The James “007” Bond franchise has been around for 20 years, since its first instalment, “Goldeneye”, was released to rave reviews in 1995. Most critics and fans of the franchise agree, no Bond film will ever top “Goldeneye”, and to date, in terms of quality as cinema, no Bond film has.
However, the action franchise’s political significance has long been noted. When “Goldeneye” came out, the Cold War had ended, and the last socialist state, Albania, had fallen. Communism had been relegated to “the dustbin of history” in the popular consciousness, and “Goldeneye” encapsulated this Zeitgeist. “Goldeneye”, which took place largely in the new Russia, was filled with moments in which Russian characters would stop James Bond in the street during chase scenes and expound at length about their appreciation for the work of Milton Friedman, heightening the tension of the chase as Bond would struggle to simultaneously agree and evade the henchmen of the ghost of Stalin who were pursuing him. In the film’s climax, James Bond and a woman named “Svetlana Freemarket” make passionate love atop a fallen statue of Lenin while agreeing that communism is good in THEORY, but doesn’t work in the real world.
Twenty years on, and the world has changed. The mood since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis has been one of increased awareness of some of the contradictions of global capitalism, which James Bond famously declared “the end of history” during pillow talk with one of his conquests in the 2006 film “Casino Royale”. As a result, if one digs beneath the surface, this latest installment is filled with subtle references to capitalism and its failings.
The character of Lucia Sciarra, played by Monica Belluci, is a prime example. Daniel Craig’s Bond beds her in the hope of gaining important information for his mission, only to abandon her immediately. This callous approach to women, of using them and discarding them, mirrors the exploitation of the working class which, like the commodification of the female body, is ubiquitous in class society.
The film’s own title, “Spectre”, is widely held to be a reference to the opening lines of the Communist Manifesto. But they’re the bad guys, and the “spectre” in the Communist Manifesto is communism… Well so really, if you dig deeper, Spectre are the good guys, and the film is about James Bond realising that he has been a mere pawn of British imperialism, while the communists, who are being resurrected before his eyes, are the real heroes. And when Blofeld says to him, “everything you believed in, a ruin”, he’s referring to Bond’s faith in global capitalism, which, now that it is unchecked, with the Soviet Union gone and Albania a bourgeois state and the Chinese revisionists presiding over undeniable social imperialism, everything should be developing better and the world should be entering a new golden age, but NO. Crises, wars, apartheid, the world is crumbling and James Bond’s precious British values are revealed for the façade they always were.
There are also several scenes where cars crash. Each of these represents a market crashing as capitalism lurches from crisis to crisis.
The end of the film is a metaphor for the end of capitalism: Just as you think “Spectre” is going to end, it keeps going, but then just when you think it’s never going to end, it finally ends.