Monday, October 29, 2012

Skyleaks? or Dye Another Day

Like most the UK, Pangloss went to see the new Bond flick Skyfall at the weekend. It's still a right rollicking ride, hugely enjoyable and proudly British, and Pangloss loved most of it (especially the reference to the A9 as a major highway which made most of  an Edinburgh audience collapse in laughter).  I could have done without quite so references to Bond getting on, being an old dog etc. as Mr Craig is quite plainly fitter than a very fit fiddle and all he needs to do is put a bit of Grecian 2000 on those grey chest hairs. But that's not why I'm writing this blog (though it would be nice to explore the very odd showdown between Bond and Javier Bardem, the homoerotic nature of Bond passim and the wonderfully deconstructive implication that 007 is no stranger to the Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name. But anyway.).

No the major  interest for IT lawyers in the new Bond is almost certainly that the villain is Julian Assange. Yes, really.  When we first meet "Mr Silva", he is in a room surrounded by computer servers, lecturing Bond (tied appealingly to a chair, though sadly with more clothes on than in Casino Royale)  on how running-around espionage is passe and how he can destroy governments, change the world and topple regimes from his own desk by use of computer technology. Later on his master plan involves stealing a list of all Western intelligence agents and leaking them, 5 at a time, to the Internet. Finally, Javier Bardem, the actor portraying our digital dissident, has naturally black hair but for purposes of film is dyed Boris Johnson blonde.  Clearly, Silva = Assange and I am not the only person to have thought this by any means.

What fewer of the mainstream film review columns have referred to is the rather disturbing pro-secrecy  agenda of the film connected to the threat posed by Silva/Assange. Well, you say as one, it's a film about a secret agent , what did you expect, The Audacity of Hope? Well indeed, and certainly Sam Mendes the director seems a thoughtful man not some Cameronian stooge. But as the Guardian Comment is Free column does note, Bond always reflects the cultural zeitgest, and its villains even more so: and setting up in opposition, James Bond, recently seen jumping out of a helicopter with the Queen, and M/Judi Dench , best known for portraying various Queens of England ,  against the deadly threat to freedom of justice of Wikileaks, is certainly an interesting spectacle for the average liberal  Internet commentator.

Having picked Wikileaks as the villain though, what is even more interesting is the completely Homeland  approach the film then takes to the security services. Topically, the film's semi-climactic scene centres on Judi Dench as M defending MI6 at a Parliamentary Hearing, as not an outdated boy's game but a still relevant essential service . Under fire, M/the Queen says (I paraphrase slightly): "Who needs all this openneess, transparency and accountability lark? There are terrorists out there who are more invisible than Reds under the bed! They don;t even have the decency these days to come from an actual country we can nuke from orbit, damnit!  So why would you rather feel safe and trust us, the guys that know stuff, or have all these pesky civil liberties and judicial enquiries?? "

The subsequent shoot out in the House of Commons in which the MP i/c MI5 (hunky Rafe Fiennes)  throws away his Rules of Order, pulls out a gun and turns into the Sundance Kid to Bond's Butch Cassidy subsequently  proves (of course )that M is  right.

All this seems mightily topical at the time that the Communications Data Bill is itself heading for that big shoot out in Parliamentary committee land. Much has been made of the Bond franchise's recent penchant for product placement. Heineken has been cited this time round as the major customer, with a bottle perched prominently on Daniel's magnificant (if slightly greying) chest in one scene. But wouldn't it be funny if a few used notes had also passed hands  for a certain government department - delivered perhaps in rain-mac and dark sunglasses by Theresa May?? :-)

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