THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
I have only encountered three Bonds, but in my opinion, they were the best. Roger Moore used to exchange questionable faxes with my boss in the US embassy in The Hague. Every successful Bond has had to impose his own persona on the main character. Roger Moore did so by injecting a solid dose of humor, playing the hero at times tongue in cheek. Invariably elegant, genuinely charming and extremely good looking, by some underrated, but The Spy Who Loved Me, with Barbara Bach and Jaws, was an unforgettable Bond. Nor, he confessed, did he fail to enjoy patting Britt Ekland’s bottom in a bikini in The Man with the Golden Gun - an activity no longer permitted for any new age Bond.
But not until I moved to London did I encounter the real thing. Walking down Eccleston Street in Belgravia one day, I was heartened to hear a wolf whistle right behind me, before ‘Me Too’ set out to ban them. Spinning round, I found myself face to face with the original Bond, Sean Connery, who refused to admit guilt. Dining later at Olivo nearby, as I puffed on an illicit cigarette, without my contact lenses, I failed to recognise my neighbor flapping his arms to push the fumes away. Once he came into focus, I asked if he thought this was appropriate behaviour for someone with a licence to kill.
I found it hard to understand his enthusiasm for Scottish independence, as he had no intention of ever living, still less of paying taxes there. Instead he was to be found playing golf in plaid trousers in the Bahamas. But as I am now down to two or three puffs a day, ever since I have claimed that I was cured of smoking by the greatest of James Bonds. For who can ever forget Connery with Ursula Andress in Dr No? Or wrestling with Honor Blackman under a pseudonym definitely not allowed today.
Daniel Craig, who I encountered at The Queen’s Club with the drop dead gorgeous Rachel Weisz, at his unveiling as the new Bond, was mocked for wearing a life jacket (for a ride on the Thames!) and for being the opposite of Ian Fleming’s patrician, well bred Bond, and much as I admired him in Layer Cake, neither Quantum of Solace nor Spectre did much to help. All three of my super-Bonds made some turkeys and Craig was no exception. But the revival of Casino Royale was the making of his much grittier, modern day Bond (“Shaken or stirred?" "Do I look like I give a damn?") exploited with brio in his grand finale – No Time to Die.
A great movie, though very long at 163 minutes and with too much plot, it is beyond spectacular. It could not be helped that, at the premiere, the Duchess of Cambridge looked better than any of the actresses and the movie lacks a villain as charismatic as Goldfinger & Oddjob, or Javier Bardem in Skyfall. We end with a much older looking, wiser and more sensitive Bond, as evidenced by his fuchsia velvet jacket at the premiere.
I can’t help feeling some nostalgia for less politically correct days. But, with good reason, vast numbers of people who have not been to a cinema for more than a year have flocked to sign up to see this great valedictory performance by Daniel Craig. These are movies that have to be seen on a big screen. Can Bond save the British cinema? I wouldn’t bet against it.