Is James Bond a code name?
James Bond is a codename, but James Bond doesn’t know that it’s a codename. Because the man who knows himself as James Bond has been brainwashed. And all the answers live within the 2012 film Skyfall.
For decades, there has been an ongoing debate over the continuity of the James Bond films. You can call it the James Bond Codename Theory.
Specifically, the debate is between two options:
- the James Bond films do not care at all about continuity, and yes, each character is named James Bond, and he’s the same James Bond, who cares that he looks and acts different all the time, or
- the James Bond films tell one long story, in which a variety of men adopt the codename of James Bond when they join MI6.
Well, the debate has mostly subsided after Skyfall, as many people found it to be proof that James Bond’s name is James Bond, considering that Daniel Craig’s Bond goes to his childhood home, named Skyfall, where he looks at the gravestones of his parents, whose names are Mr. and Mrs. Bond.
This suggests, definitively to many viewers, that James Bond is absolutely not a codename.
What I suggest instead is this: James Bond is a codename, but James Bond doesn’t know that it’s a codename. Why? Because the man who knows himself as James Bond has been brainwashed.
The suggestions of this reality are all there, with one standing above all the others: the relationship between Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem’s character), M (Judi Dench), and James Bond. Silva is a former MI6 agent who worked under M, before taking up the occupation of cyber-terrorist. Throughout the film, he repeatedly attempts to bond with 007, including referring to both himself and Bond as rats, held and tortured by M.
And this next part of my theory is a credit to Bardem’s acting, as it’s something I cannot capture through simple plot synopsis and analysis. There is an element to Bardem’s acting that not only ensnares you, but in which it appears that he has a secret he isn’t sharing. His grin, his eyes, his body language, and the way he lingers on certain words as he speaks.
Columnist Stephen L. Carter has suggested that this secret is that Silva is the long-lost son of M, writing about it in “The Secret James Bond Missed in Skyfall.” While I agree with the evidence for this, my interpretation is not that he is the literal son of M, but that he identifies as one of her many sons, as all her agents are her sons. But he is also this: the only other living James Bond.
It explains his connection (and affection) regarding Bond, his disdain for M, their complicated dynamic, and, finally, let’s return to Bardem’s acting. Remember that knowing look of his? It’s on full view as he arrives at Skyfall, casually walking out of his helicopter and tossing grenades at the house. He remembers Skyfall well. It’s the place he had been brainwashed into believing was his childhood home. Just as Daniel Craig’s Bond was brainwashed into thinking the same thing. The brainwashing was so thorough, the identity so complete, that Silva even knew Bond would bring M there, and he had prepared for it. Not only is it the place where they are brainwashed into believing they were raised, but it is also the place where their training and brainwashing occurred.
This also explains Silva’s thorough need to “make an entrance as he attacks” and, ultimately, leave the estate in shambles, by shredding the home with bullets, tossing grenades into it, and ultimately burning it down. He considers himself so betrayed, so thoroughly manipulated, that killing M and discrediting MI6 isn’t enough: he must burn down the place where it all started.
Finally, this ties into the other films, particularly the loose continuity that ties them all together. An example being, how was Judi Dench the only character who bridged from the Pierce Brosnan films to the Craig films? And why do some of the James Bonds remember things that happened to Bonds played by different actors?
The one answer to all the lingering questions regarding 007 is simple: yes, James Bond is a codename, but no, James Bond doesn’t know it’s a codename.
Now let’s considered this debate settled, and starting looking forward to Spectre.
Interested in more on this subject? Read the follow-ups to this blog post: James Bond, Fan Theories, and the Fragile Online Fan and How Spectre Reaffirmed the Brainwashed Bond Fan Theory