“I’m the money.” “Every penny of it.”
Bond Girls are an institution. Beloved, envied, and expected in each new installment, they’re a crucial part of the long-standing formula. Do the ladies of the modern era stand up to the likes of Tracy and Octopussy? Let’s find out.
*Spoilers for all of Daniel Craig’s James Bond films so far*
Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), Casino Royale
Vesper Lynd works for Britain’s treasury department, and she’s sent to fund Bond’s poker game against Le Chiffre. She’s a dark, enigmatic beauty who is initially repelled by 007 but, of course, eventually falls for his charms. But is she all she appears to be?
Alex: Okay; I like Vesper a lot in and of herself. She’s absolutely stunning, and Eva Green is able to exude mystery from the moment she walks on screen. In fact, that first scene on the train is my favorite between her and Bond, even more so than the also great shower scene, and the two play off each other very well. However, I don’t completely buy the love story, particularly to the extent that they’re willing to throw their entire lives away for each other.
Virginia: I’ll get this out of the way right now: I’m in love with Eva Green. So there is a bit of bias in Vesper’s favor. She was perfect for this role. Her eyes look like little galaxies of mystery and she is razor sharp. I love her performance, and she looks amazing in her gowns (not too hot about her in that pant suit, though). I like her relationship with Bond, but I agree that it’s the weakest part of her character. She is introduced too late in the film, and they aren’t even friends until after the torture scene.
A: I think that’s exactly it. She and Bond don’t have enough time together to feel like they’re falling in love. Tracy, by comparison, was in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service from the beginning and they had lots of time to just focus on their growing feelings, so when he told her he loved her it felt earned and real. Vesper doesn’t have as much time with him, and much of that time is spent focusing on the mission. I think they sold their mutual attraction very well, but not love.
V: I think we’re all attracted to Eva Green, at least a little. I do like the Algerian love knot she wears. I think it’s a good visual cue that she isn’t really Bond’s, that she belongs to someone else.
A: I agree, and this movie is very good at things like that; Le Chiffre’s blood tears are another great one. It’s hard to fault the character because it’s such a great performance, but the writing fails the love story a bit.
V: I’m going to blame the beginning of the film. Not the first scene, but most of the first portion. I find a lot of it to be boring and the weaker part of the story. And there is no Vesper to be found.
A: I actually really like the beginning, but I think it’s true that her absence is part of the issue. She shows up the same way she does in the book, but the beginning of the film isn’t in the book so her arrival happens much later in the story. Unfortunately, I don’t know how they would’ve fit her in beforehand, especially with Bond’s mission. So they’re kind of damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
V: In this sense, Vesper actually works well as a first love. Sure, they think they’re in love, but the truth is that Bond is immature and Vesper is really tied to someone else. It’s still heartbreaking, just in a different way. This is all the more true in retrospect.
A: I think that’s right on.
V: She’s a rather minor character, but I just want to point out that Solange is stunning.
A: She certainly is. She seems more like a plot point, illustrating Bond’s only sleeping with women who are unavailable, like he says to Vesper later. (It would’ve been nice if they’d actually slept together, though.)
Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) and Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), Quantum of Solace
Camille Montes isn’t really a “Bond Girl” in the traditional sense of the word. She’s more of a sidekick or comrade in arms for Bond in Quantum of Solace. She shares Bond’s quest for vengeance, but she is specifically out for the head of General Medrano, who killed her family and left her to die.
Strawberry Fields is a British agent ordered to make sure Bond leaves Bolivia immediately, but it doesn’t take long for her to abandon the mission because 007 makes her weak in the knees.
V: I quite like Camille. She’s lovely, determined, smart, and I like her dynamic with Bond. They aren’t together long enough to be best friends or anything, but they are kindred spirits with a shared goal.
A: I liked her a lot too. She’s out for revenge, but she’s also clearly an amateur, so she’s kind of bad at it. If Bond didn’t show when he did, she would’ve been killed. Or, put another way, she’s got the will but not the skill.
V: It intrigues me how Camille sort of pulls a Bond-ism herself, sleeping with Dominic Greene to get information from him. At first she’s thrilled to be introduced to the general personally, but the situation isn’t going as well for her as she first believes.
A: She’s a great mirror to Bond in that way. They’re both relatively inexperienced, and they both desperately want revenge, though hers is more focused than his is. I do wish they had slept together (I’m saying this a lot about Craig’s Bond), because it feels less Bondian that they don’t, but I like the character a lot.
V: It doesn’t bother me that much. In fact, I really like that they went for a platonic relationship. That isn’t my preference in general; I just think it was an interesting choice. Not to mention, near the early-middle of this film, Bond sleeps with Strawberry Fields.
A: Fields is almost a non-entity in the film. She’s there so Bond can sleep with her and she can get killed because of his recklessness. That’s really it.
V: Although she is a minor character, I never liked Fields. She is cute, of course, but rather annoying. And I don’t like Gemma Arterton’s voice. Her death is the catalyst for M to give Bond her speech, the most she really does in this film.
M (Judi Dench), Severine (Bérénice Marlohe) and Eve (Naomie Harris), Skyfall
Judi Dench is seemingly the only person asked to return from the Pierce Brosnan run of films. In Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace she’s back to her old Goldeneye tricks of being rude and possibly unprofessional towards Bond. She is particularly lovable, though, in Skyfall.
V: Why did they dump all the actors from the previous era except for Judi? That’s really unfair. Anyway, I just feel that M was written as sort of bitter and callous in Casino and Quantum.
A: I do too. I really didn’t like the way she and Bond interacted, and I’m a fan of Judi Dench in the role. She and Bond don’t seem to respect each other at all in Casino Royale (as opposed to Goldeneye, where their antagonism is undercut with a mutual admiration), and in Quantum of Solace she’s all over the map, going from wanting him arrested to trusting him implicitly in the space of one poorly written scene. As you said, though, Skyfall was a big step in the right direction, and she’s sensational in her biggest part in the series to date (and any M’s, really).
V: You’re right, this is surely the most screen-time and influence on the plot she’s ever had. Next would probably be in The World is Not Enough, but M wasn’t a big part of that story until the last third or so.
A: Skyfall almost becomes a buddy cop movie at the end, with Bond and M teaming up to take on the bad guys. This sounds absolutely horrendous on paper, but it works incredibly well in the film. And before that, her battle with the politicians looking to tear her down juxtaposes well with Bond’s more action-style mission.
V: She’s amazing in Skyfall. I love how she and Bond basically pull a Home Alone on Silva’s men near the end. And that Union Jack bulldog she leaves Bond always makes me smile.
A: That’s a great moment, and so touching. It’s a testament to how well this movie is written and acted that the botching of the Bond/M dynamic in the previous two doesn’t take anything away from their journey together in this one.
V: Long Live Sam Mendes and John Logan. <3
Severine is Bond’s lead to Skyfall’s main villain, Silva. She’s a former child prostitute who’s been forced into working for Bond’s target, and while she puts on the strongest front she can manage, she lives in fear of her psychotic employer.
A: Severine is in a similar position to Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, there to sleep with Bond, lead him to the villain and get killed. The difference is, Severine is a real character with a personality and a backstory, and while she doesn’t really have much agency, that’s kind of the point and it’s used to give her some dimension.
V: I basically agree. Based on what we do know of Severine, I think she’s gorgeous, and not a fool. I feel sorry for her. And forget the haters; I loved Bond’s “What a waste of good Scotch.” What do you think of the scene where Bond slips into the shower with Severine? It’s actually hailed a decent amount of criticism for being “in promotion of rape,” or just creepy.
A: Well, Bond wasn’t raping her so I think that’s ridiculous. I imagine this is because of her past, which means that they’re saying she is now forever incapable of giving consent, and I find that a disgusting sentiment. Insofar as the good Scotch line, I liked it because it shows how cold to women Bond has become since Vesper’s betrayal; it’s also a way of not letting Silva rattle him, or at least not letting on that he’s rattled.
V: What’s more, it wasn’t Bond’s fault. Silva killed her, and he was going to do so anyway. It was always his intent to do so. As for the shower scene, I’m not sure what it has to do with rape. She has been bantering with James since they met at that (I’m not sure what that place was?) and was clearly interested. Was it creepy? Well, I hate to be the one to say it, but this is cinema, not real life. Is might be creepy to slip in the shower with a relative stranger in real life, but within the context of their relationship in the film, it’s the natural conclusion.
This is the spoiler section, so let’s out with it: Moneypenny is back! In Skyfall she is initially a field agent, until she shoots Bond under the orders of M to “take the bloody shot!” She ends up becoming Gareth Mallory’s secretary.
A: The use of Moneypenny in Skyfall is just like the Bond/M team-up; it’s something that I thought I would loathe but ended up working exceptionally well. (I knew that Naomie Harris was playing Moneypenny before seeing the film.) Moneypenny starts off as a spy and you assume this will be another faux-feminist “every bit Bond’s equal” role. But the twist is, she’s a terrible agent. She has no idea what to do while Bond is in action during the pre-title sequence, and when she’s ordered to take a rifle shot that will likely kill Bond but stop the bad guy from getting away with the MacGuffin, she hesitates too long, then fires and ends up almost killing Bond while letting the bad guy get away. Bond suggests that she may not be suited for field work, and by the end of the movie she accepts this, relegating herself to being a secretary. That’s brilliant.
V: I don’t think I even knew Moneypenny would be in it before I saw it. I quite like Moneypenny’s arc, and it’s true, not everyone should be a field agent. As cute as Naomie Harris is, I feel weird about her performance. Her banter with Bond seems less clever than past iterations, more personal. I’m not sure exactly how to put it, but it’s like it’s not really banter, like they really do like each other.
A: It is pretty on the nose, particularly the scene where she shaves him. It’s very sexy, in a way that the Bond/Moneypenny scenes have never been before. My biggest fear while watching was that they would end up having sex, which would’ve been an enormous mistake, but thankfully they knew enough not to go there.
V: It would ruin their relationship!
A: Definitely. As it is, though, I think it worked really well, and I liked her in SPECTRE too, in the more traditional Moneypenny role.
V: I liked her more in SPECTRE than Skyfall.
Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) and Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), SPECTRE
Madeleine Swann is the daughter of recurring thorn in Bond’s side Mr. White, a psychologist working at a clinic in the Austrian Alps. Bond swears to protect her in exchange for whatever information her father has, and Madeleine herself is a valuable source on the matter, even telling Bond the name of the evil group that’s been plaguing him for three-plus films: SPECTRE. Bond keeps his word, but unexpectedly finds himself falling for Madeleine, and vice versa.
A: Madeleine Swann is my favorite Bond Girl of the Daniel Craig era. Everything about her is just right. She’s not just a prop or plot device; she’s integral to the story, but has agency independent of Bond. She had a really nice life carved out for herself until 007 came crashing through the door, and she’d like to keep it. But what makes their relationship so great is that they really start falling in love with each other, and it feels earned every step of the way, with each one coming around on the other slowly and in increments. And even once she’s completely enamored with Bond, she has the strength to realize that she won’t be happy with “an assassin.” She’s a great, well-rounded character.
V: Classy, elegant and long-awaited, the Bond Girl is back. Bond hasn’t been in love since Vesper, and there hasn’t been a satisfactory leading lady in a Bond film since Goldeneye (1995). Madeleine delivers it all: she’s smart, passionate and, of course, beautiful. And can we talk about this dress?
A: Absolutely! She’s a stunning woman, and has a very unique beauty to her. Her face is lovely, but it’s distinctly her own, and that’s great. It’s easy to see what Bond sees in her. The dress is perfect too, and I love how it disarms Bond when she walks out in it. Another thing I love about Madeleine is that she’s the latest example of how the narrative of Bond Girls being nothing but vapid bimbos present only for sex appeal is a load of bunk. She’s as compelling as anyone else on screen and she has a real personality, function and goals.
Lucia Sciarra is the widow of a SPECTRE member. Bond “squeezes” her for information and offers her Felix Leiter’s number for protection.
V: Monica Bellucci is the oldest Bond Girl so far at 51, and boy does she not look it. We don’t know much about Lucia, but she’s lovely and has a cool scene with Bond at her house.
A: That scene is excellent. The beginning, where she walks through the house, is very creepy and foreboding because it’s clear she knows she’s about to die and has accepted it as much as possible while still being afraid. Then Bond saves her and suddenly it becomes a seduction that is incredibly effective. All in one shot Bond simultaneously makes her want him while getting her to spill everything she knows about her husband and his connection to SPECTRE. It’s very erotic and a great piece of filmmaking.
V: Agreed on all counts. When he presses her against her mirror and kisses her, it feels very classic Bond. There’s one more Bond Girl in this film (three in one film? A new record for Craig!): Estrella. She’s very minor but super cute. Bond celebrates Día de los Muertos with her in Mexico City.
A: Estrella is mostly there to be attractive, which she very much is. She, like Lucia, is also involved in a stupendous shot, though she’s not as central to it as Lucia is to hers.
And that’s all she wrote. Thank you for reading our Bond Girls series, and stay tuned for more 007 series!