By: Akram Shaban
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!
The third of the soon-to-be four Daniel Craig depictions of the cool James Bond is Skyfall. It is arguably the best, if not, undeniably the most successful Bond film to date. What made it so freaking awesome you ask? This question has been covered extensively elsewhere. In short, answers range from outstanding acting, excellent character development of the new 007 (ranging over three films, the reviews for which you can catch here and here), a fantastic plot, a captivating soundtrack, and, of course, a memorable villain. Indeed, Javier Bardem put on a mesmerizing performance as Raoul Silva, a genius cyberterrorist fueled by hatred from his past and vengeance for those he believed wronged him. If it weren’t for Bardem, the movie would probably not have done as well as it did.
But, as always, I’m going to discuss what fascinated me the most, a topic which actually takes place in light of the overall discussion about Skyfall. People say the villain is what makes the movie so great, which is true. Raoul Silva is very flamboyant, funny, intelligent, and most of all, tortured, filled with agony from past experiences and the daily reminder of who he’s become. I won’t reveal too much about his motives, but I will say that you will sympathize with him; he’s the villain, but not necessarily the bad guy. He isn’t the good guy either, but he is human. He makes no attempt to cover up his insecurities and is quite frank about who hurt him. So let’s see: a highly intelligent, talented, and tortured individual, does that sound familiar? I think Skyfall draws many parallels between Silva and Bond which, I believe, get to the core of the theme of the movie.
The most obvious thing that comes to mind when I think about the name Skyfall is the sky falling. It refers to a period of crisis or calamity. It is a point of great vulnerability and susceptibility to danger. The title of the movie denotes weakness and maybe even fear. It is at the lowest point, the point of no return, of no defence, which brings out the true strength of a person’s character. Skyfall shows us that even Bond, the legendary, mind-bogglingly awesome secret agent spy dude, is fallible. He can be weakened. But just because he can be set back, it doesn’t mean that he will accept defeat. His goal is to overcome his adversities.
The plot of the movie builds on precisely that theme of vulnerability. MI6 security is breached and several agents die in a bombing of agency offices. M watches in horror from her car. A message is sent to M’s laptop indicating to her that the perpetrator knew exactly where she’d be, entailing that she could have been killed if the bomber wished for it. The agency is then forced to relocate to back up facilities underground. Bond himself is weakened both physically and mentally from a mission that takes place in the opening scene. He is accidently shot and presumed dead by Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). But he survives the shooting and retreats to a life of alcoholism and sex by the beach. This is highly indicative of his emotional dissociation with 007, and the desire to take a break. But, of course, he returns upon news of the explosion at MI6.
There are plenty more examples further underscoring the “falling sky” theme. One is a government enquiry into the conduct of M and the legitimacy of the 00 division. Another is Bond’s return to MI6 as a different man. He’s clearly weaker and has trouble passing basic physical and mental evaluations. But the most crucial implementation of the Skyfall theme takes place at the finale. The climax is too good for me to describe, and too important to spoil. But I will say this: it involves Bond and M (and a third character whom I won’t mention because it would reveal too much about the location and thus spoil it for some), completely isolated from the confines of MI6, left with only their perseverance, Bond’s training, Home Alone prowess, and care and commitment to each other’s wellbeing. It takes place literally at nightfall, with the pitch black sky casting its shadow onto Bond and M’s ultimate test of life. But they show no fear. They peer at the inevitable with steadfast eyes which cry out “bring it on, do your worst!”
The worst arrives. Destruction ensues. A tragedy is suffered. Silva is destructive and self-destructive. He does not only foresee his own demise but plans for it. He wants to go down with his revenge. He has no need for life and no greater purpose. That’s what separates him from Bond. Bond does have a purpose. He has commitments to M, to the agency, and to his country. But their similarities are also uncanny. Past traumas, a connection with M, and emotional vulnerability link them together. Both find themselves in particularly impossible situations (although how Silva lands himself at his low points is also a relevant fact which happens to be a spoiler), and manage to escape them. But their common weakness ultimately ends up being their emotional injuries, a message very clearly delivered to the audience by the location of the final showdown. Bond is forced to confront and maybe heal his wounds while Silva confronts the person he blames for his pain. Who wins in the end? I wouldn’t be able to answer the question even if I did spoil the ending. It’s as much a conflict with oneself as it is conflict amongst each other. Perhaps that’s the point; at the end of a crisis, nobody comes out a winner, only casualties of humanity’s flaws and permanently changed lives.
A masterpiece, A+.