So I saw the latest Bond (Skyfall). I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the homage paid to classic Bond. The movie revisited old Bond haunts Istanbul (From Russia with Love) and Macau (Man with the Golden Gun). Between the catacombs in the opening title sequence and the casino scene in the first act, Skyfall went out of its way to celebrate good-old fashioned spy stories. There were no superfluous third nipples in this movie, though. An oversight, perhaps. Still, classic no frills spying came back in Q Branch offering Bond only the soberest of equipment; in the Aston Martin from (I think) Goldfinger making a cameo; and finally in everybody pointing out that Bond was over the hill and should retire or be retired. More generally, it was also represented by MI6’s struggle to assert its usefulness in the post-Cold War era in the face of a critical public inquiry. Normally, the role for politicians in Bond movies has been limited to Thatcher calling up Bond at the end of For Your Eyes Only (she only gets to talk to a parrot, as Bond himself is probably busy making sweet love to some lady he’d saved). This time, though, MI6 faces public inquiry as some busybody politicians are not convinced that the organization is still of any use.
To tell this part of the story, Mendes trotted out the worn-out trope of the obstructionist politician. I’m not sure if TV Tropes has an entry for them. I don’t think they do but they should. You have all these professionals (Batman, MI6, Jodie Foster looking for extra-terrestrial life, you know – people who know what they’re doing). Some major calamity ensues, and their work catches the eye of lawmakers. Invariably, some upstart politician wants to make a career and be famous and powerful over the backs of these noble saviours. They stupidly insist on the following of ‘rules’ and ‘protocol’. Either because they lack insight or because they are evil, they are completely unsympathetic to the fact that the protagonists are trying to save the earth and have only the best intentions.
Now I know cynicism is what all the cool kids do – and why wouldn’t they. It’s really attractive, because you’re always right. You claim that politicians are corrupt and/or inept; people agree with you or they don’t (pointing out obvious facts to the contrary), in which case you can just shake your weary head and roll your weary eyes and tell them that they don’t *really* know what’s going on, that they’re just naïve. And it’s not that I’d be looking to Bond movies for accurate portrayals of anything, but still, it would be kind of refreshing (but probably not very interesting) to see generic politicians on TV or in movies that aren’t complete assholes.