PG-13 and God bless them for this rating. If James Bond was always a bit too risque for its MPAA rating, the Daniel Craig entries really feel like the most intense version of that rating. Yeah, it never really gets into R-rated material, but Skyfall might take all of the tropes of James Bond and ramps them up. Bond's alcoholism is stronger. The violence seems more intense. Good people die. There's sexuality (which oddly might be the most tame in this one). At one point, we see why cyanide does to a person's face. It's a lot, but definitely PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
I was convinced that I had written about this movie before. In fact, I'm going to check one more time right now. Nope, I haven't written about Skyfall. I just created a false memory. It's possible that it is due to the fact that Skyfall might be the one James Bond movie that doesn't try to hide a theme in the movie, but openly states it every two seconds. It might be because I write so many of these that I'm starting to lose track. Or maybe it is all due to the fact that I'm aging and memory might be a little bit more loosey-goosey than it was when I was in my 20s. Either way, I'm actually kind of jazzed that I get to write about Skyfall because it gets right what Die Another Day got wrong.
Die Another Day was a celebration of James Bond at 40. It was the 20th Bond entry in 40 years (which might have been part of the problem, come to think of it). Skyfall was the big 5-0. Man, the amount of things that were coming out between 1962 and 1964 that would affect pop culture is staggering. But James Bond's 50th Anniversary would actively address the problems that James Bond had faced culturally since GoldenEye. In that blog entry, I refer to GoldenEye as the birth of Nu-Bond. I think Albert Broccoli had stopped working on Bond and there was this cinematic feel that the other Bonds kind of lacked due to the adherence to formula. But as the West became more progressive, the problematic with chauvinist James Bond became all the more apparent. It was quaint and simple in the Connery era to have James Bond bed women and never speak to them again. It was easy to be kind of xenophobic towards an entire nation. Smoking was cool and drinking was even cooler. But from the '90s on, we kind of knew that James Bond was kind of a toxic personality. Die Another Day tried to celebrate that old way of thinking by referencing everything that came before it and covering up the problems with visuals. Skyfall, however, took a different approach.
I regularly have this moment while writing my blog. I'm going to establish that I don't love the message of Skyfall. It feels very Boomerish. You'll see what I mean later. But I will be praising the fact that Bond took a stance, even if I don't necessarily like that stance. Skyfall verbally states its theme throughout the film. If anything, it comes across as heavy-handed and slightly sophomoric. But considering that Bond doesn't necessary focus on having a message, at least not an overt message, it makes sense that Sam Mendes would allow a message about "being old-fashioned" to be harped upon time-and-again. Maybe I'm putting a bit too much of myself into the message of the movie, but I feel like the script said, "Be old fashioned", but the director said, "Be old fashioned, but..." When GoldenEye had the scene between M and Pierce Brosnan's M, about Bond being a relic of the Cold War, the message was kind of lost. Yeah, it does a really good job and I don't want to slag that movie. But Bond in Skyfall equates being old-fashioned with having a human element, not about being a drunk anti-Russian tank.
Because Bond is very fallible in this movie. A lot of the movie harps around the fact that Moneypenny ends up accidentally almost killing Bond. Like a few of the Bond movies, the movie stresses the concept that appears in many of the Fleming novels: James Bond has lost a step. But even with his fallibility, the man-on-the-ground approach is key to defeating Silva. Silva, too, is a man-on-the-ground. But Silva is so obsessed with abandoning his past that he loses what it means to have any objectivity. He talks to Bond about how many problems he can stop by following algorithms and trusting data that he has become the very villain he's trying to stop. Coupled with the fact that he holds M in contempt for holding him back from this new enlightened ways (the pulverized face may be the text, but the subtext leans into "the past is toxic"). And that's where I think a skilled director like Sam Mendes comes in.
Mendes never audibly says it, but there is this vibe that the message isn't binary. Yes, James Bond is the hero of the old guard. But it is because Bond, after fifty years, is willing to adapt and change himself for the better. He is given that chance. When Bond comes back to MI6 after looking ragged for the majority of the movie, he relies on his old tricks that don't really cut the mustard anymore. He can't fire a gun straight. He finds himself exhausted and mentally broken. Yet, M, the personification of the aging establishment (sorry, Dame Judi Dench), gives him another chance. And it is because he is willing to depend on his fallibility as opposed to his perfection, that is what makes him strong. I was thinking that it was a little weird that the therapist says "Skyfall", which sets Bond off. The film's title seems a little coincidental, to have this therapist drop this word that we've never heard before, and it ends up being the final bombastic set piece of the film. But Bond always stressed that his power came from closing off his humanity. After all, that's the final message from Casino Royale (and this, after I started by saying the other Bond movies didn't have overt messages). But in acknowledging his own vulnerability, it opens him to humanness.
So what the movie actually shows that it isn't about Bond's brute force and his cold nature. When he embraces the things that scare him, which is a combination of the past and the future, that's what allows him to prevail in the end. I love that Craig's Bond is the one who has to perform this. I always thought that Daniel Craig was the tank of the Bonds. He took Timothy Dalton's intensity and personified it. So that he turns to M in a time of need and James Bonds with her (pun very intended), that's important. There was always a relationship there between the two of them, but it was always shielded behind a wall of professionalism. But Bond returning to his home and acknowledging that M is important to him allows him to open up his world to new things. And when he Home Alones Skyfall, he's not using brute force. He's relying on technology and a war of wits. It's very not Daniel Craig. It's very mix of old-and-new. It is a strong choice.
It's a good Bond movie. Like, we all know this. Skyfall nailed exactly what Die Another Day failed at. It was this accessible piece that allowed Dame Judi Dench to retire on a high note. Yeah, I do think that Silva technically wins in this one, but it is a satisfying film that figures out that tone is more important than flash. It's a great Bond movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.