November 4th, 2012



What do the following countries have in common?

Central African Republic
Congo, Republic of
Ivory Coast
Marshall Islands
Sao Tome and Principe
Vatican City

According to Stuart Laycock, they hold the distinction of being the only countries never to have been invaded by Britain. I'm sure there's some room for argument about this, but still - what a pugnacious lot we are, and have been. (I realise this is not a very original observation, but there you go.)

A Day at the Chases

"You and I are very much alike.. .Our methods have not differed as much as you pretend. I am a shadowy reflection of you. And it would take only a nudge to make you like me, to push you out of the light."

Thus says Raoul Silva to our hero in the latest Bond movie - oh no, wait, that was Rene Belloq talking to Indiana Jones. Oh well, same difference - they're both dressed like the man from Del Monte, with their brilliant minds and tricky foreign accents. (On reflection, Silva also has a smack of Ian McDermid's portrayal of Hugo DeVries in Morse. In fact the whole plot of Skyfall is somewhat reminiscent of that episode.)

Yes, having braved Legoland's Jolly Rocker yesterday, this afternoon I went to see Bond, in a determined quest for further visceral thrills. Actually I enjoyed it, even if I winced at the damage that was done to Istanbul and its citizens in the opening chase sequence. I was particularly sad to see that almost the first thing to happen was the overturning of a number of fruit stalls. I honestly don't know why people who live in Action Movie World even bother having fruit stalls. So little gets eaten that they must all have scurvy.

I even liked the part set in Scotland, which I've seen criticized in one or two places. Particularly good was the "I was not angry since I came to France until this instant" expression on Bond's face when Silva blows up his Aston Martin - which tells us a lot about his priorities. (Severine's fate, by contrast, seems not to have troubled his thoughts from the moment she slumped dead against a piece of Ozymandian statuary.) Silva's comic exasperation on being thwarted of his Romeo and Juliet moment with M was also very good.

There was a lot of emphasis on Bond's age and relative decrepitude - both explicitly and through heavy references, ranging from Tennyson's "Ulysses" to Turner's "Fighting Temeraire". I don't suppose Sam Mendes is too worried about how the franchise is going to find a reset button - other than by pensioning off Daniel Craig, but then the movie was all about not pensioning him off. They've set themselves an interesting problem, though.