Watching a James Bond film reminds me of my father. He just loves watching James Bond films and I can’t forget the very first James Bond movie that I watched with him in the 1980s called A VIEW TO A KILL. So after a long day of meetings coming from Pasay, Taguig, Makati and Quezon City I was already looking forward to watching the last full show during the opening night of SKYFALL. For me, this is how I help remember my father — enjoying a good Bond film.
So where do I start with my review of this movie? To start off, it always helps that there are no expectations. This is actually a little harder than it looks. One thing that was clear to me is that when they said that they were rebooting the James Bond franchise with Daniel Craig, I never thought that they would manage to pull it off. I say this because it is hard to reboot a movie franchise when you have millions of fans who free up with it. You’ll still have to cater to that generation of fans who will still watch the newest Bond film. Then there’s the new generation of moviegoers. This generation grew up with spy films onvolving more empowered femme fatals like Nikita and saw more kids and teenagers turned into spies like Spy Kids. Let us not forget that even Rowan Atkinson played a big role making fun of the entire espionage movies in parodies like Johnny English. So how do you reach out to both audiences without alienating each other? The answer lies in creating a realistic script that’s easy to digest and as down to earth as possible.
The storyline of SKYFALL differs from all other Bond films as it moves away from global catastrophe and centering on M-I-6, the British Intelligence agency akin to the US CIA. It touches on a topic that involves terrorism but not from the traditional point of view of seeing terrorism as a change of governance. This time around, terrorism is taken to what it is — localized in Great Britain yet spanning a global influence and network of influencers from both the political elite who are in government looking for transparency and those working in the shadows who protect and die for their country. But though is the the overall background, the entire drama focuses on one character, James Bond’s boss called M played by Judi Dench.
As with any Bond film I’ve watched, Judi Dench delivers a spectacular performance of a woman playing an alpha male role. For instance, in the James Bond mythology only field agents with a double zero number have the “license to kill” and this concept is dramatically played out t the very beginning of the movie when a fellow field agent assisting Bond ask M over the radio for permission to take a shot of the enemy, stating that the shot will not be clear as the target is moving and the chance that Bond will also be affected and be killed in the process hangs in the balance of that decision. It is here that M is shown making a decision as the leader of M-I-6 and gives permission to the said agent. For a brief moment M is shattered and affected hearing that 007 (James Bond) is down and is declared killed in action. If you and I were in the espionage business, I wonder how will we view soldiers? Do we see them as assets that can be disposed and easily traded like most espionage films portray? One thing is clear about the film at the start. It portrays terrorism as a global reality that affects everyone. And the terrorists have a vast network as strong as the intelligence agencies that battle them for global peace and order.
The movie moves forward to present day London where M is being asked to retire from active duty. This does not sit well with her knowing that she has made a fatal error and it has affected the safety of all the sleeper agents they have placed throughout global terrorist groups. M-I-6 is then attacked and a portion of the building is bombed with M watching in dread as colleagues left inside the building die. From here the movie moves to James Bond having sex with a woman and apparently having the time of his life in some remote island frequented by tourists. He sobers up and returns to England only when he saw a television report of M-I-6 bombed. He knew that it was time for him to return to active duty. Yet it will not be an easy comeback as it is clear that James Bond went missing for several months as implied by the film’s timeline. As such, he has to undergo training and passing the usual tests meant for field agents before being declared fit for duty. Bond doesn’t pass the tests. Instead, M lies about the results because she could trust 007 to deliver results in spite of his present incapacities the most glaring of which he failed in his psychological tests showing his inability to face his childhood trauma of losing his parents. This trauma is the entire theme of the movie and what SKYFALL is all about.
James Bond is sent to Shanghai to track down a terrorist. He is also being monitored and sent a colleague to help him in his mission. The various action scenes depicts how 007 is indeed not in his best condition as it takes him awhile to defeat each opponent in one and one combat. In fact, there’s even a scene that his gun was taken away from him completely and he could have been killed point blank. Thanks to the latest technological advancement, his opponent was not able to use his gun as Bond’s gun is genetically embedded to be activated by his DNA and finger imprints. This is one of two gadgets shown in the film made by the mythology’s M-I-6 inventor called Q. Q is portrayed as a young man who looks fresh out of college who is a genius in creating gadgets for field agents and also adept with computer technology. In a sense, this Bond film relies too much on the stereotype of a gadget genius. I have yet to see a female version in spy films. More so, I’ve yet to see anything that breaks the normal mode. Still, a reboot of Q with a younger face that is more arrogant than Bond is something new. It will be interesting to see how this character matures into the role in future Bond films.
Bond manages to meet the big boss of the entire operations, the man behind stealing the information from M-I-6. He is called Silver. It is portrayed by a top European actor. As M suspected, the enemy is not someone they do not know. The nemesis is a former agent like James Bond who got captured and was tortured for months and left for dead by M-I-6. This is the part of the film that turns ridiculously predictable. They’ve done the same concept of an agent gone rogue before and who has an agenda in a previous Bond film GOLDEN EYE. Yet what differentiates this character is that he really is remarkably the same cut as Bond. He is as intelligent as Bond if not better. He displays the same suave and being a true gentleman yet also showing hints of lunacy. Such a combination is indeed deadly and making SILVER a memorable nemesis to the Bond franchise. If I’ll be given a choice of best Bond villain, Silver would be it. Moving forward with this review and summary of the film, Silver is captured and brought back to England. Yet they were all misled as Silver planned on getting captured. He orchestrated all the events and knew that they would eventually capture him. He escaped and nearly kills M as James Bond manages to save her and coordinating with Q, they lead Silver all up to Scotland where the movie slows down to expound on Bond’s history.
James Bond is revealed to Scotish. It is here where the movie reveals what is SKYFALL. SKYFALL is the name of Bond’s ancestral home and land. It is where he grew up and became a man. It is where he left the boy behind when his parents passed away. It is also where M reveals to Bond that she chose Bond because “orphans make the best agents”. It is then implied that it is our very history, the very traumas that we face in the past that helps make us better in the present. Only difference with Bond and Silver is what they decided to do with it. Bond chose to use it to serve his country. Silver decides on years of revenge on the one person he believed he trusted with his life. Bond does not let his past define him. Yet he also does not let his past free him either… Not just yet though.
Bond and M, along with the estate caretaker then stage and prepare SKYFALL for the final battle with Silver. The entire Bond ancestral home goes up in smoke and fire and in the midst of the battle M suffers a wound were she slowly bleeds to death and limps away from escaping through the underground exit of the house. Silver confronts M and Bond still manages to kill him with a knife. It is here where the film turns most dramatic as M holds her last dialogue with 007 and she dies in his arms. For the first time in this rebooted Bond series, James Bond cries and lets his tears fall. By far this reveals that James Bond may have a stern look and tough exterior. Yet he still values life. It is at this point that James Bond realized that M was the closest thing he had to a real mother. She was not perfect and no mother would ever be. Yet she made the hardest decisions in the name of protecting her country. I felt sad seeing this scene played out as Judi Dench had a good run playing the role of M. Most people will not admit it that female bosses can be as tough as nails and have a tendency to prove themselves that they can be better than their male counterparts. In this Bond series, M embodies both roles as father and mother to Bond in a tough manner that 007 welcomed.
This weekend Filipinos are flocking to cemeteries to honor the dead and remember them. I’m sure that my father would have enjoyed this latest James Bond film. What I love about this film most is that the James Bond franchise has finally managed to pull off having a strong storyline meant for strong actors. It had actors who can actually convince the audience of their emotions and the roles that they portrayed. It had enough action scenes to make sure that it lives up to being a spy film. Yet most of all it had heart. Serving the country is one thing. Dying without being remembered is even more tragic. Here we see a James Bond who finally comes to term with his childhood. We see a spy embracing his present and still looking forward to the future for the love of his country.