Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond inadvertently gives us a glimpse at what 007’s email inbox looks like – and here’s what we learned.
Spoilers lie ahead for Casino Royale (2006)
Over the weekend, I’ve been going back to the very start of Daniel Craig’s tenure as James Bond 007, with a film I rank amongst the very best in the saga: 2006’s Casino Royale. I can report that it still stands up too, that the back end of the final act is the only bit that I feel lets the air out a little, but that other than that, it’s terrific.
It’s also a film that was pivotal around the consumer launch of the Blu-ray format, as it became a test of sorts as to whether we the buying public would buy higher definition versions of films. The answer: we will, but with DVD still by distance the best-selling physical media format, we just won’t purchase as many of the buggers. Nonetheless, HD home viewing had arrived.
Still, lots of us buy our films at higher definitions now and in fact Casino Royale has since appeared on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. As such, this is wonderful for the pedants in the audience, or those who edit a website with a habit for over-analysing things. Yep, I’m the person who uses high definition to examine the text in the newspapers we see in films and things like that. Not with a desire to punch down or anything, more I think it’s just fun. There’s just that combination of one thing we’ve always had at home – the pause button – with greater picture clarity than ever before. It’s a deadly match when maturity is not a strong trait of yours.
And it was with this in mind that I got to the final 20 minutes or so of Casino Royale, utterly engrossed. We’re going into spoiler territory here, and if you’re not familiar with the conclusion, I’d advise you to check out now, with an apology for taking up your time. For those sticking around, I can’t promise it’s going to get any better. But hey, at least I’m not knackering the end of the film for you.
Right then. Come the final movement of the movie, Daniel Craig’s Bond is very much in love with Eva Green’s Vesper. So much so that, just under two hours after he got given double-0 status, he decides to jack it all in and sail around the world instead. One problem: he’s just got to hand in his notice. Presumably his contract has something along the lines of at least two months notice with a bit of accrued holiday to take into account. Thus, he fires up a laptop as he floats on his boat, and sends the following…
Now I’ve got a real soft spot for email screens in films. It’s often criticised in movies that every key stroke or character appearing on a computer screen has to have a little noise or something, even though I’ve not owned one that’s done that since the Sinclair Spectrum in the 1980s.
That notwithstanding, how do you make interesting someone tapping an email on a computer? To get across the core information as you do so? Heck, I’m sat half-naked bashing this out to get it ready in time, and be assured an interesting sight it is not.
Film production people thus create computer software interfaces that usually bare little resemblance to what we know – 1994’s Disclosure is my favourite, where every arrival of an email is marked with the subtlety of a brass band walking past the camera in fancy dress.
With Bond though, and Casino Royale in particular, this needs to at least feel realistic. Frills, thus, are in short supply, and thus we get 007’s email composition window. Note for anyone looking over Bond’s shoulder that there’s a thoughtful confidentially warning, that absolutely will send their attention elsewhere.
Note that this is where Bond sends the email. Even in 2006, satellite wireless internet rocked…
But then – and I offer the production team my personal thanks – we hold on the screen and see what Bond’s inbox looks like. And it got me thinking that in an era where we’re getting origin story productions of a character from Scooby Doo, there might be a whole spin-off hiding in this window. Take a look…
I feel their pain here, I should say from the off.
If you put an email address or telephone number in a film, especially a Bond movie that’s hardly going to be shy of eyeballs, there’s going to be some git somewhere – I thank you – who will give it a try. Thus, you can hardly put a mix of real domain names in there. And as you can see, they didn’t.
Nonetheless, it gives us some added backstory, and it’d be a shame not to dig into it. It’s the bloody internet after all.
Interestingly, on the day Bond formalised his decision to quit, we see he’d already sent nine other emails, presumably on that boat whilst sitting alongside Vesper. Floating along, note that he put a request for stationary (sic) in there, as well as sending an untitled mail to Anne Bennett. I don’t know who she is either.
What, then, was 007 up to? I’ve got a few working theories.
1. He was hacked off with his job, and thus decided – before he left – to take advantage of one of the perks.
Those of us who have been in jobs where the pay cheque didn’t marry up to the way people should be treated may be familiar with the age-old tactic of getting some fresh stationery from the cupboard just before you quit the job. That’s just what 007 was doing. Some of those nice pens you only tend to get when someone else had paid for them and a couple of jotter pads are bound to come in useful.
Given the track record of this site, I’m not going to make any kind of deal of the typo in the word ‘stationery’ though. Top tip that someone taught me to get this right: e is for envelope. Never forgotten it since. Anyway, back to the matter in hand.
UPDATE: I’m indebted to Mark Harrison for reminding me that in Quantum Of Solace, Bond asks Gemma Arterton for stationery! The man’s obsessed!
2. The email front end is designed to look ordinary and throw people off the scent.
I’m giving MI6 the benefit of the doubt here though, as it doesn’t look ordinary and nor would it throw anyone off the scene.
For a start, if you’re going to hide what a secret agent is up to, it seems odd to allow a single entry to M and MI6 HQ. One with ‘resignation’ in the header, sat amongst David Hicks banging on about security and whoever J M Director is circulating one of those no-doubt motivational management updates. Bottom line: it sticks out like a sore thumb. The rest of it though could all be codewords for really clever stuff from Q or something, but I’ve already undermined this argument by the time I got to this sentence.
3. It’s all a subtle statement about the gig economy.
After all this time, here’s the compelling evidence that James Bond in the modern era doesn’t work for the British government at all. Well, not directly anyway.
Instead, in a no-doubt above board tendering process where mates of politicians didn’t get to jump to the front of the queue, the contract to oversee the double-0 programme was outsourced to a firm called The Net. Oh sure, Bond still works for M as his MI6 contact, but the name on his paycheque isn’t the government. No, MI6 has followed the school dinner provision model. Outsource the work, lay off the staff, get the new company to re-employ the old staff with different employment rights. Modern Bond, modern Britain.
4. He’s like my dad using a computer.
Hugely clever man my dad, but good grief, if his printer conks out he regresses before my eyes. Now Bond has tech skills – or at least knows a teenager who can do the work for him – as he hacks into M’s account in Casino Royale (although in theory, her webmail may be as vulnerable if she’s been outsourced too). But still, the nature of some of these emails is perfunctory at best. Understandable. He’d rather be drinking Martinis and recovering from having his knackers whacked by Le Chiffre.
5. Straw clutching #1
This mystery company, ‘TheNet.com’, is a tip of the hat to a film a decade prior that also may have played a little liberal with the way email works.
6. Straw clutching #2
The domain name ‘TheNet.com’ was cheap. Although it’s been owned by the same anonymous registrant since 1994 – Blofeld, is that you? – and its website currently looks like this…
7. Meanwhile, back on Earth
One last theory. Maybe this was all put together in the forlorn hope that it wouldn’t inspire someone 15 years later to examine the screen and come up with 1400 words on it all (inv enc). All Plausible, but if that’s the case, I’ve foiled you, Mr Bond.
Casino Royale is of course available on lots of different formats if you want to ruffle through Bond’s inbox yourself. Just be careful if you, a few days later, get an odd email off TheNet…
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