Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade; based on characters created by Ian Fleming
Cinematography: Roger Deakins; Editing: Stewart Baird
Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Costumes: Jany Temime; Score: Thomas Newman
Stars: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Judi Dench (M), Javier Bardem (Raoul Silva), Naomie Harris (Eve), Ralph Fiennes (Gareth Mallory), Ben Whishaw (Q), Bérénice Lim Marlohe (Sévérine), Albert Finney (Kincade), Ola Rapace (Patrice)
Celebrating the silver anniversary of James Bond on screen, Skyfall is a watershed film that chops the myth into bits and reshuffles the pieces. Reintroducing Miss Moneypenny and Q, and changing the old guard by eliminating Judi Dench’s M character (this is the actress’ final appearance in the role after seven films), replacing her with the equally arch Gareth Mallory of Ralph Fiennes, who played a part akin to Bond in 1999’s big screen version of The Avengers. Dench and Fiennes were destined to Bond together at least on this one project, their clipped Englishness clinking off each other like matching China tea sets. Clearly, Skyfall is simultaneously attempting to re-access the Bond series and reboot it.
The longest running franchise in film history seems to have reached an impasse after 50 years, and at this juncture it’s become necessary to reinvigorate itself, reinventing Bond for the 21st century in order to prove that he’s still a viable presence. The result is this exciting action thriller. Skyfall seems a very un-Bond like excursion, influenced less by preceding entries than other sources, such as Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Adventures of Tin Tin (to which star Daniel Craig gave voice), maybe elements from Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy (though I’m at a loss to pinpoint exactly what), and certainly Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. This is an older, more brooding, morally ambiguous, psychologically complicated Bond than we’ve ever seen. But what the movie has gained in depth and complexity, it’s sacrificed in colorfully superficial thrills. Despite its frequent highlights, the death obsessed, past preoccupied Skyfall is something of a downer.
Directed by Sam Mendes, of American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead and Revolutionary Road, like those titles Skyfall is also about a man who feels out of sorts in the life he’s chosen and now finds himself trapped in. But Mendes hasn’t suffused this movie with near enough of the signature acerbity we associate with his other, darkly funny work. The black humor here comes out inconsistently, in fits and starts, such as during an outmatched Bond’s fight with that sumu-sized strong-arm man in the komodo dragon pit, one of the movie’s more thrillingly inventive moments, with 007 doubling as both the virgin sacrifice and his own knight in shining armor (since the komodo is an endangered species though, he’s not permitted to actually slay the dragon). There’s great style to such evocatively scored (Thomas Newman replaced frequent Bond composer David Arnold), iconic scenes as this, which begins with Bond gliding on a raft fringed by floating lanterns, under an archway shaped in the effigy of a golden dragon, as if passing into the waiting jaws of death.
The traditional pagoda outline of this gambling den is fringed with electric lights and staffed with Asian casino hostesses in blond pageboy wigs. It’s all so deliriously decadent it’s like something out of Demille. Following the delivery of his trademark opening line (“Bond. James Bond.”), we wait for him to ask for his drink shaken and not stirred to complete the effect. Aimed at the audience, these witty bon mots, such as when Bond hands over that shrapnel to be analyzed with the remark ‘for her eyes only,’ leave a hollow sounding echo in this film. Skyfall’s attempt to pull Bond’s espionage antics into a more tangible, contemporary world setting (even the filmed murder of the MI6 operative is seemingly modeled after the videotaped beheading of Daniel Pearl), makes such post-modern exchanges as “You made such a bold entrance.” “Did I complicate the plot?” “Who doesn’t like a little drama?” seem far too self aware and theatrical.
Apart from the fight in the dragon pit, there are other exciting scenes and indelible images to sort through here, such as the three helicopters hovering in unison over Silva’s island like avenging archangels come to round him up for judgment. Bond’s fight with a bad guy beneath the frozen over lake they’ve both fallen through is illuminated with spot effects by shafts of moonlight that soften the violence, making it appear eerily beautiful. Lit ablaze following the fiery finale, the Scottish moors licked by orange flame could pass for some wild bushfire in the Australian outback. The best scenes are punctuated by the exciting editing of Stewart Baird, which shows off such expertly choreographed stunts as the slicky slide ride down the escalator railing in which the two men hit the ground floor still running, Bond catching a lift by hopping on the back of a departing subway train, and the entire, eye-popping opening sequence encompassing rapid fire chase by truck, moped, and a fight atop a moving train that keeps barreling through low hanging tunnels.
Most action thrillers with insanely contrived, cloak and dagger plots, exotic settings, breathless fights and chases, come up with stunt scenes the same way horror films devise novel new ways to off their victims. It’s their raison d’être and the ingenuity and inventiveness of scenario construction usually gets hung up here, at the expense of all other dramatic considerations. Skyfall on the other hand is a sterling example of action adventure that never loses sight of its higher purpose by becoming preoccupied with outdoing each new, spectacular action feat. The movie opens with a bang, dropping us into a motorbike chase through the streets of old Istanbul designed to move us to sighs of oohs and aahs at Bond’s derring-do, even while he cavalierly disregards all known laws of physics.
This is big budget, special effects laden, crash and boom cinema, endowed with a touch of class courtesy of the British accents, with Bond the suave epitome of grace under pressure, an agile superhero jock in a tailored three piece suit. But apart from the occasional bright spot and some scene stealing, tongue in cheek work by Javier Bardem, who gives a corkscrew of a performance as the villainous Silva, managing to pop the stately (one is tempted to say funereal) air, Skyfall plays it all strangely straight and serious. This latest Bond outing is a curiously somber affair. And we’re cued that this is going to be something out of the norm when Eve takes her shot as commanded, hitting Bond square in the chest and sending him hurtling from the sky like a fallen sparrow, into the churning waters below. It’s odd for a non-noir like this to begin with the hero’s death, leaving guilt wracked M struggling to find the right words to pen Bond’s obituary. All the same, it makes for a great retro opening as we follow Bond floating to the bottom of the briny deep accompanied by the strains of the latest 007 theme, throatily sung by an Adele in excellent voice. The psychedelic meets techno-punk imagery seems just the sort of hallucinatory sights an oxygen deprived mind might imagine as life flashes before his eyes. Believing him dead, the film takes a moment to mourn what this older 007’s isolating, self sacrificing life as a secret government operative known by a number instead of a name has amounted to at day’s end. Time spent engaging in casual one night stands has left him unmarried, with no next of kin, so his apartment is unceremoniously sold off and belongings stored away. Bond’s passing, which seems so momentous to us, has gone largely unnoticed by the England he served. Skyfall stands as a sad requiem for a 007 who has forsaken everything – identity, family, self fulfillment- for an uncaring queen and country. This movie isn’t the end of the franchise, sequels are planned, so it’s odd that so much emphasis should be placed on how past his prime Bond seems.
Having miraculously survived the shooting and drowning (though it’s never explained exactly how; he’s not joking when he later tells Silva his favorite pastime is resurrection), we find this self pitying man “only held together by pills, booze and pathetic love of country,” has dropped out of sight, turned his back on the very England he so faithfully served, and who still unceremoniously wrote him off as expendable. He’s unconcerned now whether he lives or dies, knowing it couldn’t make much difference one way or the other to a world that already believes him dead. He tempts fate freely in foreign watering holes, drowning his self destructive sorrows in a gin-soaked, scorpion baiting equivalent of Russian roulette. The story proper involves Bond’s recovering a stolen CD containing the identities of undercover agents before they can be outed and assassinated by the terrorist cells they’re infiltrating. The real story however, and the more intriguing one, involves scriptwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade’s attempts to prove this womanizing, swinging 60’s, Cold War concept is still relevant in a changing world. While Purvis and Wade are no strangers to the Bond franchise, having penned several earlier entries, including both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, this is the first time Logan, who wrote Hugo last year, has taken a crack at the character, and the results are quite interesting.
Daniel Craig’s dour, intense, brooding Bond still seems strangely humorless, icy and Icelandic. He’s lost his unflappable dapper but the star’s subdued, slow burn style matches the movie’s careful pacing. Amusingly the theme of Skyfall, in which the actor’s anachronistic dinosaur attempts to prove his enduring relevance in a high-tech world, is almost identical to the theme of Craig’s sci-fi Western, Cowboys and Aliens. This is a revisionist Bond for our post-9/11 world, one who has, to paraphrase Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, gotten far too old for this sh*t. He only passes the MI6 aptitude tests, required to be put back on active service, by the skin of his teeth and the tortuous regime to get himself back in shape with sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, just emphasize how over the hill he is. “Not bad James. For a physical wreck.” he’s ribbed. To downplay the fact, once he returns from his beach bum existence, and is showered and shaved, many shots are included of a bare-chested Bond standing in front of mirrors, allowing the audience time to admire his impressively sculpted physique. Scenes like these are sprinkled so liberally throughout Skyfall, to stroke the star’s ego and prove he still has simmering sexual presence, the movie nearly devolves into a Gillette commercial. Ever since ‘the incident,’ Bond has developed the shakes and can no longer trust his own trigger finger. He’s like an alcoholic wracked by the DTs during withdrawal. He’s become such a bad shot he can’t hit the side of a broadsheet at 30 paces and has to advance upon the target, in mounting rage, before his stray bullets hit home. This shaky Bond is later forced by the leering Silva to play William Tell and shoot a wineglass off the head of former lover Sévérine, and this without the lady having even betrayed him, in which case her duplicity would have seemed to invite such an ignominious end. It seems a strange way for Silva to treat her, especially after rescuing Sévérine as a child from the sex trade. Moreover, the unfortunate placement of this scene, immediately following Silva’s attempt to seduce Bond, insidiously plays into homophobic feelings that gays not only hate women, but that Silva in particular is trying to eliminate the competition.
With its history of scantily clad Bond girls, which went hand in hand in the popular imagination with the Playboy bunny in helping to define the swinging 60’s, this franchise has a strange place in relation to the feminist movement, primarily because Bond films also gave audiences many adept female agents who were the equal of, and every bit as skilled as, their male counterparts. Here on the other hand, the only female operative of note, Naomie Harris’ field agent Eve, ends up demoted to a desk job, while the capability of the series most empowered female, Judi Dench’s M, is brought into question, before she’s written out altogether. In light of the character’s classic womanizing and the series’ overall treatment of women as sexually available playthings, it should be noted that while Skyfall is committed to revamping so much else about Bond that feels outdated, he’s still seen effortlessly seducing every woman he comes in contact with. And when he makes love to Sévérine in a two shot their silhouetted figures behind the steamed glass of the shower, form into the shape of a heart.
Still, such cutesiness can’t entirely dissipate the tired air of exhaustion hovering about the movie, a peculiar ambiance that may be unique to the series. Skyfall repeatedly points up how anachronistic the Cold War, mod Bond concept seems in our new age of cyber terror. The script is attempting to bring him fully up to date by showing us a Bond shakily struggling to remain relevant in this brave new world. Like M, who’s in his corner, he refuses to be sent out to pasture while still in his prime. “You don’t need to be an operative to see the obvious.” Mallory admonishes her, “It’s a young man’s game. You can’t see it, or you won’t. You’re sentimental about him.”
Ironically enough that’s true, even though Bond holds M personally responsible for betraying him. While he’s still licking his wounds, she isn’t having a much better time of it. The Parliamentary members conducting the public inquiry into her actions want to force M into early retirement, finding her stubbornly old-fashioned methods antiquated. We feel for the character and her stalwart resistance to being made redundant (“When a thing gets redundant,” Silva later states, reiterating Mallory’s philosophy, “it’s eliminated.”), but what we’re shown tends to validate the board’s view (“I find it difficult to overlook the security breaches and dead operatives of which you are singlehandedly responsible.”). M’s version of playing hard ball, which makes her cavalierly disregard her agents’ lives, affronts our sense of honor the same way it does Bond’s, who she orders to abandon that bleeding agent his initial instinct moves him to help, and Eve’s, who is ordered to shoot Bond in the interest of nabbing the villain. She’s like a militaristic general ambivalent about how many soldiers’ lives are forfeited under fire as long as the battle is won in the end, leaving her covered in glory.
Her actions seem callous and bullheaded, yet M persuasively defends her snap second judgment call, telling Bond he had to be sacrificed, “It was the possibility of losing you or the chance of losing all those other agents. You know the rules of the game.” then referencing his advancing years, “You’ve been playing it long enough.” (“Maybe too long.” is his weary response, “Were all played out.”). M may invoke our ire by treating Bond as an acceptable casualty of war, but as she points out, the number of vulnerable operatives that could’ve been saved in the long run if that stolen CD were recovered, far outweigh such considerations. The script toys with Spielberg’s old Saving Private Ryan quandary, asking how many dead soldiers constitute an acceptable loss to a government that’s tasked them with safeguarding the interests of just one.
Bathed in flashing neon from streaming banners and the digital advertising that decorates the sides of skyscrapers, the Shanghai where Bond is assigned is as visually dazzling as Times Square. Constructed of nouveau architecture and glacially impersonal, sleekly mechanical steel spaces, this high tech Shanghai is made to seem like the city of the future, resembling the metropolis of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Its high-rises and glass edifices are placed at odds with the ancient city of Istanbul, where the story opens, and where the old Bond symbolically ‘dies’ (“Did you really die that day?” Silva muses), only to be born again. Like Silva’s deserted island, whose inhabitants fled so quickly they left most of their belonging behind, Bond’s home base of London, long past her Victorian prime as a world super power (“Makes me feel a little melancholy.” Mallory metaphorically remarks, “An ignominious old warship hauled away for scrap.”), is also made to seem something of a dying city. “You’re living in a ruin,” hisses Silva, who’d personally like to reduce it to a pile of rubble, “You just don’t know it yet.”
The globetrotting trajectory of Skyfall, from old world Istanbul to high tech Shanghai and back to today’s London, serves as the perfect visual metaphor for a Bond who is himself seeking to move out of the past, into the present, to prove he’s still vital in our cyber age. As he glides through the empty, unfinished building behind the backlit neon signs, the colorful imagery that plays across Bond’s face links the past and present even further by recalling both the flashing psychedelia projected onto club walls during the 60’s, when this character was in his heyday, as well as the futuristic, virtual reality video game designs of movies like Total Recall and Tron. These digital banners provide great backdrop for the resulting shadow puppet show as Bond engages the bad guy in battle, with only their silhouettes outlined against the light.
To his chagrin, this seasoned Bond is forced to suffer the indignity of taking his marching orders from a new Quartermaster played by Ben Whishaw (the innocent seeming young predator of Perfume– the Story of a Murderer), who still looks so young the script can get away with telling us his complexion hasn’t cleared up yet. This symbiotic relationship between the old dog who refuses to be taught new tricks and the wet behind his ears whelp serves to encapsulate Skyfall’s central theme. They lay their distrust of one another out on the table during their amusing first meeting at the National Gallery, with the boy asserting that “Age is no guarantee of competence…” while Bond counters “Youth is no guarantee of innovation.” Yet they come to find that they actually work quite well together, mixing and matching their methods in equal measure. It’s to their advantage, the best of both worlds. Their growing, begrudging respect for one another’s ways is meant to show that the past can live in harmony with the present. From what we see, the old ways shouldn’t be discounted anymore than the newfangled ones should be viewed with unwarranted skepticism and mistrust. Proving his continuing viability by adapting to working with this techie geek, Bond is brought more up to date by trading his Inspector Gadget style arsenal (“Were you expecting exploding pens? We don’t really go in for that anymore.” Q condescends) for more pragmatic hardware. In this technologically driven, computerized world, the rules of the spy game have been rewritten. Q’s claim that he can do more from his laptop in his pajamas before coffee than operatives in the field can do all day is meant to sum up the disorienting modern world Bond finds himself a part of, the cyber age of terror embodied by Javier Bardem’s Silva. It’s a game changer. The silly, colorfully superficial spyjinks enjoyed in earlier 007 outings have been replaced by the grey pallor of post 9/11 gloom and doom. It’s this that M finds so threatening, that makes her feel so out of her element, throwing her instincts off, causing her to lose more and more good agents. (“It’s as if you insist we still live in the golden age of espionage where the only resource was human intelligence.”). The easily identifiable face of the enemy has changed, and she can’t devise a stratagem to fight forces she can’t see, forces operating in anonymity. The fate of nations now hangs on the actions of shadowy figures lurking in the dark of terrorist cells, who no longer play by the old, civilized rules of engagement. Like Bond, M suddenly finds it necessary to pull herself into the present kicking and screaming, or else fall by the wayside. He’ll make it but, content to molder in the familiar warmth of the past, she won’t. Conceding that it’s time to call it a day, removing herself from the equation for the greater good, as she had so many operatives under her, M acknowledges, “Too many agents are dying because of me.” It’s no coincidence then that the big finale is set in a chapel dating back to Reformation times. It’s here that M can receive absolution for her sins. Mallory had advised her to go out with style (“You should leave with dignity.”) and M’s final gallantry fully warrants gamekeeper Kincade’s correlation of her with the storied Skyfall, observing that “Like all great ladies, she still has her secret ways.”
Javier Bardem’s Silva, who can proudly join the rogue’s gallery of other great, campy, larger than life Bond villains, is paradoxically intended to both represent the past (“Think on your sins” his viral message warns M) and the very modern anarchy that can be wrought by terrorists working behind the curtain of their wireless connections. Just as Q had earlier warned, Silva’s sneak attacks are all computer-engineered. Relating how the island city he’s retooled as his villainous lair was abandoned under threat that it was soon to become another Chernobyl, he chortles “Amazing what panic you can start with a single computer.” He’ll subsequently demonstrate the point first hand, and it seems simple irony that this man from yesterday exploits the technology of tomorrow to exact his custom made revenge. His Silva is hacking gone haywire, yet speaks in simile and metaphor like a new age prophet. He offers us the parable of the rat in which two surviving rodents, meant to represent both he and Bond, have unknowingly had their natures turned on them, been conditioned to blindly carry out the perverse dirty work of the powers that be. Though Bond refuses to accept that he’s a tool of his government, asserting “I made my own choices,” Silva assures him that “You think you did.”
The finger pointing Silva, who emerges from out the dim mists of M’s past like some vengeful, accusatory specter, is actually meant to represent the flip side of Bond himself, the angry, seditious, rankled side he suppresses in order to continue serving queen and country unquestioningly. The rat metaphor makes the connection between the two men explicit, but an equally strong link had earlier been forged. Like Bond, whose personal safety M ascribes secondary importance to in the interest of the greater good, Silva had once been left for dead by her as well. Though Bond wrestled with his own demons following the shooting, turning his back on England and voluntarily becoming a man without a country for a brief time, eventually he came to his senses and returned to her majesty in her hour of need. There’s no possibility of such reconciliation for defector Silva, however; to him remaining loyal to an ungrateful England that hung him out to dry is unthinkable. Indeed, his terrorist attacks are intended to undermine the very fabric of the government that betrayed him. He’s hell-bent on exacting vengeance on all those for whom he endured endless torture at the hands of the enemy, torture that has taken a lasting toll, unhinging his mind.
When he removes his mouth plate and his face collapses into a mottled mass of boneless crevices and scoured flesh (“Look at your work- Mother!”), he’s the physical proof of how anger and hatred eats away at the soul. Surrounded by the crumbled statues of fallen idols, Silva is meant to be Bond all twisted and torn. He’s what happens when good agents go bad; 007 gone rogue. As portrayed by the dark and swarthy Javier Bardem, whose hair has been died a titanium shade of platinum in an attempt to match him up to the Aryan hard looks of his character’s archenemy, Silva may truss up Bond, but it’s only to get the point across that he’s 007’s own rampant Id monster, his superego unloosed. Silva is what Bond himself could easily have devolved into if his better nature hadn’t persevered, so when he makes a pass at his mirror image, the act seems less predatory than masturbatory.
During the Rorschach-like free association test given him by MI6, Bond equated the letter M with ‘bitch,’ indicating he still harbored simmering anger over what she did to him. When his attempts to suppress his rage prove futile, his violent emotions have no other outlet than manifesting themselves in the form of Silva. Venting all the righteous rage 007 won’t acknowledge in himself, Silva’s the manifestation of the festering fury Bond secretly nurses over his betrayal. “Still loyal to that old woman that only lies to you.” he chides and later, lamenting to an unmoved M, “I protected your secrets. I protected you. They made me suffer, suffer, suffer. Until I realized it was you who betrayed me.” When a still unrepentant M admits to the charges, in language identical to what she used to justify sanctioning Bond’s shooting (“He was a brilliant agent…I gave him up. I got six agents in return and a peaceful transition.”), we can’t help feeling that Silva has every right to be incensed. On the other hand, the movie is missing a key scene where Bond defends his steadfast allegiance to M, as eloquently as Silva expresses his disillusionment. In its absence, Bond’s loyalty seems like that of the blind rat conditioned to do its master’s bidding, or to be kinder, the duty of an old fashioned gentleman that refuses to abandon a lady in distress.
As Silva observes, both men share a pathological rejection of authority based on mutual childhood trauma. “Mommy was very bad.” he mocks Bond. Repeating the sins of the past, M is the maternal mother figure who went on to traumatize them both in their adulthood, stoking their rebellious feelings toward authority. When Bond takes M underground, squirreling her away where Silva can’t get at her, it’s clear he’s sidestepping due process and taking the law into his own hands. “I’m guessing this isn’t official…” she prods. “Not even remotely.” Bond and Silva both share an oedipal fixation on their big M, their symbolic mother, and the violent steps Silva takes to get mummy’s attention feel like the spiteful behavior of a jealous child acting out. “I was her favorite then,” he fondly reminisces of the days before 007 tripped along, when he alone shone as M’s star agent. His relationship with Bond, by extension, seems like some insane version of sibling rivalry gone awry. Assuring his ‘brother’ in arms that he can’t measure up, Silva tells 007 he’ll never be the agent he was.
But while this tormented psycho both loves his mother and wants to kill her, Bond simply wants to save M, thereby successfully suppressing the violent impulses personified in Silva. Espying the candle burning in the chapel window near the end, he tells Bond “Mother’s calling. I’ll give her a goodbye kiss for you,” only to be devastatingly crushed when M rejects him in favor of her new golden boy. “Your name is on the memorial wall of the building you attacked. I’ll have it struck off,” she tells him. “Soon you will have no past as you have no future.” Silva is fated to be consigned to eternal limbo, erased from all memory. It would have been preferable if he had remained dead, leaving only his spotless record to be venerated down to posterity. Bardem’s tongue in cheek performance however is one for the ages. I can’t shake his dissipated, frog eyed resemblance to Raul Julia, around the time he made The Morning After and The Addam’s Family films, and for my money Bardem’s work here is much more richly flavorful than his equally nefarious No Country for Old Men killer. It Incorporates elements from Heath Ledger’s over the top Joker in The Dark Knight and, when he’s incarcerated behind glass, can’t help but recall Hannibal Lecter, linking him by line of descent to some of the cinema’s most memorably disturbed monsters.
Skyfall, the one word he had no Rorschach association for bedsides “Done,” bringing the interview to a premature end, is Bond’s personal rosebud, the name of the ancestral Scottish estate where he lost both his parents (“Orphans always were the best recruits.”). In order to fully emerge into the present day, Bond must journey back in time to where he spent his childhood, laying his past permanently to rest. The early loss of his own mother explains Bond’s oedipal devotion to M. Saving her at any cost, and on home turf no less, is his way of rectifying the sins of the past, saving the parents he lost. This cathartic ending serves a double purpose as well. In thoroughly destroying his own Mandalay, Bond is assuring that his past can’t come back to haunt him, as M’s has her. Returning home with his new ‘mother,’ Bond inherits his father’s old hunting rifle, reclaiming his sure shot under the tutelage of Kincade, the gamekeeper who first taught him how to handle a gun. Unrecognizably buried under a full Santa Claus beard, Albert Finney plays Kincade with just the right tone of rollicking irreverence. “Try to stop me you jumped up little sh*t.” this gruff old geezer amusingly challenges Bond, slapping his ears back by speaking to him in a way no one else has ever dared. It’s not just joshing respect for one’s elders Skyfall is stressing in moments like this, but reverence for all the great Brit stars of the past whose talents are far too infrequently taken advantage of by a cinema preoccupied with the latest and greatest, the next big thing. Skyfall’s producers originally toyed with the idea of casting Sean Connery in the role of Kincade, which would’ve been a glorious gesture for this silver anniversary addition to the series. Ultimately however, it was decided that the presence of the original Bond would be too distracting, which was an absurd call considering they turned around and cast an equally showstopping legend in the part. We learn from Kincade that after his parents died, a traumatized Bond sequestered himself in the hidden passageways leading under the house. “When he came out, he wasn’t a boy anymore.” Suddenly we’re unsure whether we’re watching James Bond or Bruce Wayne. This is the identical setup as Batman Begins, and certainly the extended running time and expansive scope has inflated this Bond entry to similarly Gothic, near epic proportions. Moreover, the character’s been accorded his own personal bat cave since MI6’s current war on terror is declared from an underground stronghold that once served Winston Churchill as his bunker during World War II. Despite the renovations, this base of operations still seems haunted by the misty memories of righteous wars past, fitting enough for a movie invested in mixing a bit of the old with a bit of the new. When M had asked where they were going, Bond’s response was “Back in time. Somewhere where we’ll have the advantage.” Indeed, it’s only on this ageless, ancestral ground that they stand any hope of neutralizing Silva’s cyber based tactics. Bond’s own Brigadoon, where time seems to have stood still Skyfall is just about the one place left on earth that the far reaching tentacles of Silva’s technology empire can’t extend. The climactic showdown, then, becomes an archetypal standoff, another Rio Bravo. While they’ve evened the odds as much as possible, giving them a slim chance of survival, this small band pitched in their heroic last stand is still pitifully outnumbered by the forces of darkness they’ve rallied against. What’s worse, the three heroes must defend their besieged fort from assault with nothing to hand but the ancient artillery and firepower of days gone by. In this way, Skyfall, which has struggled to make Bond still seem relevant in our technological times, ends up saluting the old standards. It’s come to accept that there’s no need to update the series, because the classics never age. With such a purposely old fashioned ending, one as old as the movies themselves, Skyfall has the supreme cheek to accept that “If all else fails, sometimes the old ways are the best.”