An energetic exploration of male identity via the lives, personalities, and adventures of a diverse band of men, real men across the globe all sharing the same name – James Bond.
1952. Jamaica. When author Ian Fleming needs a name for his suave, sophisticated secret agent, he steals one from an unaware birdwatcher and creates a pop-culture phenomenon about the ultimate fictional alpha male.
2022. It is the year of 007’s sixtieth anniversary onscreen and Australian filmmaker Matthew Bauer is on a global mission to discover the lasting, contrasting and very personal impacts of sharing such an identity with James Bond.
From a Swedish 007 super-fan with a Nazi past, a gay New York theatre director, an African American Bond accused of murder, and two resilient women caught up in it all, Bauer’s cinematic mission is an audacious, poignant, and insightful examination of masculinity, gender, and race in the very real shadows of a movie icon.”
What would you do if you were named after one of the most famous characters in cinema history? How would you handle sharing a name with such a suave, daring, well loved, superspy? This documentary follows the story of several men from across the world that are called James Bond and tries to answer those questions.
Like any little boy that loved the movies, and still does, I often thought how cool it would be to be named James Bond. I was never the coolest person, and the little bit of cool associated with the character might have gotten me out of a few scrapes as I was growing up. As a kid you never think of the potential negatives from something like this, and boy does this documentary hammer home these negatives. Not that the film is all about the negatives, but it does highlight the issues around things like not being believed, constantly being the butt of jokes about the character, and always hearing (or being asked to say) the line about the name.
The African American Bond, mentioned in the precis, was arrested and jailed for obstructing an officer by saying his name jokingly and refusing to be serious. Yet all he did was tell the officer what his name was during a traffic stop. That’s mind-blowing. Another American Bond was dragged out of his car and had a gun pointed in his face for the same thing, and when that officer checked his name all the officer said was “Cool name” and let him go. These were just two incidents highlighted in the film that really stood out, and these were two guys that were called James Bond from birth.
Gunner Shafer tried to change his name to James Bond. Possibly one of the biggest fans of the spy he has a museum, with so many things including vehicles from the films, and he put himself in a position where he would potentially face the negatives every single day. He wants to be James Bond and the reason is historically, and emotionally, fascinating. The result is a man who has tried for most of his life to forget who he is and be something he can never truly be. I was both envious of his passion, and yet felt sad for the fact that he ultimately lives his life in a fantasy.
One of the most intriguing “characters” in the film was the gay theatre director. He is a man that hates the connotations of living with the name James. Yet he, at times, throws himself wholeheartedly into making the most of it. He dislikes the jokes, and the constant “Bond, James Bond” thing, but went on late night TV as a ‘real’ James Bond and did adverts for online casinos playing up the whole idea of being James Bond. Ultimately finding himself in a sociological whirlpool, not of his own making, he faces the dichotomy of hating it but living with it in the best ways he can.
Matthew Bauer, as director, has done a superb job with this film. Literally travelling the world to meet James Bonds, and hearing some harrowing things, and yet finding a lot of humour in a truly surreal experience. I genuinely laughed aloud at parts of the overall story. Some of the best moments of Bauer’s film were the historical footage, recreations, photos and stories about Ian Fleming and how he came up with the name for the character. The James Bond he got the name from couldn’t have been much further from the spy. A quiet scientific man, specialising in ornithology, he really was the antithesis of his literary namesake. The interactions, as few as they might have been, between him and his wife and Ian Fleming were really rather touching and show what a gentleman Fleming seems to have been, most notably in the apology letter he wrote.
Overall this is a fascinating documentary which highlights the ups and downs of being named after one of the most famous, and iconic, characters in literary and cinematic history. I honestly cannot find any flaws in it. It informs it tells a story, it shows the history and some potential future. It made me feel so many emotions from happiness to sadness, from anger to joy. This is honestly a truly brilliant documentary, and I cannot wait till it hits the big screen so I can go watch it in the cinema. While writing this review I had it in my head that I was going to give it 4 or 4.5/5, but as I come to the end I don’t think it deserves anything less than a top score. So here you…. Bauer, Matthew Bauer, you’re getting 5/5, and I absolutely recommend this film to every single person that has ever enjoyed a James Bond film……especially those who, like me, thought “How cool would it be to be called James Bond?”
Reviewed by Simon Henderson (Blazing Minds)