This weekend “Skyfall,” the 23rd official James Bond movie, became the highest-grossing picture in Agent 007′s history, with $669 million in ticket sales globally. International audiences have given the film a big boost, but baby boomer buying power may be another major factor. After all, this is first and foremost a movie about middle-aged job angst – whether your skills are sufficiently up to speed to stay competitive in the global marketplace, and whether age discrimination will keep you from doing the work you’re best at.Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Those themes aren’t just woven through the story – they’re in the foreground. Without divulging any major spoilers, suffice it to say that much of the plot is driven by the question of whether Bond’s boss, the steely M – played by 77-year-old Judi Dench – still has the chops to run Britain’s intelligence service in an era of stateless criminals and cyber-terror. Bond, played by the 44-year-old Daniel Craig, passes up a chance at early retirement (is he crazy?) to help his mentor, only to find colleagues and enemies alike openly questioning whether he’s still physically up to the challenge of all that running, kicking, shooting and lovemaking.
Nor is the generational mistrust all going one way: Bond is surrounded by younger people whose competence he doubts because, well, they’re young. The ultimate sign of the changing times: For the first time in franchise history, Q, the agency’s comic-relief gadget-master, is noticeably younger than 007. About two decades younger, in fact, as portrayed by a mop-topped Ben Whishaw. (Bond to Q, referring to Q’s acne: “You must be joking…you still have spots.”)
Bond has never been depicted as a raw kid, of course – he’s always been a 30- or 40-something bruiser with a lot of mileage on him – but even in the era of Roger Moore (who was 57 when he made his last double entendre) I don’t recall any Bond movie making such a big issue of Bond’s waning skills.
Speaking of espionage: Heidi Moore, writing about the David Petraeus scandal in The Guardian, has sobering words for any overextended boomer who still dreams of clandestinely serving his or her country. Moore argues that personal debt has become a troubling national-security problem. Under Department of Defense guidelines, for example, people with excessive personal debts shouldn’t qualify for a high security clearance, since “an individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds.” The more piquant take comes from Logan Sachon of the personal-finance blog The Billfold, who says that debt is “Just Another Reason I’ll Never Be A Spy.”