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The Return of James Bond: Skyfall, Movie Review

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Skyfall: Bond is Back and More Real than Ever

Can James Bond Get Any Angrier?

Daniel Craig in Skyfall (Sam Mendes, 2012)The new Bond film brought a new mood to the legendary franchise. Instead of highlighting James Bond’s sterling capacity for ass-kicking while remaining impeccably handsome, it veered into the psychological realm of a spy. Skyfall’s Bond (Daniel Craig) is an older spy, weary to the ways of his trade, making a return to action after a vacation, rusted from lack of practice. Not only this, he is also an alcoholic, adding to his humanity, and making him a more gritty version of James Bond than we have seen.

Bond’s weaknesses of course only serve as barriers that he will overcome, seemingly without undergoing any mental stress or dire consequences. This formula leaves some further possibility for emotional discovery into Bond’s personal life. Talk of James Bond having issues regarding his dead parents, and his being an orphan are brought to focus in the film. We are led to believe that there is some repressed emotion in Bond, and that the drinking and sexing are what keeps his darker spirit at bay. The film’s focus however does not delve too far into that realm, for fear of robbing it of its awesome action scenes; though we are told more of what Bond is struggling with we don’t see him ever cry or swear or have a panic attack. This is perhaps ideal for Bond’s image as it provides him with emotional depth, and yet leaves his potential for heroic smoothness unblemished.

And it is not just Bond that contains more emotional depth in this film. The villain too, Raoul Silva, played by Javier Bardem brings to the screen a level of spine-shivering creepiness that is new for Bond films. His bizarrely bleach-blonde hair and delight in the demented sexuality that he brings to the role is fantastic. I hate to point it out so explicitly for fear of sounding homophobic, but the villain is also gay, and when he has Bond tied to a chair, he rubs down the inside of his thighs with lust. I’m all for homosexual villains; why not? It speaks to an advancement of ethics in my mind that a villain could be played as gay without the gayness being the despicable part.

Adding to the realism of the film is the fact that the C.I.A. is under investigation for missions that have led to “unnecessary death and destruction.” Serving as the backbone for the group, Judi Dench plays M, Bond’s boss. She is a stern and uncompromising leader with the belief that the agency’s old ways are better than the new. She represents the stiff upper lip of an official who despite public outcry, will continue to do her job and do so with the prideful attitude of one who knows better than the general public. M’s character too is thrown into the shadows by the explicit mentions of her job duties, which throw agents lives into mathematical equations in which she will let one die in order to save six other agents. The whole reason that the villain is out to destroy the world with computer hacking is that he was betrayed by M who gave him a cyanide capsule. In a pressing situation, Silva attempted to kill himself, bit the capsule open, but the capsule did not kill him, only melted his insides and his teeth. Because of this, he has a fake mouth which he pulls out at one point, revealing his villainously wicked mouth.

The actions scenes in Skyfall are great. There are none of the bewildering quick cuts that confuse the eye into following a frenzy of explosion and death. The director, Sam Mendes, has brilliantly brought Bond back to life, but overall the film tried a little too much to contextualize the plot in a darkness it did not require. The effort to modernize James Bond and make him more real was noble, but by the end of the film I felt a little bit deprived of an ideal hero, Bond now vulnerable, and not as reliably cool anymore.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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