The name Bond, James Bond is synonymous with certain things; scandal, sex, chases and gadgets. The Bond franchise prides itself on delivering a certain style of sophisticated stealthy silliness, enthralling us with a world of high energy, high glamour and deadly danger.
Hanging on to the coattails of the grandeur of the Empire, Bond represents the best of Britishness; reserve, elegance, grandeur, patriotism and pride. The popularity of the franchise is perhaps in part due to a much exaggerated sense of what it means to be British in a climate that is somewhat confused and scattered. There is no singular British identity but Bond embodies the sensationalised stereotypes of the idealised British gentleman; somewhat aloof, indebted to his country and thoroughly dependable in a crisis.
I have to confess that I am not a connoisseur of this world. Although I was a massive fan of GoldenEye, I have not seen many other Bond films and so my appreciation of this film stems from digesting it as a singular entity, rather than in comparison to its predecessors.
Daniel Craig brings a steely, stone cold, sinister cynicism to James; efficient and machine like, he is now teetering on the precipice of alcoholism, fatigue and apathy. He is a broken Bond, but the threat now is potentially higher than ever, as an unknown villain with anonymised connections to M is blackmailing her through technology – a medium that has high jacked the modern world and threatened to steal the stealth from the shadows.
This Bond is an interesting mix of the old, ancient Britain and the modern technology immersed society we live in. Is there a place for spies, secrecy and subtlety in the world of Facebook, twitter and YouTube? This is a world with which M is at odds, and a world where indeed a film that focuses on the nature of being unknown and anonymous must struggle to catch up with the impossibilities of achieving this today.
This is also a film about M, rather than Bond, who has always operated as a cold, unknowable figure. M could stand for mother, matriarch, and monarch, elevated as she is, but never warm. She is the mother figure for James, an orphan, and presumably for many other agents as well. In this film, we get to see more of her warmth and humanity and gain a greater understanding of some of her flaws and weaknesses.
In fact, I found the Oedipal context of this film very intriguing, for this is a film about mommy issues, about abandonment, disappointment, fear, remorse, the hunger for approval and redemption, a film about how the stifled secrets of our past are inescapable and like coiled snakes, are always ready to spring upon us once more in the calm terrain of our futures. We get to explore M’s relationship to her agents and the cutthroat nature of their existence. Bond and M develop more of a dysfunctional mother-son relationship in this film, which reaches its grand crescendo at Skyfall itself, the film’s title and theme song, crooned by the British success story of the past few years Adele.
Daniel Craig won me over with his ‘cold fish’ approach to Bond, whilst Judi Dench is always enigmatic as M. Of course we cannot discuss a Bond movie without mentioning the villain of the piece, Mr Silva, played by Javier Bardem who lends an eccentric, camp tone to this over the top former agent with more mummy issues that the whole world of psychology could possibly be prepared for. Bond Girl Bérénice Lim Marlohe, who describes her character as ‘half dragon, half panther’ sizzles as the spectacular Sévérine. Without spoiling the treatment of her character in this film, Bond girls have always harked back to an age of sexism, objectification, impossible glamour, sultry sex, eye candy and trophies for the male characters of the film, and it is most certainly what we have come to expect of Bond, but the disposable nature of her character sat uneasily with me and didn’t seem to be moving the female role within this type of movie forward with the times. Naomie Harris also makes an appearance in a few, cobbled together scenes and despite my initial resistance, she did grow on me.
If you come to Bond for the style, beauty and soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed here. To celebrate Bond’s 50th anniversary we have a beautiful, slick film which will deliver all the chases, anticipation and raunch of its predecessors with a delicate layering of humanity added to this fast paced world of danger and desire.