Watching Spectre, the latest instalment of the Bond franchise, was a depressing experience. Never has James seemed less relevant - both to Britain and the world - than he does in this outing, a film which amounts to little more than a masturbatory fantasy for a particularly unworldly and deeply unfulfilled sort of British middle-age male.
The world of 007 is, like The Guardian newspaper and the BBC, one of the very last shaky relics of empire, full of profoundly deluded white people who think they are charged with a near sacred mission to save the world and uniquely equipped to do so. Not even the Tory Party entertains such idiots anymore. Having, in recent times, been defeated in two different Middle Eastern theatres of war by enemies who were basically armed medievalists, the idea that the UK sends its agents to defeat a world-threatening nexus of terrorists is a joke. But it's a joke that the film won't play with.
If Bond were to be played like Austin Powers, it could be a brilliant showcase for all the wonderful qualities the British possess in abundance - cleverness and humour, quirkiness and creativity - but instead we have a movie filled with grim pomposity and cod psychology, as we watch the burly and ever-surly Daniel Craig hulking awkwardly around the screen like a shaven and Savile-Row-suited gorilla, looking as though he is in dire need of the toilet.
Constipation, emotional and physical, is the theme of the film. It is made clear that the repressed hero of the British establishment is the product of lifelong trauma: as a child he saw both his parents die in a climbing accident, then saw every woman he ever loved killed, including his flinty mother-figure, the previous M, played by Judi Dench. He is a taciturn loner who admits to drinking too much, never discussing his feelings, and who, when orphaned, bonded in such a perverse co-dependent manner with the man who became his father-substitute that the man's neglected biological son felt compelled to murder his dad and grow into the megalomaniac hyper-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. And Westerners think Bollywood films are silly! I'll take Shah Rukh Khan dancing across Brooklyn Bridge over this nonsense any day.
|Does James Bond show any interest in settling down?|
And then there's the issue of Daniel Craig's pained expression and staggering gait throughout the movie that suggests his bowels are on the brink of exploding. Indeed, the painful stool-retention suggested by his strange walk and grimace of self-restraint might well be a coping mechanism with which he deals with the emotional mess that threatens to break out of him, a habit the young Bond developed to cope with the loss of his parents and father-figure, before being abandoned at a British upper-class boarding school to suffer the isolation and myriad cruelties that are inflicted there. Poor James had to keep everything in.
Bond's emotional retardation is apparent in every blithe quip he makes at what are genuinely moving human events - such as when people die, for instance, or when a woman is expressing her feelings. Indeed, his relationships with women are the most revealing thing about him. In Spectre, Bond has sex with a 50-year-old woman for the first time since the 007 movies began, in the divine form of Monica Bellucci. But, having at last found a woman with the maturity and depth of understanding to share his pain - even ask for a laxative one day, when their trust has been established - does he show any interest in settling down? Does he hell. He's out of the door straight after intercourse, and spends the rest of the movie chasing excitement with the much younger Lea Seydoux.
|Monica Bellucci and Daniel Craig in a still from Spectre.|
Bond's need for constant thrills of every kind is rooted in his obvious mid-life depression. Locked in a state of clinical anhedonia in which he cannot feel any of life's normal joys, he craves extreme experiences just to feel something, anything at all. Getting into fights, driving too fast, and high-octane promiscuity are all hallmarks of this condition. Craig's glassy catatonic stare throughout the film is a window onto Bond's inner zombie-like despair.
I left the cinema feeling tearfully empathetic towards 007. The arrogant outdated certainty the character tries to exude fools nobody anymore - certainly no one outside of Britain. People talk of Bond needing to be updated for the modern world, but he simply doesn't fit easily into it anymore - much like the UK, in fact. Bond doesn't need to be updated; he needs to be pastiched. It's time for James to trade in his licence to kill - for a Prozac prescription and an intensive bout of therapy.