Today we have, finally, reached that moment, the day when 007(x3) Weeks of 007 gets to the last Sean Connery film. Okay, we might do “Never Say Never Again” as a bonus entry if we have time, but for now “Diamonds are Forever” is the end of the Connery journey.
Let me start by saying this – as you may recall I was a little tired of the Sean Connery entries by the time we got to “You Only Live Twice.” I believe I said that while it was good, it was approaching formulaic. Well, after taking a few years and one movie off, Connery comes back to the role for “Diamonds are Forever” and puts in one of his best performances.
This is a very different James Bond than the guy we see in “Dr. No” or “From Russia with Love.” Connery is much more laid back here than he is early on, comfortable in his own skin. While one could argue that in some of the other films Bond is putting on airs (the line about drinking champagne at the right temperature in “Goldfinger”), here he is angry and ready to get down to business. He might still know crazy things—like when he discusses the sherry—but it comes off as slightly more jocular here. It isn’t that this James Bond doesn’t know about the world, he does, but he’s more willing to just know that he knows without needing to constantly prove it. Some of this change has to be Connery coming at it from a different place, with a different set of expectations, but whatever the reason, it works.
The other thing I think is great here is that Blofeld’s plot is hidden for much of the movie. We know that he’s doing something with diamonds, but we don’t know what and we don’t know why. We are 90 minutes into the film before the reveal, and to me that’s incredible. This isn’t one of those setups where the ransom note comes early and then Bond is tracking stuff down, it’s just him following diamonds as a relatively small assignment for much of the movie. It is almost a reset for the Connery films which had gotten bigger and bigger and bigger.
If Connery could have done more Bond films like this one after “Diamonds are Forever” it could have been fantastic. That being said, I’d argue that it’s not possible to continue in this vein. I think we’ll find as we continue watching the movies that the longer someone plays Bond, the more the movies feel the need to ratchet things up, to keep going bigger and bigger in order to keep them fresh. It happens with Connery and I know it happens with Brosnan (see: the Aston Martin Vanished). I will certainly be watching for it as we get into Moore and “Spectre” with the reintroduction of Bond’s big bad following on the heels of “Skyfall” bringing back every classic Bond trope that hadn’t come back in “Quantum of Solace” or hadn’t disappeared in the first place with “Casino Royale” could very well be headed that way.
You know what does bother me here? The way Bond deals with Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint. I love them as henchmen, I think they offer a sort of humorous cruelty we haven’t seen yet from an Oddjob or Grant. Their wordplay is fantastic and it just keeps going no matter how many people they kill. Some might argue that Bond referring to them as “tarts” or disparaging their orientation in other ways was accepted at that time, but it still rubs me the wrong way. It seems unnecessary, like an off the cuff remark made because someone thought it was funny.
Some of the earlier Bond movies feature women saying “no” only to relent to Bond when he presses, and that made me uncomfortable as well. Thankfully, we’ve moved away from that… at least we have for the last few movies.
Again, someone will argue “acceptable at the time,” but it shouldn’t have been and, quite honestly, it hurts me to see Bond act boorish. I love this character. I love his escapades. I love his longevity. I wouldn’t be writing these articles if I didn’t, and I cringe when he goes down one of these paths. Bond can have an edge and be a dangerous man with a terribly dark side—a man men want to be and women want to be with—without being homophobic or racist or misogynistic.
What a terrible note on which to end our discussion of Connery and his time as 007. And yet, as much as I love the movies, it’s a part of them that is awful and needs to be considered.
007(x3) Weeks of 007 will return with “Live and Let Die” as James Bond looks different again as Roger Moore steps into the role.
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment