I discovered early on that Sue shares my enjoyment of the James Bond film series. We have seen virtually every one of them during their opening weekends throughout our 27 years of marriage. We made plans to take our niece Ana out for dinner and a movie in honor of her 20th birthday Friday night, and when she suggested we see “Skyfall,” the latest Bond film, we were only too happy to oblige!
“Skyfall” is the third installment of the series with Daniel Craig staring as James Bond. These three movies, “Casino Royale,” “Quantum of Solace,” and Skyfall” have all been quite the departure from the normal Bond formula. While they all appear to take place in the present, each movie actually goes back in time to explain how James Bond came to be the larger than life character we meet in “Dr. No.”
In “Casino Royale, James Bond doesn’t yet have his license to kill, and is on his first mission. In “Quantum of Solace,” James Bond seeks revenge for Vesper Lynd; a character who died during “Casino Royale;” something that places him at odds with the British Secret Service MI6. While these movies have the typical Bond villains, they lack the signature lines and overall smoothness we have come to expect from James Bond. Even the character M, who is an enigmatic, second tier character in most Bond movies, is a flawed, very human, central component of these three.
“Skyfall,” in my opinion, is the most dramatic James Bond movie to date. The secret agent becomes very aware of his small, expendable role in the battle between good and evil, and comes to accept, and even embrace it. We learn of Bond’s childhood in Scotland, and simply hearing about his Mother and Father make the spy seem more real than ever before. We come to understand the thankless, yet necessary job that M must do to keep her nation safe. Her brilliant understanding of human tendencies has allowed her to recruit and control a group of double 0 spies through the use of threats and manipulation. The secret agents both love and hate their boss, and while her powerful mind games get results, they have also worked to create Silva, the warped, chief villain of this latest film. Silva uses both the names “M” and “Mum” to address the head of MI6, indicative of the level of insanity he has been plunged into.
“Skyfall” wraps up this three movie prequel with typical Bond action as well as with answers to most of the questions that have arisen during “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.” We are introduced to a young “Q,” whose youthful confidence is quickly and humorously overpowered by his extreme lack of experience. The few scenes that include Q, especially the one where Bond is presented with a Walther PPK pistol, give some indication of the direction this quartermaster is headed. “Moneypenny” is also introduced during this film and the audience is offered a little insight into her and Bond’s relationship which is a key ingredient to all later films.
There are a few areas, however, where this little trip back in time causes some head scratching. The female M, played by Judi Dench, appears in the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, the latest, time wise. She also plays M in these three prequels. Then there’s James Bond’s favorite automobile, a customized Aston Martin, complete with armor plating and machine guns. This car was employed in other “later” films, but somehow the same car was pulled out of storage for “Skyfall.”
All in all, I enjoyed this latest James bond film. “Skyfall” was a pleasant departure from the normal formula for this series while still containing enough of the basics to give it a feel of familiarity. The dramatic interaction between Bond and M made for several moments of intense emotion that are extremely rare in this long running series. Then there was Silva, the crazed villain, whose story of being tortured while serving his country filled me with pity. Yes, this wasn’t your typical Bond movie, but one that nonetheless was extremely entertaining at every level!