Originally written for my University paper
“Skyfall” marks the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. This milestone has played a fairly large role in the promotion of the film and is a testament to the enduring appeal of Ian Fleming’s original character. Perhaps what is most intriguing about “Skyfall” is that the film seems to acknowledge the age of the franchise to which it belongs. “Skyfall” is the most self-aware film of the series without breaking the fourth wall. It plays with our preconceptions of what a Bond film ought to include. It is for this reason that “Skyfall” is arguably the best but certainly the most interesting Bond film.
“Skyfall” pushes us to consider something that we never have before: Bond’s fragility. Bond (Daniel Craig) has had his fair share of drugged coffee and darts over the years and movies; yet “vulnerable” has never been a word we’ve associated with him. He has escaped from every trap and endured every torture (including a particularly gritty one in “Casino Royale” that had every male in the audience crossing his legs). “Skyfall” strips away this invincible persona by ostensibly killing him off within the first 15 minutes. Of course, we don’t believe for a moment that our hero is actually dead—the trailer tells us not to worry. Nonetheless, this is a jarring away to open a Bond film.
Furthermore, the deliciously dark title sequence that follows focuses on Bond’s fallibility. Rather than showing his exploits and featuring lots of naked women (though there are a few of the latter), it includes Bond’s unconscious body getting sucked into a sinkhole, graves, an underwater skull made of blood and 007 shooting at his own shadow. Even after his predictable return from the dead a few minutes later, Bond remains far from the suave secret agent we’re used to seeing. He is off his game. He’s abusing pills; his hand is shaking and it’s throwing off his aim. For the first time, we question James Bonds’ ability to get the job done.
The film’s choice of Bond girl is perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Skyfall.” There are three women in the movie: M (Dame Judi Dench), Severine (Bérénice Marlohe) and Eve (Naomie Harris). The latter two have all the attributes we expect in a Bond girl and yet it is M, quite possibly the only woman Bond has ever not wanted to sleep with, who fulfills the typical role. It is she who is with Bond in the climax of the film and whom Bond is fighting to protect. Much of the plot revolves around the long-term consequences of her past decisions. The film’s insane and oddly homoerotic villain, Silva, (Javier Bardem) is motivated, not by global domination, but by revenge against M. In many ways, “Skyfall” is M’s story, not Bond’s, and the platonic yet compelling relationship between them is one of Skyfall’s greatest strengths.
“Skyfall” contains all the action and thrills that have endeared moviegoers to the franchise since 1962, but it includes enough nuances to keep 21st century audiences invested.