In some ways, this post feels eighteen months overdue. Back then, in the run-up to SKYFALL, every blogger and their sister was putting up post-after-post about James Bond, and acting like they’d loved him all along. It makes one wonder.
There are a lot of things that define 007 as a character – some tropes that came from Ian Fleming, and some that actors like Sean Connery and Roger Moore brought into the fold. We all know about his cocksure ways, his sexual prowess, his steely resolve, and his sarcastic wit. Many words have been written about those tropes, so I’ll spare you a few hundred more. For me, one of the most defining characteristics is on display in this image from GOLDFINGER…and it’s an image that doesn’t even include Mr. Bond himself.
What I always loved about James Bond is his ability to get under the skin of his opponent. To not just say something smartassed and annoying, but to actually instinctively know which buttons to push. It’s something you see in great athletes sometimes, an ability to trash talk and get in the head of their opponents. With that in mind, 007 was the Kevin Garnett of international espionage. It might take him an entire film to do it, but before the final credits roll and that iconic music blares out, he’d find a way to hit a nerve and make his enemy seethe. Take this moment from the 1964 classic.
Having quickly deduced that Auric Goldfinger must be gaming his opponent at the card table, Bond could very easily bust up the racket in any number of ways. When he ventures up into the hotel and gets irrefutable proof, he could again simply cut the cord on Goldfinger’s racket and leave him twisting in the wind. But no – our hero isn’t content to stop the crime, he wants to send a message while he does it. So he takes the mic from the sultry Jill Masterson and gets right to the point with a “Now hear this Goldfinger: Your luck has just changed”.
As the camera holds tight on Gert Fröbe’s face, giving us Bond’s point of view through the binoculars, we see it all:
Confusion, recalculation, annoyance, anger, frustration. Goldfinger is feeling them all at once, and by the looks of it, these are feelings this megalomaniac doesn’t feel all that often.
Someone has not only called “bullshit” on his game, but done it in a way that is about to cost him. The crazy thing is that this “bullshit” point of order has been made rather privately, with only Bond, Masterson, and Goldfinger knowing what has just happened. But for Goldfinger, that’s already three people too many. He’s seething – and we can can tell in those downturned corners of his mouth. What’s making him fume even more is that he has to wait to unleash his anger instead of going off right that instant. A snapped pencil will underline that fact just moments later.
That’s the talent of James Bond. Not to save the day, not to get the girl, but to do it all in a way that will truly piss his enemy off. It’s something he’d do time and again over fifty years, but perhaps never more iconically than in this moment.
Here’s three more from GOLDFINGER for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far