THE HEART IS THE TARGET.
by Karina Wolf
In cinema, there are two kinds of spy. There’s the ambivalent servant wearing his double life like a rumpled overcoat: a pained intellect and wounded soul who dissociates from civilian life to the point of irreversible exile. He is propelled by big ideas and lured by intellectual bloodsport: strategy, counterfeit, betrayal, and, perhaps most of all, psychological profiling—the practice of inhabiting the mind of his opposite number. These characters are avatars in the dream lives of John le Carré and Graham Greene: the observer who wants to come in from the cold and join the messy business of life.
In contrast to those compromised souls is James Bond, gleaming archetype of the smooth operator – a machine who is licensed to kill and to ladykill, who works a tuxedo, wields a punch and jockeys an Aston Martin without peer. He is pure action and no affect: he displays a troubling sang froid in the face of opponents defeated, women conquered, human limitations breached. He is nearly without emotional need – a stiff cocktail is sufficient to recharge him.
Each age gets the 007 it deserves. When the franchise began in the Sixties, Connery’s Bond was an entitled hedonist, all purring Scottish-burred seduction to titillate a newly liberated era; Roger Moore resonated with the louche and capitalist needs of the 80s; Pierce Brosnan rarely menaced but wore his clothes as fiercely as the 90s demanded. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a more ambivalent figure – perhaps this reflects the actor’s own publicly expressed hesitation about the role, or maybe the part has been influenced by the self-doubting Bourne heroes, who regret their contract killer obligations.
Skyfall, the film released on Bond’s 50th anniversary, grapples again with recalibrating its central character. The Daniel Craig installments started with a kind of Bond Begins: Casino Royale is a creation story about Bond’s a-human psyche. His failed romance with Vesper Lynd inspires enough sorrow, remorse, and longing to explain his detachment from all other conquests and foes. These days, spy work is more understandable as the addictive domain of the mentally febrile (Homeland’s bipolar Carrie Mathison) or of the out-dated humanist trying to find some wrongs to correct (Saul Berenson). I’m not convinced that Bond is motivated by the love of country or woman, but he is equally hooked on his job. Despite the bare bones toys from Q (now played by Ben Whishaw) and the morally ambiguous leadership of Judi Dench’s M, the job provides the crucible environment that uniquely gratifies 007.
Daniel Craig is #HOT