Sunday, 11 June 2006

Empire adjuster

The Man Who Saved Britain by Simon Winder (Picador) is principally concerned with the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond. It follows the author’s own ‘journeys’ through the glamorous and exciting world of 007, in Ian Fleming’s novels and the early films starring Sean Connery (knighted in 2000, and recently a recipient of the American Film Institute’s lifetime achievement award).

Winder freely admits this book is hardly a proper or fulsome social history about how a mere fictional hero salvaged the national pride of postwar Britain, but it does offer some insight into how the suave adventurer attained iconic status with the production and release of Terence Young’s Dr No (1962). Though often perceived as terribly decadent and frightfully dated nowadays, the potent Bond formula (the ultimate cinematic guilty pleasure?) remains one of the most successful movie franchises, despite all critical propaganda to the contrary. The films have generated a legacy of effortless sex and gritty or comical violence unequalled by any of the US secret agent movie series.

Even as casting producers scurry around, hoping to find a full-time replacement (Daniel Craig will star in Martin Campbell’s remake of Casino Royale) for departing actor Pierce Brosnan (who quit after the disappointing Die Another Day), this book is a canny reminder of 007’s enduring sub-cultural appeal.

No comments: