Bond is back, and he's on top form.
Can the same be said for women in the spy genre? There are certainly plenty of females infiltrating the world of espionage, be it in film, television or books. And BitchBuzz Culture have little doubt most of them could beat Bond any day.
Here are three of the best.
Sam Hunter, Hunted
While James Bond is busting box office records, it's the female spies that are dominating television dramas at the moment, on both sides of the Atlantic.
The award-winning thriller, Homeland, has returned for a second series, with the CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) still fighting relentlessly to protect America from terrorism. And so too have the producers behind Spooks, who for nine years dramatised the same battles on British soil. This time, however, they have teamed up with American writer Frank Spotnitz, and the drama has adopted a more ambitious, international spectrum. Having given MI5 incredible characters like Ros Myers, this new world of espionage places another woman – Sam Hunter – firmly at its core.
Sam (Melissa George) isn't working for a government, but for a private intelligence agency called Byzantium. There's no allegiance to nation here, but pure professional skill. Yet she's been embroiled in something far beyond the company she works for. When they take on a new contract, she finds herself creeping closer to the truth - of her mothers death, why someone is out to kill her, and an international corporate conspiracy that even MI6 haven't been able to solve. It all hinges upon Sam's intellect and spying instinct. And, naturally, a little bit of Keysi fighting. “They taught it to Batman, to Bond, to Bourne, and it's nice to see a lady doing the same fighting”, says Melissa of her character.
Evelyn Salt, Salt
Though Angelina Jolie is no stranger to action films, you might expect her to be far from this list. However, her role in Salt is quite a departure from the sexualised, pouting protagonist of Tomb Raider.
Evelyn Salt, Angelina Jolie's character, was originally 'Edwin Salt' – a part intended for Tom Cruise. It is a sign of how many opportunities there are formen to play the 'spy with extraordinary abilities' role in Hollywood, that Cruise broke from the project because of it's similarity to past parts. Angelina, meanwhile, had been offered work as a Bond girl, but had declined, reportedly saying that she wanted to play James Bond. With the support of Amy Pascal (co-chairman of Sony pictures), she finally got her wish, and the script was re-adapted for Evelyn.
As a deliberate attempt to create a female spy franchise, you might look to make an exercise in constant comparison with Bond. The transformation appears highly questionable when she begins the film blonde, sweet and driven by the desire to defend the husband she loves – who, incidentally, she marries after he has 'saved her'. When she takes off her black knickers to cover a security camera, you really do doubt the wisdom of the movie's male writer. But this is not a film that you can second guess. Nothing is what it seems. The cold-war undertones aside, once you get beyond Hollywood's compulsory opening car chase, this is a very entertaining film, with a compelling character at its heart. They have set her up to be the agent capable of breaking all others – including Bond.
Jeanne Faussier, Les Femmes de L'Ombre
The spy-genre should certainly be full of women, for they have a long history in the real world of espionage. From the Tudors to the present, they have always been an integral presence. Their activities during World War Two have particularly captured artistic imaginations - for the importance of their role and their lack of preparation for it, being before only housewives. And for those thus inclined, it brings the spy-genre down from the glamorous heights of Hollywood, to something more darkly reflective of reality.
The 2008 French film Les Femmes de L'Ombre (poorly translated into Female Agents) captures these women particularly powerfully. It follows five diverse French women, living in London, who are recruited by the SOE (a secret spy and sabotage unit created by Winston Churchill). They return to German-occupied France on an obscure mission to retrieve a British geologist. Yet, faced with the greatest fears and cruelties of war, their suffering and determination results in the plans for D-Day remaining hidden. Based on a true story, history should give no small credit to these women for finishing the Second World War. Though brutally honest, it is an inspirational film, which subtle injections of feminist sentiment. Jeanne Faussier(played by Julie Depardieu) is, for her bold bravery, my favourite character.
From the small screen, to Hollywood blockbusters, to the pages of History, women are everywhere in the spy-genre, as they are in the real world of espionage. They are just as physically and mentally powerful as the likes of James Bond. While 007 worries about Russian villains with a cat, his franchise faces much greater rivals. He will have to keep up with the competition.
Image credits: BBC/Kudos / Columbia Pictures