The dramaturgy of the Bond films: Midpoint and Golden Ratio

Golden ratio in filmsMovies are also subject to gravity in some way. They have an interesting 'Big Hook' and a spectacular showdown, but often they tend to sag and drag a bit in the middle. To back and liven this long second act up, there is often a significant highlight or turning point in plot or mood, the so-called Midpoint. Such a turning point divides the second act then into two sub-acts. A closer examination of the midpoints of Bond films has some very interesting findings!

The easiest way to liven up the second act and design the midpoint offer action scenes. In Bond movies preferably chases. Thus we find, for example, in DR. NO a car chase exactly in the middle that ends with an explosion of the opposing car and the first Oneliner in Bond history. In DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER there is the great chase with the moon buggy through the desert. LIVE AND LET DIE offers a chase with a double-decker bus, TOMORROW NEVER DIES one with a BMW.

The great middle turning points are in many films slightly shifted toward the second half, in the golden section of the timeline. The golden section, also called golden ratio or divine proportion, describes a specific ratio of two segments to each other, which is perceived to be especially aesthetical, and is also used in image composition.


Golden Section
Golden ratio in a painting
In THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER, the big chases with the Lotus and the Q-boat are arranged around the golden ratio.


In the model of the classic hero's journey, the protagonists often reach their dangerous destination exactly in the middle of the story, because the journey there is as long as the one back. In Bond movies, 007 is here literally in the lion's den, or the actual opponent drops his mask here. In GOLDFINGER it is the famous laser table scene. In OCTOPUSSY, Bond meets for the first time on the mysterious eponymous Octopussy. In LICENCE TO KILL, Bond comes in the midpoint for the first time close to Sanchez and is unarmed in his den in Isthmus City.

A classic example is GOLDENEYE, where Trevelyan reveals himself on the dark statue cemetery, and leaves Bond to die afterwards. In THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH Bond is in the bunker here, and has his first encounter with Renard. Very classic also SKYFALL, where Bond exactly in the middle is captured by Silva and then takes up the journey back to London.

Examples of such scenes in the golden ratio are the meeting of Blofeld in the Las Vegas penthouse in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, the unmasking of Kananga in LIVE AND LET DIEand the first meeting of Scaramanga in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.


Several directors use high or low points in the middle, in the form of one meaningful scene. In QUANTUM OF SOLACE, Bonds aim is to find comfort after the loss of Vesper, or some kind of meaning in life. In the exact middle of the film, he is farthest from that: sitting drunk in front of a picture of Vesper, and not even knowing how many cocktails he had exactly.


Very often in Bond movies there is a crucial change in the mood of the film, exactly in the golden section. Since Bond movies usually end positive, it is a very low point in contrast. The antagonist gains a victory, as in chess often by taking an important white chess piece.

In FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE it is the death of Kerim Bay, in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE the death of Aki, in THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN the one of Andrea, which also coincides with meeting the villain. In OCTOPUSSY, Vijay finds death, and then the movie moves to Germany, where the mood is more serious and dark. In THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS there is also a great change of locations in the golden section, when Bond is drugged and taken to Afghanistan. In THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, Elektra succeeds apparently to kill Bond, and she shows her true colours, what gives the story a new dimension.

In CASINO ROYALE it is a literal victory of the opponent at the gambling table exactly in the golden section, at which Bond loses everything. SKYFALL in contrast, changes direction on the golden ratio towards the good side. Bond can prevent the assassination of M, and removes with her then a major chess piece from the field. Again this leads to a decisive change of locations and mood. The film is from here a 'journey into the past'.

What catches the eye is that there is frequently a moment of near death at the very golden section. Very often, Bond is then knocked out. For example, in DR. NO, he wakes up on the beach and meets Honey 
(the good side wins a figure, so to speak)YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE shows Bond asleep, while Aki dies on his behalf. In DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER and LIVE AND LET DIE, Bond gets knocked out after the encounter with the Villain. In THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS he wakes up in the plane, and in LICENCE TO KILL he is checkmated by Ninja

In ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, it's the girls who are hypnotized and receive their final instructions by Blofeld, while Bond prepares his escape. DIE ANOTHER DAY, interestingly, shows Jinx waking up and tied to the laser machine. Actually, Bond should have been in great danger at this point. Perhaps that was one reason why Jinx appeared too dominant to many fans and didn't work well as a character.


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