Sean Connery (August 25, 1930 – October 31, 2020) was the ultimate British super-spy of film. His last Bond movie, Never Say Never Again, was in 1983. Many actors have tried to emulate 007 of the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom, known as MI6. But it was never easy for them to capture Connery’s grace under pressure, savoir-faire, and command of champagne, shaken not stirred martinis, caviar, and foie gras – whilst toting a sleek Walter PPK chambered in 7.65 mm in a Berns-Martin holster. The protector of the postwar Anglo-American axis of goodness, Bond thwarted archfiends, non-state actors who sought world dominion by causing the United States and Soviet Union to destroy each other, and unaffiliated wackos who wanted to destroy the Earth with nerve gas or wipe out Silicon Valley.
Roger Moore, who succeeded Connery, did a decent job of fighting for Queen and country, although at times he came across as too pretty for the rough business of taking out world-class villains from the Greek Islands (For Your Eyes Only) to the jungles of Brazil (Moonraker). Moore’s tailor also gave him a 1970s look reminiscent of a bandleader, rather than the immutable style of Jermyn Street’s Turnbull and Asser and Savile Row.
Timothy Dalton, an accomplished actor, projected a more gentle, delicate and caring Bond, a good listening Bond, in The Living Daylights. He too, did not seem tough enough to rub up against the KGB in Bratislava or chase drug lords in the Florida Keys (License to Kill).
Pierce Brosnan brought back the sense of cynicism and heroic daring, with a spirited sense of Englishness. Effective at taking out a Soviet electromagnetic pulsed weapon (Golden Eye) and stopping a media baron who wants to provoke war between China and the UK (Tomorrow Never Dies), Brosnan still did not have the commanding presence of Connery.
Daniel Craig seems to be a polarizing Bond; but his films such as Skyfall and Spectre have resulted in an ardent group of followers. Surly, and without Connery’s polish and sense of humor, Craig seems to not like his job with MI6. But his tight-fitting suits and slightly spiked hair could appeal to a younger generation. Craig is a hands-on Double-0 operative, who seems to yearn for a good dust-up. As I have written in these pages, with grime and blood on his face, he is not the epitome of a debonair secret agent.
Besides comparing Connery to his successors, we must also assess the values that Bond embodied versus those of our time. First, until Daniel Craig, there was a distinct sense of working for Queen and country. Not so today. Self is very much above service. With so many consumer products with an “i” in front of them, the focus is on empowerment of the individual and not on the body politic.
Bond, too, was patriotic, yet now patriotism is mocked by the Left.
Second, Bond is an example of perseverance and fighting the good fight. But today, there is an overwhelming sense of entitlement and cutting to the chase. Why bother to understand long division when you can use a calculator? Why bother to read Aristotle’s Poetics or Homer’s Odyssey when with a few clicks you can get the essence on Wikipedia and be an immediate expert on the classics?
Third, the world of Bond, especially Connery’s Bond, was fundamentally bipolar. Today we have witnessed a proliferation of adversaries besides Russia, once part of the Soviet Union: Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran, China, and North Korea have joined the tapestry of forces aligned against the West and Israel. Not only that, there was a clear mandate for good to take out evil — a dualistic or Manichaean approach. Not so today, where the fascination is with the anti-hero.
There will never be another Connery. Sadly, we must say, “Goodbye, Mr. Bond.”
Frank Schell is a business strategy consultant and former senior vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He was a Lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago and is a contributor of opinion pieces to various journals.