Skyfall – Bond loses his mojo, finds it again and then loses it again

A new bond film is always something of an event. Movie tragics, all of us, look forward to each new one and discuss their triumphs and shortcomings at length.

Skyfall gives everyone plenty to chew on. It kind of felt like an Austin Powers journey of Mojo lost and found. Whilst it breaks from some elements of the Bond tradition it retains the core of the Bond mystique. Bond (the Franchise) is now 50 years old. Almost as old as me. The flavour that director Sam Mendes and writers Purvis, Wade and Logan have introduced mirror the emotional changes a 50 year old goes through.

Less action, glitz and confidence. More hangovers, stubble and pained reflection. Sounds dull? Well its not – but you have to pay attention.

Skyfall opens with MI6 agents murdered whilst guarding a disk – a frenetic chase via foot, car, motorcycle and train follows as Bond and his field partner Eve (Naomi Harris) desperately try to retrieve the stolen disk. Throughout the chase they are being tracked by M and other operatives in MI6 headquarters who listen in over a conference line.

As bond fights with the thief on top of the train Eve steadies and trains her rifle on the struggling pair. There is no clean shot. There is no time. There is no other option. M makes the call. Silence on the line – seconds pass – finally “Agent down”.

Th apparent death of agent 007 heralds a broader loss of confidence and direction in MI6 and Britain as a whole. The world is changing, and institutions will change with it or be consigned to history. M is called in for a dressing down by Chief of the Intelligence and Security Committee Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). Not only is Bond dead, but the disk is in the wrong hands and it contains the cover identities of dozens of agents deeply embedded in terrorist organisations. M is more than past her prime – she personifies decay and decline and must be decommissioned. Mallory gives M two months to organise her retirement and recommend a replacement. M digs in and declares she won’t leave MI6 in worse shape than she found it.

On her way back MI6 HQ is targeted by an attack from the inside and six more agents are killed. Worst. Day. Ever. News of the attack reaches a very much alive, but out-of-shape Bond who’s unplanned retirement involves drinking a lot and having sex. Once a secret agent, always a secret agent and on hearing news of the attack Bond does a runner back to London. However one does not simply walk into MI6. 007 is asked to undergo agent evaluation again before he can go back into the field. His drinking and debauchery have taken their toll and he seems to pass evaluation – barely.

It is at this point we realise that this Bond is not the one we’ve come to know. We’re not in Kansas anymore and the rules have changed.

M orders the newly recommissioned 007 along with Eve to Shanghai to follow a lead on the missing disk. This brings Bond into the orbit of Severine who is involved in the assassination of a business man. The assassin happened to be the thief who stole the disk. Bond and Eve follow Severine to Macau and then to the island of her employer Raoul Silva. Severine is terrified of Silva and alludes to his sadism in a great scene both warning and imploring Bond. Oh – and hands-up if you like giant lizards.

Silva is an embittered and somewhat unhinged MI6 agent who has gone freelance. Sporting all manner of psychological impediments, a distinct lack of fashion sense with confused sexuality to boot, Silva uses technology to wreak havoc and extort corporations and governments. He mocks all the traditions and institutions that Bond holds dear. Even when Bond and MI6 manage to capture Silva he uses technology to escape from, confound and then confront them. He is targeting M and will have his revenge.

Its at this point that 007 decides to go back to basics and he takes M to “Skyfall” his childhood home in Scotland. With a home ground advantage of sorts Bond and M dig in for a last stand against the advancing enemy and their own irrelevance. They’re going “Old School” on Silva’s ass.

I liked the film and I liked the the nuances that have been introduced into the Bond franchise.

I do feel that some things could have been handled better and the final scenes needed more emotional weight. Little things – like Albert Finney – got in the way. If Bond changes his world must change as well. If he gets extra gravitas and realism his enemies must reflect this. Which didn’t quite happen. Bond and M changed. Nothing else did. So it didn’t mesh.

In pushing us away from the action, gadget, international and martini Bond I think the film makers have just come up short with realism, might actually die, thinks about stuff Bond. I don’t mind a new direction for Bond but whats left is just a bit of a vacuum. Its not a bad film. Just not a great one.

7 out of 10

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