Minor spoilers in this post.
By Nicolás Suszczyk, guest writer
The countdown has already begun for the release of the 24th James Bond film, SPECTRE, on Nov. 6.
The movie is directed by Sam Mendes, who helmed the previous 007 film Skyfall, whose story (apparently) completed the James Bond reboot process bringing back the full MI6 team missing in the first two previous James Bond films starring Daniel Craig, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
Throughout the story, the 2012 film introduced the audiences to Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris; gadget-master Q, played by Ben Whishaw; and a male M in the person of Ralph Fiennes’ Gareth Mallory.
By the end of Skyfall, we had the MI6 team as we know it from the 1960s Bond films: M, Q and Moneypenny. The latter two were absent in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, while M was still portrayed by Judi Dench who was first cast in 1995’s GoldenEye, the first outing of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond.
But is SPECTRE bringing back the old MI6? We’ll just get Bond flirting with Moneypenny, then M’s briefing followed by the Q lab scene? Probably not.
In a videoblog last week, Mendes – who says he shaped Fiennes, Harris and Whishaw in their roles – pointed out that the trio “will risk their careers in order to help Bond,” a far cry from the old days where the service remained in Whitehall or Vauxhall Cross to brief Bond and wish him luck on the job.
In fact, since Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997, Judi Dench’s M has had more screen time, even going to the field to assist Bond (something that Robert Brown and Bernard Lee barely did) or being a substantial part of the plot in 1999’s The World is not Enough as well as Skyfall.
Introduced in Skyfall as the chariman of the security comittee, Gareth Mallory is set to replace the Dench’s M. A former lieutenant colonel of the British Army, he was captured by the IRA and after his retirement he turned into a bureaucrat.
Nevertheless, he gets involved in a shootout very well as he proves during Silva’s attack during the inquiry audience, even after being wounded by one of the villain’s bullets.
In SPECTRE, M will battle political forces – in a fight where Andrew Scott’s Denbigh character probably is involved. What makes us think that Mallory won’t be going into the action this time?
Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny sat at a desk of MI6 facilities in Egypt and Brazil in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, or posing as a HM Customs officer in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever. But it looks as if Naomie Harris’s version will be involved in the action, as we saw during the inquiry scene in Skyfall. In February 2014, the British actress said she thinks her character “needs to be in the action,” even when she followed Bond’s advice that “field’s work is not for everyone” and took a desk job.
A big revelation may be provided by Ben Whishaw who plays Q.
Desmond Llewelyn’s Q is known for heading to the field to deliver Bond his gadgets as we could see in You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy and most notably Licence to Kill, just to name a few examples. On the contrary, John Cleese’s Q in Die Anopther Day stuck on the MI6 underground lab proud of his invisible Aston Martin Vanquish.
Recently, German actor Detlef Bothe told the press that he’ll have a showdown with Ben Whishaw’s character on a cable car, which seems pretty logical after footage of Q entering a gondola in Austria has been released on the videoblog.
This probably leads to a new approach of the MI6 quartermaster, perhaps taking advantage of Whishaw’s age (34) that seems more suitable for fist-fights than the elderly Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese.
Twenty-six years ago, in Licence to Kill, the character of Q had the longest screening time appearance in the series when he decides to help Timothy Dalton’s 007 on his personal vendetta against drug lord Franz Sánchez in the field, not only as his armorer but as a field operative and integral part of the mission. He poses as Bond’s chauffeur at Isthmus City and helps the agent and the CIA’s Pam Bouvier to sneak into the Wavekrest vessel.
It’s likely that Whishaw’s Q will have a similar part in SPECTRE while going even one step further – action scenes. According to Empire Magazine, 007 visits Austria following the lead of one Dr. Madeleine Swann, Léa Seydoux character, apparently a psychiatrist or therapist working on a clinic in the Austrian Alps.
If Q is going to the clinic to assist 007 or take part into the mission, is he probably doing the same than Agent Campbell in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Maybe he won’t face the same fate than the “sportsman” agent, who was hanged upside down by Blofeld in his Piz Gloria clinic. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be strange that Q would play some kind of aid on the field to James Bond.
However it is done, it’ll be interesting to see Mendes’ take on the new MI6 staff, classic but redefined and modernized.
Nicolás Suszczyk is editor of The GoldenEye Dossier.