I love spy movies.
Serious spy movies. Not the bumbling or sleazy ones. I hate sleazy Bond. I know it’s how he started, and it’s what he’ll return to eventually, but sleazy spies need to sort out their priorities. Burn Notice over Homeland? No. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond over Jason Bourne? I don’t think so. Your sex life is not more important than a whole lot of people dying. You should be aware of this, or I’m not going to care if some Balkan mobster blows you up.
****SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS****
So I loved Skyfall. I’ve been looking forward to it since the trailers. Spies should be dark. The world of espionage, like the world of national security, should be somewhat dark. Sure, you’ve got some titties tossed in there because you’ve got a demographic to satisfy, but yes, you should be damn broody about what you do. Thus, I am a huge fan of dark!Bond. In the quieter moments, or those devoted just to looking pretty awesome (see: floating lanterns and paper dragon heads!), I very narcissistically tried to puzzle out why this was. And I decided that at one time I was smart enough and callous enough to have done very well in that particular line of work, even if just as an office decision-maker versus someone haring around Europe bristling with microchips and silencers. But that time is past. I care about too many people now. And I don’t suppose I make many people proud with what I do now, enjoy it though I do.
It is easy to feel this vicariously “deeper” connection to worldly affairs when you grew up where I did and then decamped to the blissfully ignorant Midwest. Every time someone looks at their phone, or a TV or computer screen I can’t see, and says “Oh, god,” in that distinctive, non-flamboyant, non-I-can’t-believe-she’s-wearing-that voice that means someone somewhere is probably experiencing something awful, my default assumption is always (always!) that yet another posse of fundamentalist dickheads have decided to blow up a large swathe of inhabited territory, probably in a building or on a train line near people I love. Nobody out here thinks that way. They just want their heroes with ripped abs. They tut tut at the idea of crowding around the White House fence and cheering.
(Speaking of crowds outside fences: in Argo, when they finally break through the fence and several women in burkas overtake the camera in their stampede to the embassy, I was terribly unjust. “Enjoy the fuckedness of your country for the next three decades, ladies. Enjoy what you’ve wrought here today.” Hardly charitable of me, I know. And believe me, I don’t regard growing up near a locus of international power—versus, for example, near the biggest pork plant or blueberry farm or furniture factory in the tri-state area—is an excuse for blind patriotism or callousness. But I recognize that background as having imbued me with a certain commitment to retribution that I realize now I will never be in a position to enact. I have never felt that before—knowing something is actually out of reach, and not just available with the appropriate amount of time or practice or study or networking. I’m just never going to grapple terrorists to the floor of moving trains and demand they put down their weapons or I’ll turn their penises into Jackson Pollacks. So spy movies it is.)
Frobisher is there. Jarringly so. I actually whispered to HB, “Dude, it’s Frobisher!” That man needs a sandwich. Or five. But they did doll him up to stand very much for the youth of this moment. The dangerously skinny hipster male in tight pants, grandpa sweater and thick glasses, with piano hands and a haircut more carefully sculpted than my cairn terrier. I thought that in the [trippier than usual, which itself is pretty trippy] intro, when the kaleidoscope of deer heads came up: “What is this, hipster Bond?” They may have a reason for those deer heads later but so far, nothing says the twenty teens (2010s? what are we calling this? the ought-teens?) like deer head silhouettes. It seemed timely, endearingly so.
I had more to say but the holiday variety packs of local breweries have started coming out, and their siren song is calling. So let me say that a part in the middle, cutting between three different scenes and set, beautifully, to this Tennyson poem, was my favorite:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
That’s right. No goddamn yielding.