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"My late husband was a great lover of poetry, and, um, I suppose some of it sunk in despite my best intentions. And here today, I remember this, I think from Tennyson. "We are not now that strength, which in old days moved Earth and Heaven. That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate. But strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.""
― M.[src]

"M" is a fictional character in Ian Fleming's James Bond series; the character is the Head of Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6. After the long period between Licence to Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995), the Bond producers brought in Dame Judi Dench to take over as the new M. Dench played the role of M throughout actor Pierce Brosnan's tenure as Bond. Following Brosnan's departure from the role of 007 and the rebooting of the franchise with the 2006 film, Casino Royale, which starred Daniel Craig as Bond, she continued to perform the character of M for a further three films, and appeared in a video message in Spectre (2015).

Dench's M was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of 2012's Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name "Olivia Mansfield".[2] As the character was never directly referred to by this name, its canonicity is unresolved.[3]

Biography

"I thought 'M' was a randomly assigned letter. I had no idea it stood for--"
"Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed.
"
― Bond and M after she asked how he found out where she lived.

Following actor Pierce Brosnan's departure from the role of 007 and the rebooting of the franchise with the 2006 film, Casino Royale, Dench continued to perform the character of M for a further four films. In this new continuity, M's identity is revealed to be Olivia Mansfield. Initially married, at some point between 2008 and 2012 her husband passes away. M conducted herself with intelligence, stoicism, and above all pragmatic, unapologetic professionalism. She implies that she has worked for MI6 for some time, at one point muttering, "Christ, I miss the Cold War".[4] By 1997, Mansfield was section chief of Station H, Hong Kong. During the transfer of the territory to China in 1997, she discovered that one of her agents, Tiago Rodriguez, was operating beyond his brief and hacking the Chinese. Displaying a ruthless pursuit of the "big picture", she has no qualms sacrificing Rodriguez to them in exchange for six agent being held by the Chinese Goverment and a smooth transition.

In 2006, now Head of SIS, she would send James Bond to execute a duplicitous station chief in Prague, Czech Republic and his informant. She promotes him to 00 status, and quickly regrets her decision, as 007 creates an international incident by shooting up an embassy in pursuit of a suspected bomber. She is called before parliament to answer for Bond's behaviour. Returning home, she discovers the spy has uncovered her identity and forced entry to make use of her laptop. She chides him for his shortsightedness and threatens to feed him to the bastards who want his head. After Bond unilaterally meddles in the business of terrorist financier, Le Chiffre, M and her assistant Villiers travel to the Bahamas to debrief and dispatch him to bankrupt the criminal in a high-stakes Poker game in the Casino Royale in Montenegro. After he succeeds and offers his resignation, she contacts him on behalf of HM Treasury; who are concerned about the overdue return of the winnings. It is revealed that the Treasury liaison, Vesper Lynd, had been blackmailed into passing the money to a criminal syndicate and subsequently commits suicide. Frustrated at the oversight, M cynically laments that the takeaway is not to trust anybody.

Shortly afterwards, 007 tracks down the man responsible, Mr. White, and brings him to a SIS safe-house in Sienna, Italy. M is personally present for the interrogation; which is sabotaged by her traitorous bodyguard, who kills several operatives and allows White to escape. Narrowly surviving the ordeal, M is wracked with an increasing sense of impotence and urgency. SIS uncover a money trail leading to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and dispatches Bond to investigate. When the investigation collides with an antagonistic CIA operation, the highly perceptive M sees through the Americans' attempt at deception and attempts to traverse the diplomatic minefield. Already frustrated by Bond's nonchalant attitude and liberal usage of his licence to kill, M reaches breaking point after he kills a member of Special Branch at a clandestine meeting of Quantum in Bregenz, Austria. After her attempts to recall him to London fail, she personally travels to La Paz, Bolivia with her entourage and confronts him in his hotel suite. With another operative dead and the Americans threatening to put Bond down, she tries and fails to have him put in custody. Mistrustful of the CIA and suspicious of the activities of philanthropist, Dominic Greene, M permits Bond to go rogue. After 007 successfully interrogates Greene, a satisfied M joins the spy to oversee the extraction of a honeypot in Kazan, Russia.

Some time later, her position as SIS head is compromised by a bungled operation to recover a computer drive containing the identities of NATO intelligence operatives. The Istanbul mission ends with 007 presumed killed (from a botched shot she ordered) and the drive in enemy hands. Three months later, the British government puts pressure on the disgraced M to retire. The humiliating theft was part of a scheme orchestrated by the vengeful Tiago Rodriguez (a.k.a. Raoul Silva); who would subsequently destroy the SIS Building and begin leaking identities. When Bond resurfaces in terrible condition, M conceals his sub-par evaluation scores, reinstates and sends him after Rodriguez. Against the odds, the villain is taken into custody by 007 and is incarcerated in SIS's backup facility. Later, as she appears in front of a parliamentary inquiry into the Istanbul affair, Rodriguez escapes and attempts to murder her at the hearing. Rescued by 007, she is taken to his Scottish ancestral home, Skyfall Lodge, where they attempt to make a stand against Rodriguez and his men. The villain lays siege to the estate, during which M is fatally injured. She flees to the estate's chapel; where she is intercepted by Silva, who forces his gun into her hand - goading her to kill them both. Bond arrives and kills him, but M succumbs to her wound and dies uttering, "I did get one thing right."

Her position as head of SIS is subsequently taken by the former Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Gareth Mallory. Perhaps demonstrating a sense of humour, she left Bond her infamous Bulldog Ornament in a box whose inscription read: "From the Estate of Olivia Mansfield Bequeathed to James Bond." Still intent on pursuing the mysterious criminal organisation behind Le Chiffre, Greene and Mr. White; Mansfield ensured that upon her death a video message would be mailed to 007. During the message she cryptically tells Bond that if anything happens to her she wants him to find and kill Marco Sciarra; using the resulting funeral to identify his contacts in the organisation.

Behind the scenes

The character is based on Stella Rimington, the real-life head of MI5 between 1992 and 1996.[5][6]

Dench's character was never referred to by name on-screen. However, a prop from the final scene of Skyfall, where M bequeaths some of her possessions to Bond following her death, revealed that her character was given the name "Olivia Mansfield". As the character was never directly referred to by this name, its canonicity is unresolved.[7]

Trivia

  • With Skyfall, Judi Dench's M became the first character to use a variation of the word "fuck" on-screen in a James Bond movie. (Timothy Dalton is seen using the word "fucking" in his debut in The Living Daylights, although he is not audible at the time, while Roger Moore used the same word in a deleted scene from A View to a Kill.)
  • She is the first M to be killed in the line of duty.
  • In both continuities, she is the first M to interact with the film's main villain (The World Is Not Enough & Skyfall).
  • She appears in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series. In her younger spy years, she resembles Emma Peel from the British spy drama The Avengers, though referred to by her maiden name Emma Night (a slightly different spelling of her actual maiden name Knight to write around the trademark).
  • She is the only M to appear in both the original films, and the reboots.

Gallery

M (Judi Dench)/Gallery

See also

References

  1. (by Kincade)
  2. Ellery, Ben. "M's real name uncovered: 007 fan discovers James Bond's boss is called Olivia Mansfield," 5 May 2013. Retrieved on 5 May 2013.
  3. Mortimer, Ben. "The Level of Detail in Skyfall's Props," ComingSoon.net, 21 February 2013. Retrieved on 23 February 2013.
  4. McKay, Sinclair (2008). The man with the golden touch: how the Bond films conquered the world. London: Aurum Press, p=353. ISBN 978-1-84513-355-9. 
  5. West, Nigel (2010). Historical dictionary of Ian Fleming's world of intelligence: fact and fiction. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, p.45. ISBN 978-0-7524-2896-3. 
  6. Rimington, Stella (2008). Open secret: the autobiography of the former Director-General of MI5. London: Arrow Books, p.244. ISBN 978-0-09-943672-0. 
  7. Mortimer, Ben. "The Level of Detail in Skyfall's Props," ComingSoon.net, 21 February 2013. Retrieved on 23 February 2013.��As we looked at the porcelain bulldog M bequeaths Bond, the archive assistant read the inscription on the box it is presented to him in - "Olivia Mansfield bequeaths James Bond." We've searched around, and as far as we can see this is the first and only time anyone's ever revealed M's 'real name.'�

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