The Way of the Gun

On tour in Europe recently, I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t go see Skyfall right away. Mark Turner and I joked about it: “Get us off this great tour with the magnificent Billy Hart, we want to get home and watch Skyfall!” Of course, we knew that it was just a James Bond movie, with all the obligatory aesthetic frailties. But as American males, we’ve been trained since birth to take in the latest 007 on the big screen. That seems like a harmless enough pastime, right?

When I got home I did my duty. Skyfall’s OK. Not bad, I like to watch Daniel Craig, but certainly there is too much money invested in these frivolities. Goldfinger’s budget was about 23 million in today’s dollars. Skyfall cost over 150 million. There’s got to be a better way to spend that kind of dough.

And I don’t like how the dead bodies keep piling up without any emotional consequence. Watching Skyfall is like being in a shooting gallery. Modern movie villains are dwindling to simple terrorists or serial killers. Killing not for money or power, but just to kill -- or even just to burn up some ammo.

The scene where Silva and henchmen go in to shoot M and the Prime Minister just felt wrong. What’s Silva doing, exactly? In terms of motivation, Silva’s more like Hannibal Lecter than Ernst Stavro Blofeld. But at least Lecter would never have had a Glock 17. (For that matter, Blofeld wouldn’t have had one, either!) Walking into a public building in order to mow down a bunch of people lacks classy villainous charisma. It’s more like a video game, or real life.

The chilling “Mass Shooting In the U.S.” graphic at the NY Times reminded me of a bit from the fourth Bond book, Diamonds Are Forever.

James Bond shut the door of M's office behind him. He smiled into the warm brown eyes of Miss Moneypenny and walked across her office into the Chief of Staff's room.

The Chief of Staff, a lean relaxed man of about Bond's age, put down his pen and sat back in his chair. He watched as Bond automatically reached for the flat gun-metal cigarette case in his hip pocket and walked over to the open window and looked down on to Regent's Park.


Through the smoke, his eyes looked very directly at the Chief of Staff. "But just tell me this, Bill. Why's the old man got cold feet about this job? He's even looked up the results of my last medical. What's he so worried about? It's not as if this was Iron Curtain business. America's a civilized country. More or less. What's eating him?"

(... )

The Chief of Staff paused. He looked impatiently up at the tall figure in the dark blue single-breasted suit and into the obstinate eyes in the lean, brown face. "Perhaps you haven't read the FBI Report on American Crime for this year. Interesting. Just thirty-four murders every day. Nearly 150,000 Americans criminally killed in the last twenty years." Bond looked incredulous. "It's a fact, damn you. Get hold of these Reports and see for yourself. And that's why M wanted to make sure you were fit before he put you into the pipeline."

Funny to think of M being worried about the safety of his star agent on American streets in 1956!

Of course, I am for gun control. There are too many guns around, period. One can only hope Sandy Hook will help put a leash on the NRA.

But it’s not only the gun lobby we need to ask questions of. The steady escalation of gratuitous violence in mass-market entertainment surely helps makes us numb to how serious guns really are.


The many firearms of Skyfall.



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