are all broken. Made in the image of God himself with the ability to do great things, yet we sin and sin against others because we are sinners. And more, we live in a universe in which we are menaced by the power of evil and our only hope is in the cross of Christ.
As the apostle Paul declares: “God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.” (Ephesians 6:21f, the Message) Spiritual weapons are needed in spiritual conflict: Q’s gadgets will not save us. To that extent we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit to triumph against the Spectre of evil, even “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22f) And we can never be a lone agent. In fact, we need the resource of the church, our fellow Christians in the same fight together. The good news of being a disciple of Jesus is that we grow, we mature as we allow the Holy Spirit to develop our characters. Which in some way is the heart of this Bond film as he discovers how to be a human being in relationship. That is Daniel Craig’s great achievement.