Fifteen years ago I called a friend at the Endeavor talent agency in Los Angeles and pitched him an evolution of Bond that I thought was inevitable.
“The Bond we need to see,” I said “isn’t just cool calm and collected, he’s sweaty, has poor digestion and experiences regular diarrhea. He’s a pale faced, raging alcoholic whose has to take us past the one liners and casual killings into a true exploration of the very demons that transformed him into 007 - the most celebrated assassin of modern times.
In fact, as one of the most important, mainstream cultural examples of the Warrior Psyche that lives inside us all, he must take the lead in acknowledging what hides underneath that hard, emotionless shell - a broken child desperately seeking revenge on his father, and the love of his mother - AKA “M”.
My friend paused.
“Honestly ... I just don’t think we’re quite ready for that, Zach” he said with a chuckle.
Undeterred, I called another friend whose parents ran the PR firm for Cerruti, the fashion company that once fitted Bond with his duds.
“Do you have a contact of someone on the writing or production team?”
“Those days are over, mate. My folks have retired, management's changed. I’ve got nothing for you.”
Hitting a dead end I dropped it, and in a way they were right. We weren’t ready for that kind of Bond in 2000, in the midst of Pierce Brosnan era. It would take another six for Daniel Craig to come along and do something that no Bond had ever done before - fall in love, have his heart broken, introspect, and frankly, enter therapy.
Did you even notice it?
In Casino Royale we see a bond more buff than he’s ever been, but also more sensitive, vulnerable. In the torture scene James gets his crotch horse whipped and screams like a ranging bull. But when has a Bond ever been humiliated like that before? This was real, and yet the pain was only skin deep.
By the end of the movie he had sworn off his career for Vespa and was planning to stop working as a hired Gun for MI5. But then she drowns and the ground is laid for Skyfall - the only Bond film to have ever won a Bafta, let alone be nominated for five academy awards. The reason? There are lots, but if you had to identify the core of Skyfall it would be its namesake - Bond’s childhood home and origin story, the very trauma that he experienced as an orphan that caused him to choose a life where he was constantly fighting to kill "evil" men and gain the love of his mother figure - “M.” Skyfall is the first Bond movie ever to open up the man and show us the wound, and trauma within.
Javier Bardiem who plays the villain is basically Bonds traumatized mirror image, a sibling orphan, and brother in arms who also projects his need of a mother onto M, who uses this power to serve her, and in so doing the national security of England. In psychological terms: M’s need fits their wound. They are willing to die, and kill for her approval. They will do anything in an attempt to fill that hole inside. Everything that is ... except heal.
When Bardiem finally captures M and holds a gun to her head with his head on the other side he almost weeps with erotic joy at the thought of ending both their lives at once. Psycho-emotionally this is Freudian and as hard core as it gets. But now having opened Pandora's box. What would be next?
In the final scene of Skyfall it seemed like business as usual for Bond. And yet I found it hard to imagine that after all the thoughtfulness that had gone in to this new chapter, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would simply go back to the way things were before.
Now that Bond had touched his original wound it had to change him, and them.
The very word meaning ghost, apparition or shadow. The film even opens with the simple words “the dead are alive.” I was astonished. Yes, the dead are alive. Not just those that we have lost that continue to live within us in memory, but in the parts of us that have been traumatized and live on in our projections and dis-empowering patters.
We repeat what we have yet to heal.
Even in the furthest reaches of current psychotherapy is Family Constellation, created by German psychotherapist Burt Hellinger, who discovered that trauma is handed down for generations from the dead to the living, until it is resolved. In the world of "systemic trans-generational therapy": those who have come before us can remain alive within us until we put them to rest.
The film opens in Mexico on the day of the dead, and we are beginning to understand that Bond is truly beginning his journey to integrate his dead, his past, and become comfortable with what what death really is. No Bond has ever done this before. No bond has truly understood what it is to kill, to die, to take life. In Spectre, this is addressed in several ways.
Firstly this Bond Villain isn’t just an enemy outside, but an enemy inside. The script does a wonderful job of subtly suggesting that this Spectre, this "shadow" is the real demon within us all. They say "Spectre is everywhere. When you kiss your children at night, when you hold your wife close, he is always with you, there is no escaping him.” This darkness is the darkness that we all have inside of us if we have been traumatized, and we have all been traumatized, in one way or another. It is the human condition.
When Bond finally meets Blowfeld (the Spectre) he asks Bond: “Why are you here?” just as your trauma might ask why you have decided to enter therapy and face it head on. Bond says: “To kill you,” and isn’t this always what the novice of therapy enters the process thinking? That we will eradicate our pain, "defeat" our suffering, "destroy" our wounds?
Blowfeld responds perfectly: “and I thought you came here to die.”
To which Bond says: “I guess its all a question of perspective.”
What beautiful lines.
In therapy we heal by re-integrating the parts of us that have been broken. We re-integrate that which has been fragmented and in so doing transform ourselves into something new. We die and are reborn. We can't kill trauma. We can't destroy it. We can only change our relationship to it by bringing it close to us and embracing it with a greater developmental capacity, which is exactly what Bond does. He doesn't kill Blowfeld at the end of the film with his gun to his head and the hammer pulled back. He allows him to be integrated into a more sophisticated system. He allows him to be "arrested." And how many Bonds have done that? How many Bonds have understood that attempting to destroy evil (or trauma) only makes it stronger?
I can’t think of a single one.
A Different Kind of Hero
In perhaps the most charged moment of the movie, the heroine played by Lea Sedoux is told to watch a film of her father talking with Bond who we know will commit suicide. Bond goes berserk. It's amazing.
The character can keep his cool in the midst of danger a hundred times over and yet here, in a moment in which he knows that deep trauma is going to be enacted upon the women he loves, he does everything in his power to stop her from watching.
“Look at me, look at me!!” he shouts, and she does, turning with tears in her eyes to stare at Bond as he holds her gaze while she listens to her father shooting himself in the head. It is by far the most emotionally complex moment I have ever seen in a Bond movie. So thank you Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson for this honest, authentic no holds barred approach to drama. It's what so many of us have been waiting for.
And of course, who is this woman who captures James heart?
Who do they offer Daniel Craig on his last mission as Bond?
A woman who has killed, who knows how to use a gun, who is a doctor and understands illness. Who asks him when they meet - “Is this the life you always wanted? Always in the shadows? Always looking over your shoulder?”
Bond’s response - “I never stop to think about it,”
To which she offers the perfect transcendent punch.
“What will happen if you do?”
“Stop?” he asks.
“Yes,” she replies.
“I don’t know.”
Did you just get that?
Sure Bond is being invited to relax with her into a more quiet life but underneath this he, like all pure men of action, is having his ultimate weakness pointed out.
The inability to just be.
That’s right, 007 practically just got invited to meditate.
As Sedoux falls asleep talking to Bond she say “I see two you,”and its clear that the script writers weren't simply trying to give her a meaningless drunken line signifying that she was so hosed she saw double.
The line comes across with such intentional ambiguity that you could be forgiven for seeing it as a conceit for duality and a prod at the possibility of self integration. A statement from the divine feminine peering into the soul of a fractured masculine in the midst of a prophetic reverie. Her words, the words of all conscious women to men today, are the same:
Heal Your Self.
A Challenge To All Those On A Modern Hero Quest
It's easy to forget that when we watch a Bond movie we’re looking at a reflection of ourselves, particularly as men. Bond, like all hero’s of popular culture is a story of ourselves that we are telling ourselves. The power and longevity of these heros is almost entirely determined by the degree to which they remain resonant with our reality, by the extent to which they accurately reflect where we are in our own evolution. The moment their story is no longer in sync, it fails to connect, and we switch off.
But when it follows us on our journey and changes with the times then we keep returning to it over and over again, as if glancing into the mirror constantly asking who am I now, who am I now?
Today Bond, like so many men has finally begun looking inward. He is finally removing the mask, and beginning what is one of the most courageous journeys facing modern men today - the journey to heal.