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COHEN: Bonding with this 007 is not easy

  • Daniel Craig plays an older James Bond in the new film “Skyfall. (SONY PICTURES)

In the new James Bond movie, “Skyfall,” Daniel Craig takes off his shirt and examines his wounds. There appear to be two of them — small holes on his skin from bullets fired at the beginning of the movie. He touches his wounds and winces. So do I.

Bond is in pain from his wounds. I am in pain from all the hours he has spent in the gym.

This Bond ripples with muscles. Craig is 44, but neither gravity nor age has done their evil work on him. Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed — a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don’t ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book.

“Skyfall” is a lot of fun — don’t get me wrong — but it still says something about our culture that, in the autumn of my years, I do not like. To appreciate what I mean, contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats — his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore — and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated. Of course, he knows his martinis, but he also knows how to send out a suit for swift hotel cleaning. He is a man of the world. He is, in short, a man of a certain age — 55 at the time, to be more or less exact.

In “North by Northwest” and other movies, Grant — for all his good looks — represented the triumph of the sexual meritocracy — a sex appeal won by experience and savoir-faire, not delts and pecs and other such things that any kid can have. He was not alone in this. Gary Cooper in “High Noon” wins Grace Kelly by strength of character, not muscles. He was about 50 and Kelly was a mere 23.

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