Skyfall, by Albert W. Vogt III

I never understood the rage against the Daniel Craig portrayal of James Bond.  I suppose that when you are dealing with one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, nothing you do is going to satisfy a fan base that has been built over decades.  One thing we never seem to remember about the films that many of us came to know so well, though, is how campy they gradually became.  Granted, some of this is a result of the limitations of the technology of cameras in the 1960s and 1970s when the Bond movies got their real start with Sean Connery.  Sir Roger Moore, Connery’s successor, began making them over-the-top in their silliness.  Between the 1970s and when Daniel Craig assumed the role in 2006, there were a parade of rather forgettable titles in the franchise.  With Craig, it was a breath of fresh air, with more realistic action, stunts, and better looking images.  For whatever reason, it seemed too real, if that is the right word, for audiences.  Hence, with Skyfall (2012), you start getting some ridiculousness creeping back in as they seemingly wanted to return to more classic Bond material.

Unlike Quantum of Solace (2008) where the action picks up immediately where its predecessor left off, Skyfall starts with Bond striding into a hall.  He is on the tail of an assassin, Patrice (Ola Rapace) who has stolen a disc drive containing the identities of all the agents working for MI-6, the British Secret Service.  He chases this person on foot, on motorcycles on top of houses, and on a train.  So, at least we have the familiar opening action set piece.  Unfortunately, another MI-6 agent helping Bond, Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), shoots Bond as he tangles with the assassin on top of the train.  Bond falls several hundred feet into a river below, and is presumed dead.  This news shakes somewhat the normally unflappable leader of MI-6, M (Judi Dench).  Inquiries pile from other parts of the British government as to how such a major security breach could occur, not to mention the death of a highly skilled 007 agent.  Then, a mysterious person reaches out to M and blows up MI-6 headquarters as she watches.  News of the explosion reaches a very much alive Bond, who had decided not to return to duty, particularly since it was M who ordered Moneypenny to take the shot that almost killed him.  Yet, the report stirs his British patriotism and he decides to give up the life of dissipation he had been leading since his brush with death and he return to London.  M seemingly does not have any other choice but to reinstate Bond, although she has to fudge his requisite performance test that he apparently failed.  M sees something in Bond, and she gives him the mission to track down Patrice and find out for whom he is working.  It is their only idea in trying to find out who is behind the attack on MI-6.  Doing so leads him to Shanghai, and then to Macao, where Bond femme fatale number 348, Severine (Bérénice Marlohe), takes him to Bond villain 286, Silva (Javier Bardem).  Silva inhabits an island from which he carries out terrorist attacks via computer, as well as more tangible ones.  He is especially fixated on M because, as a former 00 agent himself, Silva feels like she betrayed him.  He gets his chance to confront M face-to-face when Bond manages to capture him upon their first meeting.  As it turns out, this is part of an elaborate plan by Silva to get close enough to M to kill her personally.  Bond, though, intervenes and spirits her out of London to his family’s ancestral home in Scotland, which bears the title of the film.  The reason we had never seen this abode, or heard anything about Bond’s ancestors, is because his parents had died when he was very young.  Once there, along with the estate’s aged game keeper Kincade (Albert Finney), they set up a series of traps to deal with Silva and his men.  During the attack, M is mortally wounded, though Bond is able to dispatch Silva before he can deliver the final blow.  With M now deceased, the MI-6 Bond goes back to work for now has a new leader, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and most of the rest of the same stuff we had seen repeatedly in Bond films.

As you might be able to tell, I am a little disappointed that those behind the Bond franchise decided to make Skyfall less original than Craig’s previous two films in the famous role.  Still, it does not make it a bad movie, just not terribly new.  As such, there is not much more to say about it.  If you have seen a Bond movie, you have seen this one.  Instead, the one fun aspect of it for me personally also related to my Catholic Faith.  In the home Skyfall, there is a secret part of the house known as a priest hole.  The film breezes by this fact quickly, but allow me to tell you a little more about these little features.  In the sixteenth century, England (and Great Britain by extension) joined the Protestant countries of Europe.  With this switch came a wave of reprisals and oppression for those who attempted to remain Catholic.  In many places in the United Kingdom, the Faith went underground.  In the case of priest holes, it was literally underground.  They were hidden parts of homes where a family would hide a priest whenever the king’s authorities would come looking.  Now, there is no mention as to whether or not that makes the Bond family Catholic, but a guy like me can dream, no?

Between the Aston Martin that Bond drives at the end, a new M, the introduction of Moneypenny and Q (Ben Whishaw), and even a bit of the classic Bond music, you could tell there was a concerted attempt to get the franchise back to its roots with Skyfall.  Oh well.  I like it when people try to do new things with classic characters, but I guess they had done enough experimentation.  Still, as much of a solid film it is, I do not recall liking any of the Bond films to come out since its release.


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