The world’s favourite spy has arrived in Dubai with a licence to thrill – or at least, we have his cars, suits, guns, gadgets and even a few of the women that have helped to make the 24 Bond movies the most enduring film franchise of all time, raking in an estimated US$14 billion (Dh51.4 bn) since Sean Connery introduced us to 007 in 1962’s Dr No.
Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style celebrates more than five decades of the dashing British secret agent’s cunning and wile. It feels fitting, therefore that it has taken over the Annex in the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which itself appeared in another spy-movie franchise, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible.
The exhibition is curated by Bronwyn Cosgrave, a former features editor of British Vogue, Neil McConnon from The Barbican in London, Bond costume designer Lindy Hemming, and Meg Simmonds, director of the 007 film franchise’s archive.
“The show follows the narrative structure of the James Bond series,” says Cosgrave. “It was like a Bond film – a complete adventure, which allows visitors to follow in the footsteps of James Bond.
“He always goes to M’s office, visits Q branch and many interesting foreign territories and often ends up on a ski slope. That is the structure of our show.”
First shown in London in 2012, the 50th anniversary of Bond’s big-screen debut, the exhibition has toured nine cities around the world before arriving in Dubai for a 3 month run. It includes more than 600 items paying homage to Bond’s creator and the six men who have portrayed him on screen – Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
Craig’s films have been credited with reinventing the role, giving the solitary, detached, hero more emotional depth – however, the question of which actor was the best Bond always inspires heated debates. Whichever is their favourite, fans will be delighted by the enormous collection of costumes, weapons and scale models from the classic films.
The exhibition opens with the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 driven by Brosnan in 1995’s GoldenEye, restored for Skyfall in 2012 and also used in Spectre in 2015.
In a meta twist, it was specially renovated to resemble the 007 Aston Martin, first driven by Connery in 1964’s Goldfinger.
Indeed, the franchise has been running so long, it has started referencing itself. For example, the orange bikini worn by Halle Berry in Die Another Day was a homage to the swimsuit Ursula Andress wore as Honey Ryder in Dr No. Both are on display, together with Craig’s rather fitted blue swimming trunks from Casino Royale.
There is also Scaramanga’s golden gun, assembled from a pen, lighter and cigarette case in The Man with the Golden Gun. Do not miss the gilded waistcoat worn by Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, Bond’s trademark Walther PPK guns, and the padded-leather doors to the office of Bond’s boss M, the head of the intelligence service.
There are also some of the clever weapons created by Q branch, the fictional R&D division of the secret service. They include watches that conceal detonators from Tomorrow Never Dies, a cigarette lighter that doubles as a radio and a safe-cracker in Moonraker; a battered-looking (and somewhat ordinary) Ericsson mobile phone that controls Bond’s car, picks locks and shoots out 20,000 volts as a stun gun; and menacing Piton guns with spikes and lasers to cripple Bond’s enemies.
The attention to detail is extraordinary. The archives held by Eon Productions, which owns the 007 franchise, include detailed diagrams of weapons explaining how they work, along with lavish sketches of all the outfits, and miniature models of the aircraft, ships, buildings and hot-air balloons Bond has to jump onto and out of, plus hundreds of incredibly elaborate storyboards.
There are also original sketches by set designer Ken Adam, who created the tone and look of Bond films, from Auric Goldfinger’s private jet to the Fort Knox setting of Goldfinger, establishing the franchise’s love of all things gold.
Style is, of course, a huge part of the franchise. Bond’s suave look is a key feature of the films, and has inspired British design and technology for decades.
In a purple-walled room designed to resemble a casino, with headless mannequins positioned around a poker table, are dozens of the tuxedos and suits worn by Bond through the ages, as well as his heroines’ glamorous gowns, including Sylvia Trench’s one-shouldered red frock from Dr No, Vesper Lynd’s purple dress from Casino Royale, and Bérénice Marlohe’s floor-length mesh dress and Jimmy Choo sandals she wore as Sévérine in Skyfall, which exposed her teeny-tiny waist and rather large feet.
“I got to know Lindy Hemming when she was designing for Die Another Day,” says Cosgrave.
“It was a wonderful experience for me as a fashion historian to work with a costume designer who thinks in 3-D.”
The tribute to all things Bond, which runs until February 13, extends to attractions throughout Downtown Dubai. The Dubai Fountain will dance to the classic Bond theme tune, a Q boat will be anchored at Dubai Aquarium, and there will be Bond-movie screenings in The Dubai Mall.
•To book tickets, visit www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/jamesbond