Bond. James Bond.

Added on 08 November 2008

The first day of a four day weekend at the school. It’s fair enough. They need the break. That’s five days of school they’ve had now since their last week off, so it’s reasonable that they need the time to recuperate. After this it’s a clear unbroken five week run up to the Christmas holiday and I’m not sure how they’re going to cope. They’ll probably need some sort of trauma counselling.

James Bond came to Poland yesterday. I mean that the new film opened, rather than that Daniel Craig pitched up in his best sponsored suit, showing off his product placed-watch, driving a Ford and wearing a girl reeking of Bond Girl 007. We went to see the movie on the first night, as is obligatory for all staff at British Embassys worldwide. We have to dress up in tuxedos - even the women - and run a gauntlet of assassins, sharks and car chases, before entering through a secret passageway, breaking the code on the door and then sitting at the back with popcorn supplied by Her Majesty’s Government.

To be honest, driving anywhere in Poland is not so different from the opening scene of Quantum of Solace. All the Poles in the audience were nodding sagely at that part, saying things like, ‘Ah, the road to Gdansk...’

If you’re going to do the same thing over and over - books, films, theatre, anything - you have to allow your character to develop in some way. Whether or not it’s artistically viable to do anything more than a few times - something I regularly question about writing seven books about a barber - if you don’t develop the character in some way, then you are just endlessly repeating stories. The character has to be allowed to change, at some point the stories have to be about her/him, and not just about that year’s serial killer/the megalomaniac about to take over the world etc.

Fleming got around to this with the Bond books. When Bond’s wife got murdered at the end of one book, Bond was screwed up in the next one. When Bond had amnesia at the end of that book, the Russians had got hold of him at the start of the next one.

This has always been the problem with the Bond film series. Each film has existed in isolation, there’s never been any acknowledgement that the last film happened. And so one bad guy blends into the next, women come and go, some of them die, some of them walk off into the sun with Bond, nowhere to be seen in the next instalment, drug smuggling, money laundering, world domination, oil, cheap gags, nasty eastern Europeans, they have all flitted in and out. And while the producers have acknowledged the ever-changing politics of the world, Bond the man has never been allowed to have a past. (Apart from one out-of-place short scene of Roger Moore placing flowers at his wife’s grave.)

Now, at last, thank goodness, there’s a Bond film which actually remembers that something came before. Besides being well-made, exciting, well-acted, and well-plotted with an excellently sparse script, this is why Quantum of Solace is the best Bond movie since Shir Shean first hung up his bow tie in the 60’s.

Next: why Kevin Costner was the best Robin Hood.