Espionage has always fascinated the public, especially as a result of Hollywood’s spy films. Throughout the centuries the spy genre has undergone many changes. From early movies based on World War II to modern films about the Cold War, Hollywood has always seemed to distort the line between fact and fiction. Ian Fleming’s James Bond was and still is the catalyst of the latest transformation of undercover agent within the spy genre. Moreover, other films such as Mission Impossible II have also propagated this distortion between truth and reality through the character of Ethan Hunt. However, separating the theatrics from the truth is important; movies within the spy genre have set unrealistic stereotypes of what it means to work in the intelligence field. For that reason I intend to compare and contrast two films, Die Another Day and Mission Impossible II as well as discuss how real espionage differs from the common myths represented throughout these films. It is important to first compare the major similarities between the two films. James Bond and Ethan Hunt share similar job descriptions, both are spies and for that matter it is important to outline common traits. In Die Another Day, Bond’s physical appearance is what people find most appealing, he has relatively good height and posture, dark coloured hair, he is good looking and is quite the conversationalist. In various scenes, both at the start of the movie and towards the end it appears that Bond is also a man that must be in good physical condition in order to be effective at his job. Now take Ethan Hunt, in Mission Impossible II the opening scene introduces mostly all of Hunt’s physical characteristics. Hunt (just like Bond) is in top physical shape, although Hunt exhibits his physical strength more convincingly in the opening scene with his mountain climbing. Hunt also has dark hair, is relatively tall and quite charming when attempting to recruit one of his female team members. Finally the most overlooked physical similarity is race, both men in this case are Caucasian. This could be due to the fact that most audiences’ subconsciously expect a Caucasian James Bond, mainly because of the pedigree of past Bond movies. However, when casting for Ethan Hunt a Caucasian man would be more easily identifiable as an undercover agent. This could have deliberately been done in order to keep the character of Ethan Hunt similar but not identical to James Bond. Although Ethan Hunt could very well be the Americanized version of James Bond, similar physical traits such as hair colour, height, good looks and race are hard to deny after analysing both films. With all spy movies of the past and present, women play a very prominent role. In both movies woman are almost always supporting accessories. Author Christine Bold writes “women function typically as romantic interest, domestic background, or ambiguously androgynous companionship” (Bold, 1993, p.314). This is evident in Die Another Day as Halle Berry’s character doubles as both the romantic interest and neutral companion. Moreover the more obvious stereotype such as physical appearance is also prevalent in both movies. This is not an uncommon theme in spy movies, as “whatever skills demonstrated by the women their one great prowess is in their bodies.” “The women are buxom, slim, long-legged, lightly tanned and often wear their hair curved into the nape of their neck” (Bold, 1993, p.315). Halle Berry in Die Another Day does a marvellous job showcasing her body, emerging out of the ocean in a scantily clad bathing suit, thus confirming another stereotype. In Mission Impossible II Thandie Newton’s character goes one step further, in addition to satisfying the romantic interests of Ethan Hunt she also appears to be the typical woman in distress who losses her strong willed thief skills as soon as she is used as bait.
One thing is for sure, weather it be Mission impossible II or Die Another Day woman in spy movies always seem...
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Mission: Impossible II. Dir. John Woo. Perf. Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott. DVD. Paramount Pictures, 2000.
Die Another Day. Dir. Lee Tamahori. Perf. Pierce Brosnan and Halle Barry. DVD. Twentieth Century Fox, 2002.
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