Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skyfall - the most relevant Bond movie made

I saw Skyfall. And I fell in love with it. Having been indoctrinated into the Bond fandom by my father before I was 10, I have had a very emotional attachment to the character and the series. And like many others, I hated Daniel Craig as the new Bond initially. But after 3 films, and especially after Skyfall, I stand corrected. He is the most realistic Bond I have seen (and I have seen ALL of them, mostly twice), and Skyfall the most relevant Bond film. 

But this post is NOT a review of Skyfall. People better than me have attempted it already. This is my take on why Skyfall may be the most relevant Bond film yet.

Back to Craig. He has changed the character of Bond entirely, and for the better. In fact, he and any other Bond actor can be compared to Christian Bale and say, Michael Keaton of the Batman franchise. Just like Bale, Craig brings an intensity to the character hitherto unseen. 

Yes, we all know who the REAL joker of Batman franchise is :P

And I believe this is way way more significant in the current scenario, with the changing nature of espionage and the role/relevance of British intelligence. The days when British spies were portrayed by Eton educated upper class twits saying "sorry, old boy!" as they shoot some hapless Soviet diplomat while getting into an Aston Martin are history. (Ref: David Ignatius) Britain faces not the Soviet dragon, but a multi-headed hydra today, in the form of information dissemination (read Julian Assange, on whom the ideology of  the villain of Skyfall seems to have been vaguely modelled), cyber warriors and terrorists who prefer not get out of their caves and yet be able to kill thousands. 

The kind of spies required for these threats is very different from the aforementioned Etonian twits, who would be too costly for the former empire to maintain. No. The spies needed today are rugged, rough, raw ex-SAS sergeants who made their bones in the street fights of London or on dockyards, hauling fish and smuggling cigarettes in their teens; listen to Styx and Megadeth; drive Harley Davidsons and not Bentleys and are ready to kick ass for Queen and Country. And Craig brings exactly that attitude to the table. Sam Mendes actually recognizes this fact when his awesome Q says that exploding pens are a thing of the past. (Plus, Q is shown as a young computer whiz kid as opposed to the old gramps in Brosnan movies - another indicator)

SAS - Special Air Service in action, Afghanistan. The bearded guy will be the new real-life Bond.

Another issue of relevance is with Bond, as an agent himself. The movie poses this very poignant question, debated by academics for years: how relevant is the man on the ground in the era of satellite pictures, hacking, drone attacks and Stuxnet/FLAME? Is espionage now limited to tapping phones/e-mails and taking pictures from the sky? Why spend a million dollars on training a man who'll work for max 20-30 years, when you can have a satellite that will work for 50 and produce more valuable  intel than the man? Have human spies lost their edge to technology?

The answer, in the words of the inimitable le Carre, may go something like this: Espionage technology can do a lot. It can calculate the number of Russian tanks entering Grozny by counting tyre tracks, and the direction of these tanks by photographing migrating herds of reindeer. It can pick up the sound of a Chinese general belching in his sleep and the websites that Islamic terrorists surf for porn. It can tell you that a group of Maoists/tribals are about to attack a CRPF camp, armed with nothing more than country made pistols, stones and sticks. But it cannot tell you what is in the heart of a marginal farmer whose daughters have been raped by the Salwa Judum, whose sons have joined that Maoist group as way of family insurance and whose lands have been forcibly taken over by some mining conglomerate he has never heard of. Espionage technology cannot calculate the strength of an army that has no radios, and can survive on barks and roots for days on end. It cannot calculate the valor of men who will fight machine guns, napalm and Agent Orange, armed with nothing more potent than bows and arrows. (Ref: le Carre)

But, as is clear from Skyfall, Bond can. And this is why, Bond is far from irrelevant. He would be if he did not change, but change he did, so he is still the best spy in the world.

2 comments:

  1. I prefer the surrealism of other bond movies..not sure if we need spies to b that rugged..lets just say i m old school

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    1. well, q.. if you're tracking some terrorist in the arms bazaar of peshawar, who'd you rather have? an oxford literature student or a man "who can blend into a crowd even when there isn't one", as robert littell would have it? :)

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