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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Didn't Know James Bond's Newest Nemesis Was Julian Assange

Posted by on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 2:04 PM

(I wrote this post before I saw Cienna's below—but I guess we're all thinking about Skyfall today.)

The bad guy.
  • The bad guy.
I went to see Skyfall with some friends last night. It was fine for a Bond movie, and I agree with Paul's assessment that its opulent cinematography is its greatest strength, especially from the front row of the Cinerama balcony, where nobody's head is in the way and your eyes float in midair with the enormous screen. And Judi Dench is always a joy as the iron lady M.

But nobody told me its villain was a not-so-thinly veiled portrait of Julian Assange—or at least a US/British government fantasy of what Assange (who is still holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London) means.

Computer bank as terrorist weapon.
  • Computer bank as terrorist weapon.

It's almost too obvious: Silva (Javier Bardem) is a pale-haired genius whose diabolical plan, besides a psychodrama regarding M, is to reveal state secrets with his evil, evil computers. (Cue Anonymous, LulzSec, and the rest of the gang.) One of the film's MI6 agents describes Silva using a diabolical-sounding system—bouncing his computer activity between servers across the globe so he can't be traced! (Also known as Tor.)

Using YouTube (another devilishly public platform) Silva reveals the identities of secret agents working overseas. Compare that to this representative BBC story from 2010:

New York Congressman Pete King has called for the US Attorney General to designate Wikileaks a terrorist organisation and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.

Much of the criticism of Wikileaks, though, revolves around the notion that releasing such information risks lives.

Identities of informants could be compromised, spies exposed, and the safety of human rights activists, journalists and dissidents jeopardised when information of their activities is made public, the argument goes.

One of Skyfall's motifs is a recurring argument that the British government, in order to protect its people, needs to operate in secrecy—"in the shadows" as M says over and over again. The villain, with his evil expertise, wants to shine dangerous, destabilizing floodlights into those shadows. It's a movie, of course, so Silva's pathological plans are defensible per se. But they clearly reflect government anxieties about hacktivism—specifically Wikileaks and its pale king.

I wonder if Assange has seen the movie. Maybe he'll have to wait until the DVD release.

 

Comments (21) RSS

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32
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Posted by coca on November 22, 2013 at 1:34 AM · Report this
22
Spy movies and novels have always been propaganda mechines. The ones with Russians now seem so transparent. Now there are the terrorists in shows like 24. Assange may be a new twist, but very much in the same vain. Can't believe people keep buying into the bullshit.
Posted by fahima on November 21, 2012 at 10:56 AM · Report this
Simone 21
@5, Utter stupidity in hooking up the bad guys laptop to the whole underground secret MI6 network.

And why wasn't the bad guy in lots of chains and in a cage that wasn't electronically connected to the MI6 network? Simple precautions that would have prevented his escape though it would have meant the end of the film sooner.
Posted by Simone on November 21, 2012 at 8:56 AM · Report this
watchout5 20
There's a pretty good version out on the torrents, if he wants to see it there's nothing stopping him.
Posted by watchout5 http://www.overclockeddrama.com on November 21, 2012 at 1:31 AM · Report this
DOUG. 19
The Cinerama has a balcony?
Posted by DOUG. http://www.dougsvotersguide.com on November 20, 2012 at 11:12 PM · Report this
Fnarf 18
Also, if someone could explain to me how the roof of the dome exploded without any dust, and how the train then crashed through the open hole in a straight line as if it was on rails, which it wasn't, being in midair and all, I'd be grateful. Because the clip I saw looked like something out of a cartoon, not a live-action fillum.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on November 20, 2012 at 5:47 PM · Report this
Fnarf 17
@14, not really. Especially since the problem with the setup in the film is not that is insufficiently "super-futuristic". Server rooms are in fact extremely boring -- racks of pizza boxes with little blue lights, little green lights, little amber lights. All the fun-looking stuff is, or ought to be, hidden beneath the floor panels (impossible here, because of the concrete) or channels.

The Good Sgt's gratuitous, Will-in-Seattle-like mention of "FPGA clusters" also makes no sense. They don't look like this either. Nothing looks like this.

If they are indeed Faraday cages, as Comte suggests, then this super-genius is actually an idiot; it would have been a million times easier and more effective to construct a Faraday ROOM, which still wouldn't have given off this one's steampunky vibe.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on November 20, 2012 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 20, 2012 at 5:33 PM · Report this
Knat 14
@9, 11: He does have the same nose... Please explain the rickrolling, though. I just saw this again at Central Cinema a couple weeks ago, and I still can't come up with what you're referring to.

@12: No doubt Fnarf overflows with joy to finally have your validation, wingnut.
Posted by Knat on November 20, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
ScienceNerd 13
Brendan, I think you are confused about the shadows. Silva wants to exploit the shadows to his benefit, as does M, but in the name of "good". It's Mallory who wants to shine a big flashlight into the corners and calls the shadows antiquated. You and Cienna both disappoint me.
Posted by ScienceNerd http://stanichium.tumblr.com/ on November 20, 2012 at 5:22 PM · Report this
12
@3, Fnarf --- Holy Mother of Godzilla, Fnarfart finally got something right!!!

Even my old, open cluster FPGA configurations looked decidedly more super-futuristic and sophisticated than the stuff in that trash film.

Assange a terrorist (according to VP Joey bin Biden)????

Seems I may be the only American who recalls that Canadian computer scientists, sometime back in 2009, discovered (and proved and verified) that China had hacked into at least 1,300 computers in embassies across the world, inserting malware and activating their cams and microphones, which they continued for just under 2 years --- that's a serious amount of financial intel and political intel.

What was the name of that company in Redmond which opened their OS source code to China in exchange for a slice of the China market??

Oh yeah, Micro$oft.....

Now, the real enemies:

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-575522…

[I realize this has now been overturned -- the above rotten legislation from the supposed democrat from Vermont, scumbag Leahy --- but be advised of his true nature.]

http://www.technologyreview.com/view/507…

http://cryptome.org/2012/11/joyce-broadw…

http://cryptome.org/2012/11/email-enigma…

http://enigma.io/

http://www.privacysos.org/sites/all/imag…

Oh yeah, you may recall this fellow below . . .

http://reason.com/blog/2012/11/19/no-cou…
More...
Posted by sgt_doom on November 20, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 11
Oh, come on!

It's uncanny!
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 20, 2012 at 4:46 PM · Report this
Ipso Facto 9
The bad guy.

The worst part? He invented Rickrolling.
Posted by Ipso Facto http://therealnews.com on November 20, 2012 at 4:00 PM · Report this
McGee 8
@4, 5 SHUT THE FUCK UP KILLJOYS!
Posted by McGee on November 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM · Report this
runswithnailclippers 7
I read the Roger Ebert review that mentioned Assange afterwards and felt stupid for not noticing that. Makes one wonders what the funders of the film contribute to the plot, perhaps similar to the Pentagon funding of the film "Top Gun". After all, it is an extreme and inaccurate portrayal of Assange that is similar to the one the media would have us believe.
Posted by runswithnailclippers on November 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM · Report this
COMTE 6
SPOILERS BELOW...

Fnarf,

I kept thinking those were some sort of jury-rigged Faraday cages, because it was the only rationale for their presence in the film I could think of that made any sense.

As for the Assange connection, I can see how it probably was intentional in a somewhat tangential manner, although the film itself makes clear Bardem's character was in fact a former MI6 field op with a direct prior relationship to M. But, that probably had more to do with placing him in the proper Bondian context, as the entire move seemed like one long paean to past films, while simultaneously ret-conning the whole franchise.
Posted by COMTE on November 20, 2012 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Akbar Fazil 5
What was worse Fnarf...that server room that looked that janky? Or the stupidity of hooking up the bad guys laptop to the entire MI6 network? Or the fact that this super secret list of hidden agents was on a laptop out in the wild?

Its a shame these small moments of bad reality were in such a otherwise gorgeous and great Bond film.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on November 20, 2012 at 3:01 PM · Report this
4
@3 Thank you! I've never seen a server room in such shoddy shape.
Posted by wxPDX on November 20, 2012 at 2:58 PM · Report this
Fnarf 3
That is the stupidest-looking computer room in the history of the universe. Um, temperature control, anyone? Power? That's a concrete floor. And for such a genius systems builder, that cabling is atrocious. Most importantly, where's the IT staff? I don't care how many arms and legs this guy is supposed to have, he ain't running that shop by himself.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on November 20, 2012 at 2:47 PM · Report this
2
So, they based their story partly on real-life events? Amazing.

I'm guessing you don't watch Law & Order much.
Posted by J.R. on November 20, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Dougsf 1
There was also that rumor that Assange was cruel to his former roommate's cat, which totally wouldn't fly in the Bond villain universe of films past.

If Assange has access to a computer, I'm sure he knows of a site or two where he can watch the film.
Posted by Dougsf on November 20, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this

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