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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What the Fuck, James Bond?

Posted by on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Like Paul, I was mostly enthralled with the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. I walked out of Cinerama wishing I could pinch Javier Bardem's creepy cheeks and Daniel Craig's pert nipples until all of my fingers fell asleep.

But one line ripped me out of the movie completely: "A waste of good scotch."

After the jump, I'll explain myself in full spoiler detail.

If you've seen the film, you remember the scene: Silva is escorting Bond around his top secret secret deserted island hidey-hole lair—a tour that ends at the feet of a crumbling statue. There stands Severine, the apparent sex slave/girlfriend of Silva and the woman that Bond has just spent one long, luxurious boat ride humping until his hip flexors cramped.

Severine is bound and gagged. Silva places a shot of scotch on her head and invites Bond to shoot it off, William-Tell style. Bond shoots and misses; Silver shoots and hits Severine in the face. As she crumples, the scotch spills into the sand.

"What a waste of good scotch," Bond then says.

What the fuck?

I understand that the line was meant to portray a sense of bravado, as if Silva's maniacal cruelty didn't effect Bond. It didn't work. It came off as callous and dehumanizing.

I get that Bond is a womanizer; I don't have a problem with that. In the Bond films I've seen, women seem eager to use and be used. I also realize his character was created in a different era, one where being a man's man basically meant being a sexist, misogynist prick. But Bond has evolved with the times—Craig's Bond is less dashingly cartoony. He's an alcoholic pill popper. He now has a tortured family history. He's aging. His body fails him at times. It's a compelling transformation that has breathed new life into the 60-year-old character.

"What a waste of good scotch" isn't something Craig's modern Bond would say. As Paul Constant mentioned to me this morning, it sounds more like something a Sean Connery Bond would quip.

I'm not suggesting Craig's Bond start dating or forming emotional attachments to the ridiculously named women who carousel around him. But it's not too much to ask that he values women more than a single shot of scotch.


Comments (38) RSS

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I think the point of the comment was to prolong the encounter making it possible for Bond to catch everybody off guard. Bond was pretending that it didn't bother him. This was clearly evident in the way the filmmaker framed the shot and also in the way that Bond hesitates before making his statement.

I understand the desire to be up in arms about the valuation expressed by the words (the Scotch is so much more valuable than the woman), but there is so much more in the scene than the words. I think you have to take the line in the larger context: what are Bond's motivations for making that statement, what would happen had he expressed remorse and/or indignity at the loss of life?
Posted by Faber on November 20, 2012 at 1:54 PM · Report this
He is trying to one-up Silva in the callous killer department. Does he really mean it? We'll never know. Most likely it's a fake out to not show weakness.
Posted by WenWino on November 20, 2012 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 3
Craig's Bond is a burned-out, humorless, amoral spy. The only thing out-of-place about this quip was that he bothered to make it.

What did seem out of place was the supposed offense he took at M for telling Eve to take the shot. That made far less sense.
Posted by Free Lunch on November 20, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
James Bond is a murdering psychopath. He is, at the heart of his character, a deeply misogynistic, racist, classist, imperialistic killer. This is evident from the books and all of the movies. And I say this as a fan of the character, the books, and the movies.

The mistake people make, or if not mistake, then the mindset people have, is that James Bond is a suave, sophisticated hero. He's not. He never has been. Looking at the franchise outside of the pop-culture context, James Bond has a lot more in common with Dexter than with, say, Indiana Jones. I admit that I was also jarred at the delivery of that line, not because James Bond, pride of king and country, said something cruel and dehumanizing, but because the filmmakers were being so honest about how this character feels about, if not women on the whole, then at least this woman in particular (who, (tragic backstory notwithstanding) was also a cold-blooded killer. Remember the original ending of 'Casino Royale,' the book, not the movie? No tears. No tears. No heartfelt pleas. Just, 'the bitch is dead.'

It's this honesty about what a deeply disturbed person Bond actually is that makes this movie my favorite in a long time.
Posted by johnjjeeves on November 20, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
LadyDee 6
I agree with @1. The comment made me flinch but Bond almost did, too.
Posted by LadyDee on November 20, 2012 at 2:00 PM · Report this
Though to be fair, there was less rape-culturey dehumanizing misogyny in the entire runtime of "Skyfall" than in any given fifteen minutes of prime-time network sitcoms, so on a pure minute-by-minute basis, this counts as a generous feminist work*

*(yes, I'm being sarcastic. Christ)
Posted by johnjjeeves on November 20, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 8
Well... What kind of Scotch and how old was it? I really think we need to know in order to form a valid opinion.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on November 20, 2012 at 2:04 PM · Report this
I don't get what the big deal is. If he didn't care for the woman he would have just shot her the way Silva did. He waits a good minute of screen time before finally - begrudgingly - pulling the trigger.

It was Bond pretending he was just as cold and emotionless as his adversary because in his adversary's mind that is exactly what the contest was about.

If you pay attention to her monologue in the casino she was a dead woman walking anyhow. She brought him to the island so he could kill Silva and that's what James was determined to do, perhaps even more so in light of her death.

I don't see what the hubub is all about.
Posted by Sahoyah on November 20, 2012 at 2:07 PM · Report this
Puty 10
I didn't like the scene where Bond slipped into the shower with this poof woman. I'm sure the lady with the history of being sexually abused was just thrilled by the surprise.
Posted by Puty on November 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Puty 11
Poor* woman.
Posted by Puty on November 20, 2012 at 2:12 PM · Report this
@10: perhaps you missed when she invited him to her boat with the clear implication being sexual activities.
Posted by Faber on November 20, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 13
Goodness, the film is full of violence toward men and one gal gets shot and all hell breaks loose? Stick to Bambi. Besides, it's entertainment, not social commentary.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 20, 2012 at 2:24 PM · Report this
Cienna Madrid 14
@10, I also cringed at that.

@13, However did you interpret that post as outrage that woman was shot when I clearly reference the lined that followed, twice, and sum up my general sentiment again at the end of the post?

Perhaps you are not great at reading.

In which case, it would be a waste of my time to address your ridiculous assertion that "entertainment" and "social commentary" are somehow mutually exclusive.
Posted by Cienna Madrid on November 20, 2012 at 2:38 PM · Report this
McGee 15
The scotch was Macallan 50 so...
Posted by McGee on November 20, 2012 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Akbar Fazil 16
I think most people are truly missing what was in that scene. As mentioned above, yes...Bond was stalling for as long as possible knowing the choppers were on their way. This is also Bond, he will sleep with and shoot who ever he feels necessary for Queen and Country. Did he have some feelings for this woman? Sure, maybe a little...but he knew her less than 24 hours at this point. His emotion WAS inside the scotch line. It wasn't delivered like a Roger Moore was hiding his pain of the loss. But in the end the main theme of the film is the duality between Bond and Silva. A similar relationship was easily shown in Raiders of the Lost Ark (and falls in place with this film) between Jones and Belloq; 'I am but a shadowy reflection of would take only a nudge to make you like me.' Shadowy reflection indeed.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on November 20, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Report this
psbirch 17
I was also irked that Bond let the assassin in Shanghai take his shot before going after him. With Whatsherscotch, it was even a little more irksome since he figured that the cavalry was on the way. If he'd managed to delay Silva by as little as five minutes (commenting on the old timey pistols, or extolling the virtues of the scotch, say) he could have saved the woman, who would likely have been a valuable source of intel on Silva, his history, plans, etc.

But then again, Jame Bond : Spying :: Indiana Jones : Archaeology...
Posted by psbirch on November 20, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Akbar Fazil 18
Bond didn't let the assassin take his shot first, he just couldn't get to him in time while sneaking up on him. Remember, he was trying to get information about who hired him. Risking an attack too soon might have been bad. Plus, this was Bond's first foray into the field while not being cleared for duty. Mental and physical tolls are still in effect.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on November 20, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 19
Ms Madrid, "what the fuck?" seems a pretty strong statement of outrage, but maybe it means something less excited to you. When I hear someone say "what the fuck!" I sort of expect a strong negative opinion is forthcoming. But as you mentioned, you don't seem to really care that a woman is valued less than a single shot of Scotch but you do insist that Bond does.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on November 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
What makes you think it's his first time?
Posted by jackseattle on November 20, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
McGee 21
Also Bond going into the woman's shower was expected. She specifically invited him for canoodling as evidenced by the iced champagne with two glasses.
Posted by McGee on November 20, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
In Star Wars THEY BLEW UP AN ENTIRE PLANET!!! OMG! That's worse than ANYTHING! Clearly Lucas wants to kill ALL human kind.
Posted by tkc on November 20, 2012 at 3:58 PM · Report this
@5 & 8:

As @15 noted, it was a 50 year-old MaCallan; runs about $11,000 a bottle.

Has everyone forgotten that Bond had a gun pointed at his temple for a good portion of this scene? Yes, Silva is challenging him to a sadistic game of "William Tell", but it's not a fair contest since Bond has no choice but to shoot or be shot himself, and any obvious stalling on his part would simply have been rewarded with a bullet to the head. It was a great way to really start winding up the tension in the scene: the audience already knows the cavalry is on its way, but we don't know whether Bond can delay the inevitable long enough for them to arrive before the game is played out. Our expectation is that they should, because that's the way it would have happened in any old-school Bond movie, but Mendez has been fucking with our expectations throughout the entire film, and so, there is to be no saving of the damsel-in-distress for this 007.

Then we get the close-focus on the muzzle of the dueling pistol, exactly mirroring a previous shot in the underground MI6 bunker; only this time the gun is a little steadier, but not quite steady enough to pull off this stunt, and Bond KNOWS it; he knows that if he actually tries to shoot the glass, he's probably going to kill Severene instead. So, he pulls the shot a little wide, not enough to be obviously missing her, but leaving it in doubt as to whether or not he's convinced Silva that he was really trying. Not that it mattered in the end, because it quickly becomes clear that Silva had no intention of playing the game he set up; he was simply curious to see what Bond would do. His shockingly sudden, almost perfunctory execution (he barely even takes aim) makes it obvious that he intended Severine to die regardless, which emphasizes a clear distinction between the two: Bond may be a murdering psychopath, but he doesn't kill needlessly; Silva, not so much.

The tension in the scene is therefore two-fold: will Bond play for the stakes (i.e. the life of Severine), even knowing he'll probably lose? And does he anticipate Silva's response when he does? His quip is supposed to be disturbing in this context, particularly because of its echo of classic Bondian one-liners (the entire movie is full of these kinds of back-references). But, Craig doesn't just toss it off, as Connery, or Moore, or even Brosnan would have; instead he colors it with a slight hesitation that could be construed as an undertone of remorse, which, from the audience's perspective presents a chilling ambiguity: did he really have feelings for her? Is he just putting up a macho front? Is he THAT callous and unfeeling? Is he attempting to use the grim levity as a way of putting his captors off-guard? All of the above? The fact that there's no easy, cut-and-dried answer gives the character much more depth, regardless of what one thinks of him otherwise. Again, this is not the sort of Bond we're used to seeing, which is one of the things Mendez was so successful in achieving overall with this film.
Posted by COMTE on November 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
your pissed off about a misagonistic character from the 70s? Are you fucking kidding me? Honestly, the latest scrimage with russia, turkey, and gaza don't even make the headlines. so sorry that hollywood is all about impression. there is a shit load I could rant about, but I have 7 pies to make. my grandma did it, now I feel I should to. in fact i always have, after she passed away. Go volunteer. Oh wait, you voluntarily saw a huge hyped up movie that clung to its past. Look up the expiration of the weapons reduction. now think about russia, turkey, israel, and gaza. dont try to biotch, just cuz it is close to tday.
Posted by pussnboots on November 20, 2012 at 4:56 PM · Report this
" didn't effect Bond.."

A "Sean Connery Bond" would point out that it should be: "..didn't affect Bond.."

Posted by sgt_doom on November 20, 2012 at 4:59 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 26
You are completely off on this, Cienna. He was bluffing to hide his softy inner core. That's sort of a major theme to the movie.
Posted by ScienceNerd on November 20, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
thene 27
Fleming's James Bond was always an alchoholic, chain-smoking pill-popper (tbph I think he took stimulants mostly in powdered form rather than pills - see the first part of Moonraker), has always had a 'tortured family history' in that he's an orphan, and has always been shown experiencing moral, emotional or physical failure (see The Living Daylights for but one example). As a fan, I'm just very glad to see the films finally getting it right. I thought the shower scene on the boat was another of those callback references, in terms of how it was shot - in an old-times James Bond movie it would have been some classic aesthetic misogyny, all focus on the female silhouette, but in Skyfall the moment Daniel Craig stepped into view it became all about his (sexualised, vulnerable) body, not hers. Minutes later, Silva is sexually assaulting him.
Posted by thene on November 20, 2012 at 5:16 PM · Report this
haven't seen the movie, but i presume it's another scene in a long line of scenes that emphasize my assertion that bond sucks. and i like plenty of exploitative/objectionable shit. thanks for sharing. don't see bond. that shit is boring.
Posted by captain underpants on November 20, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
Fnarf 29
I think it's premature to say the Scotch was "wasted". Are we sure there was no recoverable spillage? I mean, if you haven't licked the last drops of Macallan 50yo off the corpse of your recent sex partner, you haven't lived.
Posted by Fnarf on November 20, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
McGee 30
@28 Your breath must smell like shit with all that talking out of your ass.
Posted by McGee on November 20, 2012 at 6:06 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 31
The Bond I remember from the Ian Fleming paperbacks did not and could not kill without very good reason. Bond said at least once, "I'm not a murderer. I won't kill an innocent man." I'm not re-reading them all tonight, but there's one scene in the middle of one where Bond has the opportunity to kill an adversary but can't, because he is not in the right frame-of-mind to do it.

I thought that's why the ending of the first Daniel Craig movie was so powerful.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on November 20, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this

Spot-on. I particularly remember a similar scene early on in Casino Royale: Bond & M are at the card table waiting for the arrival of Le Chiffre. Bond orders a bottle of champagne, and when it arrives, he pulls a packet of Benzedrine powder out of his pocket, tears it open and proceeds to dissolve it into a glass of the bubbly, commenting apologetically on M's reproving grimace. During the course of the game he polishes off two bottles, leaving Le Chiffre with the impression he's lit to the gills, but just as he intended, the stimulant has countered most of the effects of the alcohol. Still, his casual abuse of both substances, simply for the sake of duping his opponent, points to a much darker issue.

And the fact that this scene still stands out so clearly in my mind after more than 20 years must be some indication of the impact it would have had on Fleming's readers 50 years ago.
Posted by COMTE on November 20, 2012 at 7:00 PM · Report this
@33: Yes, you are the only one who thought that, because it makes no sense and it was obvious to everyone else that she was dead.

It's "perfectly fine" that henchmen are shot up because they're bad guys and she was a victim of the bad guys. You may not agree with this as a moral rule, but there's kind of no entertainment value in an action movie if you can't accept that premise. Also, it was the line that bothered Cienna and seemed jarring, not the shooting itself.

For what it's worth, I see where people are coming from justifying the line, but I found it jarring as well.
Posted by alguna_rubia on November 20, 2012 at 7:54 PM · Report this
@26 Yes. Cienna, watch it again. I think it's a simple misinterpretation of what was going on.
Posted by daftgiraffe on November 20, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
@35, yes, she's misinterpreted the scene. Bond is unflappable, also illustrated in the scene cited by @20 where Silva attempts to seduce him. Bond strives to conceal any possible vulnerability, especially in the presence of an enemy.
Posted by Amanda on November 21, 2012 at 12:44 AM · Report this
schmacky 37
For what it's worth (at this late hour in the life of this thread probably not much), I agree with Cienna. I get that Bond was attempting to blow it off and not give Silva the satisfaction of knowing it got to him, but at the same time why the fuck couldn't Bond have taken out the henchmen before she got shot? I don't think the gun was at his head after he'd missed. There was no reason to wait if he was going to pull that martial arts shit and take out the guards in five seconds flat anyway.

And I hated the heroic music when the copters appeared and Bond delivered the line about the radio as new technology. Bond might be an asshole, but you can't ask the audience to celebrate after we just watched an innocent woman get shot in the head.

The least they could've done was give us a scene later after they caught Silva, showing that Bond was at least a little affected by it.

But really, the scene as written is of a piece with the rest of the movie, which is all about dragging the character back from the interesting directions they were going in Casino Royale (and even Quantum of Solace), and reorienting him as the same unkillable, nationalistic, womanizing, wise cracking asshole he was for the previous 20-odd movies.

Where Craig's Bond has been a "blunt instrument," not suave at all really, but instead dependent on his physical gifts and his connection to Dench's M, the Bond moving forward depends more on his experience...brains over brawn. His childhood traumas and psychosexual relationship with M are resolved now. In Skyfall, they've cleaned him up, gotten him reasonably sober, polished him to a high shine and altogether reined in the uncouth, complicated new Bond in favor of the lighter, jovial man whore we all know and love (and were completely sick of).
Posted by schmacky on November 21, 2012 at 1:22 AM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 39
Personally, if forced to choose, I will choose the 50 year-old MaCallan.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on November 21, 2012 at 3:14 PM · Report this
I didn't read the comments. Are they basically 39 posts full of angry men claiming you're a dumb attention-seeking whore if you think that the world is a hostile place for women?
Posted by Minerva on November 23, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this
I am not a huge Bond fan and am most familiar with Connery and Moore in the role, but I have to say that in both of their portrayals Bond was a 'man who loved women'. Consequently, I have to think that neither would have dismissed a paramour as someone worth less than a shot of liquor.

Such a low opinion of those characters makes me suspicious of your analysis of the scene. I haven't seen this latest bond flick, but think that the scene must have had a subtext other than what you have described.
Posted by Bond Quartermaster on November 23, 2012 at 8:10 PM · Report this

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