This past Friday, everyone on the film I'm working on went to go see the latest Bond film, Skyfall. It delivered in all the ways a Bond film should: an action-packed adventure through exotic locales, chasing a maniacal villain, all while bringing the franchise into the present day. Yet it still brings back the feeling of the old Sean Connery Bond films. We see Bond's old Aston Martin. Q is back. Moneypenny returns. And M's office at the end of the film feels a little more like, well... M's office. Long-time fans get plenty "tips of the hat" to their old favorites, new fans to the franchise get plenty of action and a compelling story. In many ways, it felt like Daniel Craig was really coming into his own as Bond.
Craig remains the gritty, dark, and physical Bond we came to know in Casino Royale, but the years since that film seem to have aged him a bit. And now he faces his toughest challenge yet: a captivating villain, a man who once was an agent like Bond, a man Bond could become under the right circumstances. And Silva doesn't hesitate to drive that point home, instilling doubt in our beloved agent, calling M into question, the woman he's fought to protect.
Silva certainly placed doubt in my mind; I wondered if Bond might join forces with this villain, or at least lose faith in his fearless leader. Bond has already seen that M will dispense of him if necessary. He's been lied to and manipulated, and is facing the prospect of his age making him and his organization antiquated. He's been around for a long time (50 years by franchise standards), and the people feel MI6 isn't necessary anymore.
But he still has what it takes to prove he's still needed. His country still needs him, and Bond needs to serve his country. While he enjoys his "death" at the beginning of the film, when he sees his beloved country in danger on television, he rushes back to her aid. His many years on the field are taking a toll on his body, but he will continue to push on.
I love that the discussion of Bond's age in this film is a bit of a meta discussion on the franchise itself: why does the world still need James Bond after a half a century of these movies? Aren't we past the age of espionage? Bond and this movie prove that they still have a place in our lives, and based on the box office reports from this weekend, the public still believes in him. I love how Sam Mendes puts it one of the production video blogs (posted below):
It struck me that it is still possible to make a big, fabulous, glamorous, escapist movie and yet at the same time, to say something about the world that we're living in.
If done well, these escapist movies can go beyond the fantastical world of secret agents, and show us a little something about ourselves. How do we react when we find the world doesn't appreciate us anymore? Is it ever too early to throw in the towel? Or can your dedication to an organization, country, or idea allow you to push past insurmountable odds and save that which you love? Bond is given a chance to "escape" and live a carefree live in the Caribbean, but that isn't enough for him. So too this film doesn't stop at its escapist aspects, but pushes for something greater.
If you are even slightly interested in the Bond franchise, you need to see this movie. And if you aren't a Bond fan, this film might change your mind. I'd love to hear what you think about the film, so let me know if you agree with my take in the comments!
And for those of you who want a way to quickly catch up on the other films in the series, this video is a great run-through: