When Daniel Craig blew all of our minds with his amazing Bond reboot in Casino Royale, I think many of us assumed it would be sunshine and daisies from there on out. Quantum of Solace reminded us that even the Bond franchise has its duds, despite reports that if you watch it right after watching Casino Royale it makes it better. Going into Skyfall my expectations had fallen back down to earth. In truth, that was a good thing, because once again Craig blew my mind.
I remember watching Goldeneye as a kid and loving the whole ‘another MI6 agent’ story, and Skyfall got me hook, line and sinker with the same bit. Betrayed agent seeks to destroy the agency, instead of admitting that maybe he wasn’t betrayed and just got what was coming? I’m honestly not sure how to feel about that part of the narrative. M gives Bond this talk in one scene where she explains why Silva was betrayed, and I’m just not sure the audience is expected to trust her or her reasoning. I feel like the writers and Sam Mendes played into the current audience’s widespread mistrust of government to leave you sympathetic to the antagonist throughout the movie.
You think not? Why have Silva stand in a jail cell, pressing Bond to distrust the agency outright, explaining to him earlier all the ways he had been betrayed by M just days earlier? Why have Silva remove his denture-like apparatus and show us a face wracked by destruction, brought on by the direct inaction of M herself? Bond had just been shot at her word. She let him back out in the field. We kind of don’t like her, but then we find out she’s losing her job.
Well now I feel like a jerk. Can’t hate someone who’s losing their job, yea? Better yet can’t hate someone who’s ***SPOILER ALERT*** about to die at the hands of Silva in one of the film’s final scenes, only to have the guy who was pushing her out of her position while she was alive take her job in her death.
It’s no Casino Royale, but Skyfall brings some of my favorite scenes and stories to the Bond franchise, (Bond adjusting his cufflinks right after jumping into a train from a tractor. The Home Alone rip-off scene we get in the final half-hour, with James, M and Bond’s version of Alfred Pennyworth fighting off Silva and his goons. Silva and Bond re-enacting William Tell.) a great revenge story, and it also brings a close to Judi Dench’s tenure as M. She’s been around since Brosnan, even sticking through the Die Another Day debacle. But now the time has come and the real question is: Ralph Fiennes or Judi Dench? I’m not someone who holds onto tradition, so I’ll take the former.