When James Bond got out James Bonded

by Mr. Nobel

Have you noticed that Mission Impossible has largely become a better James Bond franchise than James Bond? James Bond spent the first half of the past decade going off into an insane, CGI-fueled nightmare, and the second half trying to channel the Bourne series’s gritty energy.

On the other hand, Mission Impossible, after John Woo’s execrable second installment, delivered the greatest action-spy movie of the decade in Mission Impossible 3 and followed that up with the highly entertaining Mission Impossible 4.

What James Bond has lost sight of is the franchise’s cinematic roots. James Bond represented a mix of everything in mainstream cinema – gunfights, car chases, sex, cool crap, cars, more gunfights and more women.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace’s attempts at characterizing James Bond are noble, but they do the series a disservice. I mean, really, what good does characterizing James Bond do you? He doesn’t become a more sympathetic character. At the end of the day, 007 is still a crazy British badass who travels across the world with a near infinite amount of money to drive really fast cars, engage in casual sexual liaisons with supermodels and kill unambiguously evil villains. And, don’t forget, his job is to look like he’s enjoying himself.

His character has become so far detached from the reality that it’s almost impossible to relate to the character.

Jason Bourne? You can relate to him in a pinch – he doesn’t have the British government standing behind him. His choice of company are men who are trying to kill him and men who are trying kill him with funny accents. It’s cathartic to watch him muscle-MacGyver his way out of any scenario because it’s thrilling to see someone so utterly subjugated succeed.

James Bond? The point of James Bond isn’t to invest in the character, but rather attain some level of entertainment through kind of living vicariously through him. You don’t want to see rich badass sulking, you want to see him shooting someone with a silenced pistol while crashing an Aston Martin and tonguing a France femme fatale.

Mission Impossible hasn’t lost sight of this. The set pieces come hard and fast, the gizmos, though grounded in realistic-ish technology, are really damn cool and the cars are still shiny and sleek.

That’s not to say that Mission Impossible 4 is a perfect movie. The script is kind of bad, dead wife subplot and Jeremy Renner’s character being the most glaring flaws. Also, who the fuck would believe that Ethan Hunt, ostensibly an international superspy, would suddenly decide to ditch his team, and have to get taught a lesson on the value of teamwork by a Russian arms dealer who kind of looks like Lars von Trier? That’s an idea out of fucking Arthur or Magic School Bus, not IMAX’s Hardest Spy Movie.

Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace did try to chart the interior life of James Bond. I suppose that it’s commendable.  And Mission Impossible 4 has much looser, shallower characterization. I don’t know if I would necessarily call Mission Impossible 4 a better movie than Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. I just know that Mission Impossible 4 fully embraces what it is.