Whenever I read someone’s commentary or review of a movie, I hope for something deeper, something fresher, something that will not only help me know if I’ll like a movie but maybe help me enjoy a previously undiscovered layer of a movie. Here is a brief tl;dr synopsis:
I like the newer Bond movies better. I know that’s heresy but you just can’t make that cheeky cheeseball cinema anymore and expect anyone to want to watch it. People want Batman to struggle with morality and totalitarianism and anarchy, they don’t want him to go “Ka-pow!” when he hits someone. The same goes with Bond, except he would be using an exploding pen.
I’ll get to the things I personally culled from Skyfall but let me explain in a nutshell what Bond actually is, after 23 movies spanning 50 years. Bond is the murky mirror in which we see ourselves reflected, our society, our pop culture. Bond always has the most popular music (of his time) to follow a threading plot with similarities to the most popular blockbusters (of his time) peopled by the most popular actors/actresses (of his time). Each movie is a time capsule vaguely held together with the others by threads of Ian Fleming to become something much greater than he himself could have ever envisaged. This Bond has, among other things, a combination of factual-historical antecedents, an immersion into Bond references, a somewhat Dickensian Batmanesque origin story, elements of the Bourne series, and plenty of tie-ins to current events.
Now, we may think of M as a cold, heartless, calculating bitch who hesitated far less than anyone else to authorize the shot. Marchetti would disagree on the reality of how careful agencies are with their operatives. As I showed above, the most resonating part of the movie for me was the character of Silva as a British intelligence agent turned bad with the obvious allusions to Guy Burgess. I think there have been enough real-world instances of covers being blown leading to the execution of agents in the field to merely reference it. I think the struggle of bureaucracy/liberal democracy with conservative covert operations over safety and security and what we do to protect them is both very relevant in our time but could lead to much fruitful introspection over the past. Referencing the “old ways” and “antiquated methods in a fight we don’t understand” does show how nationalism and state to state intercourse has completely unprepared all of us for asymmetric warfare but hasn’t diminished the certainty of some that things were “better back then”. You can even see a more modern description of the actual emphasis switch from human intelligence to electronic. “Orphans always make the best recruits”, made me think of another storyline. I think I may have misunderstood the Brave New World reference, I thought it was Aldous Huxley but it was really the Tempest wasn’t it?:
O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.
And then with the words of another poet, we get a moving oration on the constant flux of secret intelligence as one generation passes on in deference to the next with still resolute conviction and not a few regrets. Bond will also stay until the job is done but will his work become anachronistic and substantially reduced in scope and impact? Where will our immersion be in that secret world if it’s about a boy in his pajamas finishing his tea? Where is the humanity of espionage in our modern world?
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
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.