|Posted on April 17, 2015 at 12:35 AM|
(Just to explain why I’m randomly talking about "Skyfall" in 2015, AV Club did their half-decade’s best list and I was just about to write this long thing in the comments and thought I’d put it here for once)
During some recent online discussion about “Skyfall,” I was forced to question whether I was liking it correctly. The gist of that discussion was that much of the plot regarding Silva made no logistical sense and he was yet another villain to pull the old “I wanted to get caught the whole time, you’ve played right into my hands Bond/Batman/Nick Fury! Mwa ha ha!” Someone also said “Skyfall was just fine. I don’t know why people pretend they remember half that movie” And it occurred to me that I don’t remember half of that movie, and I may in fact be using the stuff I did like to construct a better movie in my head.
My head, let’s remember, mostly only knows Bond as a cultural icon. I’m far from well versed in this character or his world. I have seen “Skyfall,” “Casino Royale,” about ten minutes of “Dr No” and bits and pieces of “Goldeneye” Enough to know that Sean Bean dies, double crosses someone, and then dies AGAIN. That's some full service Sean Beaning.
My version of Skyfall is gorgeous (because Roger Deakins is a cinematography god) with several breathtaking sequences like the entrance through the lanterns and the fight entirely in silhouette. It also brought just enough of the old Bond tropes back in to keep things fun, slightly campy and keep Craig’s era from feeling anymore Bournesque. But on the more serious side it told the story of a Bond who is simply broken. If we’re ascribing to the theory that it’s a code name then this model of 007 is done. He failed to get himself killed, time to decommission him and let him drink himself to death on his own time...and get to working on ruining the new Bond, bring in the next self-destructive, chauvinistic sociopath. Silva, the ex-agent with a vendetta against M serves as a warning for Bond that his own instability could only get worse because he’s in the hands of someone who doesn’t care about the damage the job is doing to him and will turn her back on him if necessary. And there’s a subplot about Bond basically raping the former child prostitute dangled in front of him as bait and watching her die without even flinching. Because he is Broken.
When I’m fondly remembering this movie I’m completely forgetting everything that doesn’t support my interpretation. I'm ignoring my initial reaction that the "Home Aloneish third act, where Bond and M team up for one last action setpiece at Bond's childhood home, kinda undercuts everything the movie was doing up to that point. The angsty back and forth between M and Bond in the first couple of acts comes from his clear mental trauma and her partial responsibility for his recent near-death experience. That trauma shows itself best in the 'Is James Bond ready to re-enter the field?' tests. The word association test alone should answer that question with a 'Hell, no!' Despite such troubling responses as "Heart?" "Target" "Murder?" "Employment," and a new inability to hit the bullseye of an actual target, M okays him for active duty. Based on his own traumatic backstory, Silva rightly assumes that Bond feels more than a little betrayed because M chose to protect the thingie they were chasing (harddrive MacGuffin, they loose it anyway, it really doesn't matter) over Bond's life. The opportunistic Silva pulls on that loose thread by saying things like 'Mommy has been very naughty' Between that, Bond effectively saying "Mom" everytime he addresses M with the English 'Ma'am,' and Silva's sexually ambiguous Mama's Boy, this throughline is pretty darn sexist as well, as any woman who's realized that a vaguely maternal additude towards her employees was expected could tell you.
Back to that childhood home, Bond has a big freaking estate in the country that he's apparently been ignoring since his parents died?! Didn't "Casino Royale's Vesper say that Bond was wearing his designer watch like he was new money so he must've been a charity pupil at school and that the rich boys had made him pay for it? And Alberty Finney (who is introduced grandly enough that I assumed he had some connection to the franchise....Nope) popped up to tell call him by name: James Bond. Code Name theory aside, what the hell kind of covert agent is known by his actual name?!
I’m also excusing the fact that a good portion of its plot is lifted from “The Dark Knight” and Silva is just the Joker with added mommy issues. He’s craaaaazy, but still somehow capable of executing a plot that depends on knowing, down to the second, the timing of every possible outcome. And he has an encounter where he tells the flawed hero that the system he trusts is totally precarious, that the people he’s destroying himself to protect are no nobler than he is and will throw him to the wolves when expedient.
This is not to say that I didn’t really enjoy Javier Bardem’s performance. I also enjoyed the scene where he’s doing everything he can to make Bond sexually uncomfortable and Bond just replies with “What makes you think this is the first time?” I know that’s meant to be a cute throwaway, a brief concession to tell us this Bond is of the now. But, in a franchise as misogynistic as this (with no end in sight. See above re: dead prostitute) I appreciate the implication that Bond has probably fucked a few guys “for information” as well.