Monday, January 20, 2014

James Bond


Everybody knows James Bond. Even people who don't have a TV, who are not interested in the subject. I knew about James Bond before I watched the movies. I used to think that James Bond is the handsome cool guy who saves the world and gets the girl at the end. And I used to think that James Bond movies are just normal movies, talking about some spy story. That is... I used to think that before I went on a watching spree, a couple of years ago.

Before I break the myth, I have to specify, however, that I'm just a fan of cinema. Not a James Bond fan. So I'm not the kind of person who knows every villain and remembers every twist of every plot of every movie. So if you're a real JB fan, I hope you'll forgive the small mistakes that could occur.

Rating the films

The James Bond series does not always deliver good stuff. So here's the list of movies, with the ratings I give and my recommendation of movies to watch... Maybe you're as curious as I was and you're going to watch the whole thing... suffering a lot in the process, especially with "On her Majesty's secret service". But maybe you want the essential JB story including some of the average films that help with the essential story of JB's life.

So here's the code:
bold green or bold orange = must see
green = good
orange = average
red = bad

1962: ★★★☆☆ Dr. No
1963: ★★★☆☆ From Russia with Love
1964: ★★★★☆ Goldfinger
1965: ★★★☆☆ Thunderball
1967: ★★★☆☆ You Only Live Twice
1969: ★☆☆☆☆ On her Majesty's Secret Service
1971: ★★★★☆ Diamonds are forever
1973: ★★★☆☆ Live and let die
1974: ★★★☆☆ The man with the golden Gun
1977: ★★★☆☆ The spy who loved me
1979: ★★★★☆ Moonraker
1981: ★★★★☆ For your Eyes Only
1983: ★★★☆☆ Octopussy
1985: ★★★☆☆ A view to a kill
1987: ★★★☆☆ The living daylights
1989: ★★☆☆☆ License to kill
1995: ★★☆☆☆ GoldenEye
1997: ★★★☆☆ Tomorrow never dies
1999: ★★★☆☆ The world is not enough
2002: ★★★☆☆ Die another day
2006: ★★★★☆ Casino Royale
2008: ★★★★☆ Quantum of solace
2012: ★★★☆☆ Skyfall

The character

James Bond is loosely called a "spy". But the word "spy" refers to many different kinds of jobs. A person relocating in a foreign country and gathering intelligence is also called a spy, while his activity is very different from JB's. More accurately, James could be called a deniable operative. His job is about action more than intelligence.

Now, the big thing: James Bond is a psychopath. He's focused, self-serving, ruthless. He has sex with women but is emotionally detached from them... Or rather than emotion, it's empathy that he lacks ; a subject I touched on, in my article about the psychopath test. He will have sex with the villain's girlfriend as a mean to an end. He also kills without regret, as in the 1st movie, Dr. No, where at some point (not really a spoiler) he murders a henchman who was not anymore in a threatening position.

The films

James Bond movies are highly formatted. These movies last 2 hours. While your random movie lasts 92 or 97 minutes, formats calculated with television schedules in mind, JB movies have always lasted 2 hours ever since the 1st one in 1962. Even though the 2 hours mark is not strict, the difference will never exceed more than 10 minutes, with a minimum of 1h50 and a maximum of 2h05.

These movies are also cut in 3 acts. There might be 1 single exception to this rule: Skyfall. But all the rest is divided in 3 acts of almost equal length (40 minutes each) that take place in 3 distinct locations, or rather 3 countries.

...and this takes me to an under-appreciated fact about James Bond movies. They're movies about travelling, about discovering countries and their wonders. It's full of beautiful landscapes, exotic architecture or art, and foreign cultures. Next time you watch a JB movie, try and identify the division of the movie in 3 acts, each of which props a different location!

And of course, the obvious, but it still needs a mention: JB movies try and fit the reality of the current geopolitics and take on some of the major topics of geopolitical concern.


Even though some single JB movies are terrible, the overall series is rich, coherent and highly formatted.

As I hope to have shown here, and which you can judge next time you watch one of these movies, there's more than initially meets the eye. Who, among the casual viewers, knew that the series has such a dedication to travels? Who noticed the division in 3 acts of 40 minutes? Who knew that women (and men) admiring the character were falling for a psychopath?

I hope this article was food for thought and that it excited your curiosity.

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