"He's not very good at his job, is he?" So asked My Lovely Wife one evening not too long ago as we watched Sean Connery get stuffed into a trunk at gunpoint, or something, in the middle of Dr. No, the first James Bond movie produced by Eon, the entity responsible for the franchise good, bad, and ugly as we know it. I thought of this reading Michiko Kakutani's New York Times review of the new, Ian-Fleming-estate-commissioned Bond novel, Solo, in which Kakutani, who seems to have only the Bond films, and not a whole bunch of them, as a reference for the MI6 agent, states that Boyd's version of Bond "seems oddly deficient in irony, style, and dangerous competence—those essential Bond traits."
You know who would argue against Bond's competence? Jill and Tilly Masterson's parents, that's who. In 1964's Goldfinger Bond gets poor Jill killed by enlisting her in a juvenile stunt against her boss, the title villain. Later, tooling around the Alps, Bond meets crazed-with-grief sister Tilly, a wannabe revenge killer. By failing to effectively neutralize her when he gets the chance, he winds up getting HER killed, too, and getting himself strapped to a table with a castrating laser aimed between his legs.
Of course as Bond invariably gets it together, and gets his man, and emerges from his adventures in one manly piece, he must be doing something right besides regularly arbitrarily defying actuarial odds. And of course Bond's runs of bad luck have the effect of getting him icily teed off, which yield some spectacularly satisfying bits of payback, as in the immortal "You've had your six" riposte to bad guy Professor Dent (Anthony Dawson) in Dr. No. But still, he's no Derek Flint.
The bungling is not, incidentally, confined to the films (and I invite you to cite, and discuss, your favorite or least favorite instances of Bond goofs in the comments section below). In The James Bond Dossier, his wholly delightful 1965 study of the Bond novels, Kingsley Amis (who would write a Bond novel, Colonel Sun, in 1968, under the pen name Robert Markham), after allowing that Bond's "professionalism" (which is a different quality than competence, we feel compelled to insist here) is "one of the best thing about him," continues: "However, Bond is given to lapses of judgment so appalling and so rich in dire results that he needs every particle of our esteem for his forethought on other occasions, and every ounce of Mr. Fleming's talent for camoflauging such blunders by pace and mystification, in order to avoid forfeiting our respect forever." E.g., "I have never in my life ventured by night (or by day either, for the matter of that) into the grounds of a house belonging to an international master criminal with Russian connections and a servant—Oddjob again—who knows seven ways of killing me with a single blow. But if I ever did I should be very much on my guard." Amis's works on/of Bond are quite delightful and ought to be put back in print in a single volume, it occurs to me.
Anyway—what's your Hall Of Fame Bond screw-up?