No Solace

 

Schocking.
Michael Gillette's brilliant covers for Penguin's new release of the Bond stories. Click on the pic for more...

Christmas party season is upon us, and mine was last Thursday. Not doing Friday, thanks, the potential for alcoholic disaster is waaay too high. The company I work for has been heavily involved in the Bond film this year, so of course the party was Bond themed. Kudos to the girl who dressed up as Blofeld’s cat. She must have been roasting in all that white fur.

 
There was a casino, a singer doing her best Shirley Bassey (very good, incidentally) and a fine time was had by all. Vodka martinis were conspicuous by their absence, but then things can get messy enough with the crowd I work with if you just feed them beer and wine, so probably best avoided.
This, with a clunk and a screech of thematic gears, leads me onto the real point of the post – the most recent Bond film. I’ve been a fan of Bond for as long as I can remember. I still remember going as a family to see The Spy Who Loved Me, and feeling strangely squirmy at the sight of Barbara Bach (I was 10) and every Bond since has been a big deal for me.
So to see all the invention and daring of Casino Royale wiped away in favour of a lumpen, dour Bourne rip off sticks in the craw for me. The direction was confused at best, being frenetically paced and yet painfully slow. The editing was done by a ten year old after four bags of Haribo Starmix. I didn’t have a problem with the characters. I always thought Daniel Craig was a brave and clever choice as Bond, my feelings for Judi Dench approach those I have for Helen Mirren, and I’ve been a fan of Matthieu Almaric for ages.

However, the two most interesting characters were badly wasted. Felix Leiter, caught in the jaws of his governments corrupt foreign policy, should have been the moral heart of the film. Jeffrey Wright could have nailed that. Instead, he was barely a B-plot.
The biggest crime was that committed on Gemma Artertons character, Agent Fields. Her Schoolmarm Gone Wild demeanour woke the film up and gave it a shake and a snog just when it was needed the most.
***SPOILER ALERT***

To see her killed off in the most cynical nod to Bond history I’ve ever seen, offscreen and utterly pointlessly,  left a very nasty taste. Even the mystery of her first name was only resolved in the credits. I can only assume that her role was cut down to trim the already short duration of the movie. It’s a real shame. She, and the audience, deserved better.
I felt a bit cheated, frankly. I’m certainly no stick-in-the-mud about what should and should not be part of the story (really, don’t get me started on the whole idea of canon) but at what point was it decided that Bond films couldn’t be fun any more?

I felt utterly deflated as I left the cinema, in the same way as I felt after walking out of the third Bourne movie. That was a good idea run into the ground. This was a pointless sweeping up and recycling of the remains. Bond films should be better than that, carving their own path, fantasies in their way, cruel but always with an ending that made you felt that the villain had been defeated, and there was one last rotten pun to come before the credits rolled.
I’ll be watching Goldfinger this Christmas Day. Now there’s a Bond movie.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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