James Bond as a lone operator

He was used to oblique control and rather liked it. He felt it feather bedded him a little, allowed him to give or take an hour or two in his communications with M.
(Ian Fleming, Casino Royale: Chapter 1 – The Secret Agent)

One of the issues I have with the more recent James bond films, say since Goldeneye onwards, is now rather than 007 operating as a lone agent out on his mission – just like in the books – he instead has come to rely upon his boss, M, much too often.

Although we still have a few months to wait until Skyfall, every sign is that it is being set up so that M has one of her biggest roles yet, if not the biggest. Of course, in The World Is Not Enough she had a big part after being kidnapped and held in Turkey.

This time round it appears from the trailer that the loss of a hard drive puts a number of agents at risk, including 007, and that makes her central to the story.

I was rereading Casino Royale again the other day and noted that Ian Fleming wrotea few paragraphs about how Bond is controlled through Jamaica. Ian Fleming would have had inside knowledge about how these things worked but it’s curious to note that it is the only one of the books that this kind of oblique control is mentioned.

Ian Fleming also goes on to tell us that James Bond likes to work alone, and when M tells Bond that he’ll send someone to work with him in the field and lend a hand, Bond is unhappy; doubly so when he learns that his assistant is a female agent, Vesper Lynd.

All the early James Bond films followed the pattern of the books in which he was a sole agent, sometimes accompanied by his CIA buddy Felix Leiter, and also with the assistance of the Japanese Secret Service on one occasion in You Only Live Twice.

However, since Judi Dench took over her role has become larger and larger, to the extent that both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace see her in the field, and the evidence of the Skyfall trailer is that she is involved in tactical decisions (“Take the bloody shot”, she appears to urge Naomie Harris at one point) and the plot revolves around her.

There have been rumours about whether Judi Dench will reprise her role in Bond 24 or not; if not, I would like to see a return to the classic style mission with Bond once more on his own.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

Free monthly newsletter

Get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.

No thanks, I'm not interested in news about 007

Share this article

Like this article? Join our free 007 newsletter and get the latest on Bond 26 and other James Bond news by email.

3 Responses to “James Bond as a lone operator”

  • Michael Ottesen


  • Michael Ottesen


  • John Sinclair

    I totally agree. In the books, Bond worked alone. He had friends, Bill Tanner at the office, Felix Leiter, but they were not close friends. He had a circle of gambling and golf acquaintances, not friends. He saw more of his “treasured Scottish housekeeper” May than anybody else.