The latest James Bond film, Skyfall, is so well liked that there’s even Oscar buzz about it. But it’s not just moviegoers who feel like they’ve entered a new era.
In the new flick, M, played by Judi Dench, argues before a parliamentary board that, because “the enemy” can be just about anybody these days, now’s really the time for some good old-fashioned espionage, James Bond-style. You know, with casual murders committed by men given a “license to kill.”
But things have changed. The old Bond skirmished with Russkies while fighting rich criminals who dreamed of destroying or ruling the world. Today’s Bond fights an ex-agent who wants to hurt the higher-ups in the spy biz who had hurt him.
In reality, it’s the U.S. President — Felix Leiter’s boss — who has the license to kill, exercising it by overseeing multiple drone programs, the practice of rendition, and a developing program called a “disposition matrix,” which aims to target people who are up-and-comers in the America-hating (and thus) terrorist game.
Many critics have noted that the recent Bond films starring the brilliant Daniel Craig have become more personal and less gadgety. Maybe that’s the way real-life spying plays in Britain (I doubt it) but from the American perspective, the current reality of drone strikes overseas, unregulated-by-law rendition tribunals, and database management geared to determining terrorist psychology is positively science-fictional.
And I don’t mean that in a good way.
This is not a Brave New World or a 1984, I realize. But it still frightens.
Indeed, for people in the targeted regions it must be pure horror. America’s ruling classes have upped the game. And we can expect to reap a . . . skyfall.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.