“Don’t Time to Die” is the last movie starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007.Photo: Nicola Dove / PA Images / Forum
Those (not that) terrible Soviets
Ian Fleming, a former British intelligence officer during World War II, brought James Bond to life in 1952 on the pages of Casino Royale. Already in the first novel, Agent 007 has to face La Chiffre working for the Soviet counterintelligence service SMERSZ. From now on, it was the Soviet counterintelligence that would be Bond’s main opponent in the first books of the series. The Soviets will also remain opponents of the screen Bond until the end of the Cold War, but the attitude of Agent 007 films towards communists will change with the changing political situation.
The Cold War rivalry between the East and the West was an excellent background for the adventures of the most famous MI6 officer. However, when “Doktor No”, the first screening of Fleming’s novel, appeared in cinemas in 1962, the film considerably softened the anti-Soviet message of the original book. The antagonist did not serve the Soviets, but the mysterious WIDMO organization (SPECTER). Why? The film was shot during the thaw in relations between the USSR and the United States (because although Bond is thoroughly British, the money is American and the films were tailored to the needs of the US market). Nikita Khrushchev argued that peaceful coexistence with the West is possible. The Americans wanted a break from the anti-communist obsession, symbolized by macrocartism.
The premiere of “Doktor No” coincided with the outbreak of the Cuban crisis, which ended the time of the thaw. Therefore, in the next film – “Greetings from Russia” (1963) – although the antagonist still serves the WIDMO organization (in the original book she was an SMERSZ agent), she is already a caricatured image of a KGB agent.
The third film in the series, “Goldfinger”, is considered the benchmark Bond film. It had everything that fans of the series love: gadgets, beautiful women and super-luxurious cars, an eccentric villain with an absurdly sophisticated plan, fast-paced action and perhaps the most memorable retort in the history of the series (“You expect me to speak”, he tells Auric Goldfinger, tied to the table Bond, looking at the slowly approaching deadly laser beam, “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” replies the villain).
“Goldfinger” is also the first film to feed on the Cold War fear of nuclear annihilation. The villain’s plan is to contaminate the reserves of American gold in Fort Knox with a dirty bomb. The theme of nuclear weapons in the wrong hands appeared in Bond films until the end of the Cold War.
“Goldfinger” appeared on screens in 1964, at the height of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The eyes of the public were then turned to the Far East, which was also reflected in the film. Bond’s direct opponent is Goldfinger, but in a broader perspective, the hero’s antagonist is also communist China – the growing power of the Cold War era – which provides the villain with the technology to build a bomb, hoping to destroy the global financial system.
The effect of channeling fears into a “third force” trying to gain from the destabilization of the world is Bond’s cooperation with the Soviets in films from the 1970s. This theme appears in numerous pictures of Sir Roger Moore’s era, in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, “Moonraker”, “For Your Eyes Only”, “Octopus” and “Killer Sight”. Everywhere he was personified by the head of the KGB, General Anatol Gogol.
Bond with a lightsaber
The creators of the films with Agent 007 always reacted not only to the current political situation, but also to current pop culture trends. In no episode of the series is this as apparent as in 1979’s “Moonraker”. Although there is a long tradition of deviating from the content of Fleming’s Bond books in the screenings, in the case of this film, almost only the title and names of the characters match. In the 1955 novel, Bond’s opponent, Hugo Drax, is a Nazi scientist who, after the war, designs a rocket for the British (like Werner von Braun for the Americans) capable of launching a man into space. However, he secretly collaborates with the Soviets to destroy London with a missile. In the film, he is already a crazy millionaire who wants to kill humanity with chemical weapons and then recreate it on the basis of the chosen ones gathered in the cosmic ark. In the finale of the film, Bond goes … into orbit around the Earth.
A trip into the outer space of Agent 007 is one of the most extravagant (and in the case of Bond films there is a lot of competition) installments of the series. And it’s not an accident at work. Just two years before the premiere of “Moonraker”, “Star Wars” entered theaters, changing the face of Hollywood forever. Even Bond had to adapt to the phenomenon dominating Western pop culture.
In 1989, the Cold War was drawing to a close. The eastern bloc was swayed under the weight of its own inefficient economy and the social changes initiated in Poland. The agony of the USSR and the victory of the Western world made the classic opponents of Bond – the Soviet spies – no longer attractive as a great threat.
The Americans – and after all, Agent 007’s adventures were aimed at this market – had another big problem. President Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs had been waged for nearly twenty years. For a decade there has been a “Just Say No” campaign launched by Nancy Reagan. On American television, the series “Miami Vice”, about policemen fighting drug dealers, was gaining popularity. Above all, however, the peak of power was reached by Pablo Escobar’s cocaine empire. It is no coincidence that in “The License to Kill” (1989), the sixteenth film in the series, Agent 007 (with the face of Timothy Dalton) embarks on a private war, not with a madman who wants to take over the world with an elaborate extermination machine, and with the South American drug dealer Franz Sanchez. .
Janus face of Bond (and Britain)
With the end of the Cold War, Bond definitely lost his key opponent, but the first film starring Pierce Brosnan, “GoldenEye” (1995), is still set in the shadow of the rivalry between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Bond lands in the reality of post-Soviet Russia, where he meets a young programmer (played by Isabella Scorupco) and has to face Janus – a mysterious mafia boss.
The end of the Cold War allowed shades of gray to enter Bond’s world: the black and white rivalry between East and West was replaced by a settlement with the past. His symbol is Janus (Sean Bean), who turns out to be a former MI6 agent and Bond friend Alec Trevelyan. Former Agent 006 reveals that he is a descendant of the Cossacks who fought on the side of the Third Reich during World War II, surrendered to the British and were handed over to Stalin by them. Janus’s father, out of despair, killed the mother of the later villain and took his own life. Trevelyan, like Bond, was recruited by intelligence as an orphan. The character played by Bean is a dark reflection of Bond (symbolized by the harassment of Scorupco’s character from the Connery era), but it is difficult to deny him the right to hate Great Britain.
The Bond of the 90s is also a new approach to women in the brand. The role of Agent 007’s supervisor, M, was played for the first time by Judy Dench. New M doesn’t like Bond, she thinks him to be “sexist, misogynistic dinosaur”. Miss Moneypenny warns Agent 007 against molestation, and the “Bond girl” gets information through her mind, not sex appeal.
Information is a weapon
Bond’s adventures reacted like a litmus test to the growing importance of information as a weapon capable of destabilizing states and societies. Already in the next movie with Brosnan, Agent 007 has to face the diabolical press magnate Eliot Carver, who is ready to start World War III in exchange for receiving a monopoly broadcasting license in China (China again …). The 1997 villain’s (and fake news pioneer) claim that “words are new weapons and satellites are new artillery” sound prophetic in the world around us.
Carver would probably find a common language with Raoul Silva, a villain of the digital age in “Skyfall” (2012), who managed to empty the entire island with one crafted information. It is in this film that the reflection on the power (and the threat from) of technology is the subject of an excellent scene of Bond’s first meeting with the intelligence quartermaster and at the same time a young computer genius Q. The latter says: “In pajamas and tea in one day I will do more damage laptop than you for a year in the field. “
It is no coincidence that it was “Skyfall” that was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Bond film. The technological genius of Silva in the role of a villain, M, who is threatened with the closure of the 00 agents program and retirement, disrespectful Bond geek Q, the final in an estate cut off from civilization, in a word: the whole picture is an answer to the question whether in the modern world full of technology there is there is still a place for the old-fashioned Agent 007, whose best friend – despite the fancy gadgets – is the well-worn Walther PPK. These questions are intensified in the next “Specter” series. The answer is obvious, of course.
It’s not time to smile
The series reboot, initiated by “Casino Royale” in 2006, brought another significant change to the brand. Bond once again proved vulnerable to the influence of his time. This time it is about a specific trend in cinematography. In 2002, the same year in which “Death Comes Tomorrow” appeared on the screens of cinemas, the last one with Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007, “Bourne’s Identity” was also shown. The new spy film series contrasted with the increasingly exaggerated adventures of Bond. He was serious and dark. Three years later, in “Batman: The Beginning”, Christopher Nolan set a new trend of redefining the heroes of pop culture, still valid today: the hero’s mythology was stripped of unrealistic elements, while focusing on the greatest, often brutal, realism. All the films with Daniel Craig so far have followed. The only thing we can be almost sure of after “No Time To Die” is that the film will maintain this trend.
comp. Bartłomiej Makowski