I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The American (2010)

One of the things that has annoyed me about the entire James Bond film franchise from Sean Connery's Dr. No through Pierce Brosnan's Die Another Day (NOTE: I have not seen every single James Bond movie, so feel free to correct me if this blanket statement does not apply to one or two of them) is how the spy is portrayed almost as the Marvel superhero Longshot. Because he has the right intentions, James Bond cannot be harmed and his bullets always hit home. Though most die-hard Bond fans I know hate Daniel Craig's portrayal in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, I was really amazed by how real and gritty James Bond felt in those films. I thought that these films marked a wonderful improvement in the franchise. The whole gentleman hero thing is entirely too British and entirely too outdated to work for me.

The 2010 film The American, which is not associated with the James Bond series in any way, shape or form, takes this concept of espionage a step further. Rather than flash and glam and sexy stewardesses, this film speaks of long hours and loneliness, of a strange balance between self and mission, and of a kind of reality that makes the main character Jack/Edward (George Clooney) feel like someone you can relate to. Just this past week, with the release of Grant Morrison's Action Comics #1, the overly powerful, incredibly unrelatable superhero Superman became a hero of the people, with weaknesses that are not in the form of space rocks and a concept of justice that questions the weakness of national laws. Perhaps the original James Bond comes from a similar era where the gentleman was the ideal human archetype, good was always more powerful than evil, the lines between good and evil were always starkly drawn, and government was always on the side of justice for all. If that is the case, then give me Jack, The American any day of the week.


  1. As a diehard James Bond fan, I love the majority of the Bond films, most especially Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace (which really is just one film broken between two movies, whatever). I completely agree with your appraisal of Bond's growing invincibility until Die Another Day (which was the worst movie of the franchise), but I will also say that the early movies had Bond injured. Of course, those were movies where they tried to faithfully adapt Fleming's books, which are quite fantastic.

    I think at this point I'll just post a response to your post on my blog. Eventually.

  2. Thanks, Arthur. I do have to admit my lack of knowledge of many of the original Bond movies. It sounds like you're suggesting that the newest Bond movies are almost like a Bond renaissance.

    Also, I look forward to your blog post. I've started reading your older posts and getting up to date. I was doing that on George R.R. Martin's "Not a Blog" until I realized it's all about the Giants and the Jets, so now I've moved on to study your writing!

  3. Arthur's response, continued: http://arthurthelesser.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/james-bond-and-invincibility/

  4. And more: http://arthurthelesser.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/oh-a-reading-list/