Tag Archives: Judi Dench

Bond, James Bond PT 5: M Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, Dame Judi Dench

9 Apr

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“He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

 

M is a fictional character in Ian Fleming’s Bond books  and film franchise; the character is the Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service also known as MI6. Fleming based the character on a number of people he knew who commanded sections of British intelligence. M has appeared in the novels by Fleming and seven continuation authors, as well as appearing in twenty-four films.

In the EON Productions, Albert R. Broccoli produced, Bond films, M has been portrayed by four actors: Bernard Lee, Robert Brown, dame Judi Dench and Ralph Finnes, who is the current incumbent; in two independent productions, M has been played by John Huston and Edward Fox.

Fleming based much of M’s character on Rear Admiral, John Godfrey, who was Fleming’s superior at the Naval Intelligence Division during WWII. After Fleming’s death, Godfrey complained “He turned me into that unsavory character, M.”

Fleming’s third Bond novel, Moonraker, establishes M’s initials as “M**** M*******” and his first name is subsequently revealed to be Miles. In the final novel of the series, The Man with The Golden Gun, M’s full identity is revealed as Vice Admiral Sir Miles Messervy KCMG;Messervy had been appointed to head of MI6 after his predecessor had been assassinated at his desk.

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Bernard Lee: 1962–79

M was played by Bernard Lee from the first Bond film, Dr. No, until Moonraker, (1979). In Dr. No, M refers to his record of reducing the number of operative casualties since taking the job, implying someone else held the job recently before him. The film also saw M refer to himself as head of MI7; Lee had originally said MI6, but was overdubbed with the name MI7 prior to the film’s release. Earlier in the film, the department had been referred to as MI6 by a radio operator.

A number of Bond scholars have noted the Lee’s interpretation of the character was in line with the original literary representation; John Cork and Collin Stutz observed that Lee was “very close to Fleming’s version of the character”, whilst Steven Jay Rubin commented on the serious, efficient, no-nonsense authority figure. Smith and Lavington, meanwhile, remarked that Lee was “the very incarnation of Fleming’s crusty admiral.”

Lee died of cancer in January 1981, four months into the filming of For Your eyes Only and before any of his scene s could be filmed. Out of respect, no new actor was hired to assume the role and, instead, the script was re-written so that the character is said to be on leave, with his lines given to either his Chief of Staff Bill Tanner or the Minister of Defence, Sir Fredrick Gray. Later films referred to Lee’s tenure as head of the service, with a painting of him as M in MI6’s Scottish headquarters during the 1999 installment, The World Is Not Enough.

 

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Robert Brown: 1983–89

After Lee’s death in 1981, the producers hired actor Robert Brown to play M in Octopussy. Brown had previously played Admiral Hargreaves, in the 1977 film, The Spy Who Loved Me. Bond scholars Rubin,  Cork, and  Stutz all consider Admiral Hargreaves would have been promoted to the role of M, rather than Brown playing a different character as M.

Pfeiffer and Worrall considered that whilst Brown looks perfect, the role had been softened from that of Lee; they also considered him “far too avuncular”, although in License to Kill they remarked that he came across as being very effective as he removed Bond’s double o license. Bond book series continuation author Raymond Benson agrees, noting that the M role was “once again under written, and Brown is not allowed the opportunity to explore and reveal his character traits”; Benson also considered the character to be “too nice”.

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Dame Judi Dench: 1995–2012

After the long period between Licence to Kill and Goldeneye, the producers brought in Dame Judi Dench to take over as the new M. The character is based on Stella Rimington, the real-life head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996. For GoldenEye, M is cold, blunt and unabashedly dislikes Bond, whom she calls a “sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic of the Cold War.” Tanner, her Chief of Staff, refers to her during the film as “the Evil Queen of Numbers”, given her reputation at that stage for relying on statistics and analysis rather than impulse and initiative.

Dench continued playing M for the 2006 film Casino Royale, which rebooted the series with Daniel Craig playing Bond. In this new continuity, M has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, “Christ, I miss the Cold War”. Her ability to run the Secret Service has been questioned several times; in Casino Royale, she was the subject of a review when Bond was caught shooting an unarmed prisoner on camera; in Quantum of Solace, the Foreign Secretary ordered her to personally withdraw Bond from the field in Bolivia and to stop any investigations into Dominic Greene, the villain of the film; and in Skyfall, she is the subject of a public inquiry when MI6 loses a computer hard drive containing the identities of undercover agents around the world. Skyfall marks Dench’s final appearance as M. Her character becomes the target of the film’s villain, Raoul Silva, over a perceived betrayal. She is shot and killed during the climax of the film, making Judi Dench’s M the only M to be killed in the Eon Bond films.

There have also been brief references to M’s family: in GoldenEye, she responds to Tanner’s “Evil Queen of Numbers” jibe by telling him that when she wants to hear sarcasm she will listen to her children. Quantum of Solace director Marc Forter suggested that Dench’s casting gave the character maternal overtones in her relationship with Bond, overtones made overt in Skyfall, in which Silva repeatedly refers to her as “Mother” and “Mommy”. In Skyfall she is also revealed to be a widow.

Unlike the other actors to play M, Dench’s character was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name “Olivia Mansfield”. As the character was never directly referred to by this name, it still may be a mystery.

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SKYFALL

9 Nov

Synopsis:   Bond: Everyone should have a hobby. Silva: What’s yours?  Bond: Mine is resurrection.

Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

CAST

Daniel Craig………………………………….Bond, James Bond

Judy Dench…………………………………………………………M

Javier Bardem………………………………………………….Silva

Ralph Fiennes…………………………………..Gareth Mallory

Naomie Harris……………………………………………………Eve

Bernice Marlohe………………………………………….Severine

Albert Finney………………………………………………Kincaide

Ben Whishaw…………………………………………………………Q

Helen McCrorey……………………………………….Clair Dowar

Nicholas Woodson…………………………………………..Dr. Hall

Review: Bond is back in his 23rd outing and better than ever. Sam Mendes has directed what is possibly the best Bond film in the franchise. This tightly knit thriller, starring Daniel Craig in his third Bond film, tells the story of a vendetta against M, played by a brilliant Judy Dench. The story opens not with the typical camera iris but instead right in the middle of the action. The screen is unfocused and suddenly the shadow of Bond appears walking forward and into focus. Bond is chasing after his enemy, in Budapest, who has stolen a hard drive from MI6 agents. The hard drive contains all the names and covers for all the MI6 agents world wide. M is following Bond from headquarters through the use of satellite and we see Bond with an ear gadget listening to M as she gives orders as to what to do.  Helping Bond is agent Eve, played by Naomie Harris . After a thrilling chase through a marketplace, many fruit stands turned upside down, Bond finds himself atop a train fighting with the guy who has the hard drive on a chain around his neck. Eve, in a jeep, catches up with the train before it enters a tunnel and has one chance to shoot the guy. She tells M that she may shoot Bond, Bond is literally holding the guy by his neck. She only has a second before the train enters a tunnel, M tells her to shoot the bloody gun, she does, Bond, shot, falls from the train.  Cut to M writing Bond’s obituary.

The title sequence that follows is a feast for the eyes and as with any Bond film outdoes the previous versions. The cornucopia of images of Bond and naked “Bond Girls” tells a chilling story of Bond’s death and resurrection.

The Prime Minister of England is unhappy with M and wants her replaced. Ralph Fiennes plays Gareth Mallory, the man  sent by the Prime Minister to oversee M’s retirement and transition. She will have nothing to do with it until she finds out who stole the hard drive and she gets it back. Who ever stole it, hacks into MI6’s computer network, sends M encrypted messages and blows up M’s office at MI6 Headquarters. M standing in front of the flag draped coffins of her colleagues swear she will find out who did this.

Bond, who is not dead, a has been cavorting on some Caribbean Island. When he hears the news of MI6 headquarters being hit, he returns to England and hides in M’s apartment. She finds him there and asks: “James what took you so long?”  Bond finds his world turned upside down as he comes back to MI6 and must compete with younger agents, Q is a 20 something geek, gadgets like exploding pens are considered dinosaurs, and a Prime Minister who feels the old school spy game needs to be eliminated.

Javier Bardem plays the villain Silva, he is not over the top but creepy from the inside out. His character is demented and psychologically damaged, and wants M dead. He is one of the most convincingly real villains in the Bond franchise.

So who is Silva and why does he want to kill M?  What is SKYFALL and how does it relate to Bond?  Will there be a transition of power at MI6?  What about the hard-drive?

There are plenty tips of the hat to the entire Bond series, musical cues, Q’s new take on old gadgets, the old gun in the headlights, Aston Martin makes a cameo much to the pleasure of the audience, we find there is a new Moneypenny in a very clever way and finally the camera iris dripping blood at the end credits.  The film takes us full circle.  Daniel Craig has finally made the Bond character his own, and it is exciting to watch him go from gruff and unshaven to suave and witty.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that is among the best films of the year. Look for the Martini being shaken……

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