In the latest addition to the James Bond franchise, Skyfall, we find Bond (again played by Daniel Craig), actually following his orders from MI6’s grand dame M (Dame Judi Dench), rather than pursuing those responsible for the death of his beloved Vesper (Eva Green) in the previous film, Quantum of Solace.
But in true 007 fashion, no plot is that simple.
The film begins with the demise of the mystery man of Vesper’s death, only to find, of course, that he has survived. In the meantime Bond must hunt down the person responsible for leaking the identities of other MI6 operatives who are “in the field,” and who if found out face sudden death.
Director Sam Mendes brings audiences a more human Bond rather than the superhuman assassin. We see him as vulnerable. We get to glimpse some of Bond’s past. We get to see the roots of his love/hate relationship he has with M.
Screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan (with characters originated by Ian Fleming) keep true to the latest crop of the franchise in that the women who sleep with Bond almost certainly are going to die a painful death.
Although the film runs 20 minutes longer than it should, and Craig is still in top shape as a super-assassin and lover of women, a constant theme is that 007 is getting on in age. Audiences can’t help but get the fact Craig/Bond is no spring chicken and that guys over a certain age shouldn’t be hanging from elevators and building-jumping.
We also get that technology has changed not only the way we communicate and socialize, but also the face of terrorism. Villains now can terrorize in their pajamas from the comfort of their own bedrooms. It becomes painfully obvious that Bond cannot rely solely on the gadgets that helped make the franchise’s original films so popular.
Purvis, Wade, and Logan redeem themselves, though, by showing that a Bond armed with only a radio transmitter, his palm print gun and signature Aston Martin can still be a strong Bond. We are reminded that as long as one can recall their skills, anyone, young or old, can be an assassin, as evidenced when Dench herself shoots a gun at … someone.
Just as each Bond since Sean Connery has brought his own brand of super-assassin to the franchise, Craig has made his mark. Not many of the previous Bonds can perform the acrobatics that Craig can. But now that he is 44 years old, is it time Craig gave up the franchise? For those paying close attention to the end of the film, that question is answered.
Count me among those who would love to see another Craig-led Bond film. Naomie Harris, however, (who plays Ms. Moneypenny) hinted in a recent interview that should the Bond franchise be revived with a black Bond, she would like fellow London native Idris Elba in the role. That would be a welcome change should Craig decide to give up his Aston Martin to another Bond.
In the meantime let’s hope that Harris’ Moneypenny will get more airtime in the next Bond. Moneypenny is the only one who has been able to resist Bond, hence (spoiler alert!) why she is still alive at the end of the film Javier Bardem as Silva, the Bond franchise’s equivalent of The Joker, is scary good — hideous, several cards short of a full deck — and audiences wouldn’t have him any other way. He gives depth to a man utterly broken and bent on revenge.
Dench as M is the same stellar actress with just a few more wrinkles then before; such a great actress that she could win an Academy Award just reading a dictionary aloud — Oxford, not Merriam-Webster, of course.
Craig and company have a hit on their hands, keeping the franchise strong. Just when it seemed impossible to top Quantum of Solace, Mendes, Purvis, Wade and Logan add a commentary on old vs. new that begs the question: Is new and technologically advanced better?
In the case of Skyfall, older is better.