Formula for box-office gold? Make a Bond film that's not a Bond film

Box-office hit.

It's been called the greatest Bond film of all time, and the figures confirm it: Skyfall has broken the UK seven-day box-office record and posted £180m in its first 10 days across the globe.

Why has it done so well? Perhaps because it's not really a Bond film at all. Skyfall has taken a tongue-in-cheek action franchise with a protagonist who is known for his callous nature and has turned it into a gritty drama with a protagonist who struggles with his feelings. It has taken a character who is famous for never falling in love and made him fall. It has taken a formula with strict limits and has made a point of transgressing them. It has surprising bits, sure. But it's easy to be surprising within a franchise if you're going to utterly depart from the blueprint that defines it.

A cheap trick perhaps - but one which has worked with the box office, and the critics. At the moment we love dramas and flawed, human characters, but we also, nostalgically, love James Bond. And this is surely the formula: take a name everyone recognises and put it to the kind of film that is fashionable now. Disney, with their recent purchase of Star Wars might just be on to a winner.


Bond, nearly Bond. Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.