Sunday, November 11, 2012

How Safe Do You Feel?

Another week, another new movie under my belt and this one was considerably more grown-up, though I think some could say that the difference is negligible.  I would argue that the film is more mature than some of it's brothers and sisters from the series, but hey...there's no accounting for taste.  I believe these entries will keep getting more and more serious given the output that's coming so this may be a good transition piece anywhere...somewhere between juvenile and mature.  Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.  At one point in this film, one of the main protagonists makes an excellent point about enemies to their nation (I say their rather than our, because we are in a different country...but I think it's still relevant to us).  The character asks the question (and I paraphrase) "Do you know who your enemies are?  Is it a country, a flag, a face?  No...the enemies are all in the shadows...so I ask you...how safe do you feel?"  Honestly, how safe do you feel in your home or life at any given time?  I like to think that I'm fairly safe and that I don't worry as much as people did during, say, the Cold War.  However, I can't say that I feel safe...partially because I know there is still danger in the world but also partially because I can't really identify who the danger might be coming from.  This is a driving theme of tonight's film for consideration and one which manages to make a rather old-fashioned series become relevant again.  On that note I ask that we settle in and face it all together, at Skyfall.

MI6 special agent James Bond is discovered mid-mission when the film begins and seems intent on getting the missing hard drive from a laptop back in his possession.  All the while he is being advised by M and his in-the-field partner Eve on what moves to make next.  M makes 007 rather angry several times with her curt orders (particularly when she advises leaving another operative for dead) and it becomes clear that the outcome of this mission is imperative to both of them.  M even orders Eve to take a shot at an escaping assailant even though it would put Bond at risk.  Bond ends up taking the shot in the shoulder and falling off a moving train while the thug and the hard drive both escape into a tunnel.  It turns out, we discover as M is brought up on charges of incompetence, the hard drive in question contained all the actual identities of several undercover agents and qualifies as the single biggest security breach in MI6's history.  Bond, after taking a little break from work (and to sulk over M allowing him to be shot), is compelled to return to London when an act of techno-terrorism leaves her office destroyed and MI6 humiliated and forced to hide in old London tube tunnels.  M puts Bond back into service (despite the fact that he is clearly not up to code) so that he can work to retrieve the hard drive and capture the terrorist responsible.  What he finds is perhaps his most dangerous adversary yet and it will require him to examine his future while also facing dark memories from his past.

Skyfall may be the most mature and dark Bond film yet, and also the most simple.  The story is very straightforward and there are none of the convoluted twists and turns that one generally associates with the series which might make you think that the writers weren't trying as hard on this one initially.  However, there are no worries there as it has left them plenty of room to develop Bond as a character as well as M, played again beautifully by Judi Dench, who has never been sufficiantly developed beyond being an infallible matron of MI6.  In this film she is portrayed as more flawed and uncertain of her footing in her position.  Indeed, the addition of Ralph Fiennes' character Mallory at first seems an attempt to simply give her a foil who intends to discredit her based on this latest foul up...however this just acts as a reason to push her front and center, a spot on the stage that no M has ever held in Bond history.  Bond, on the other hand, retains his darkness that was written in in Casino Royale but also gets an injection of insecurity as he sees himself failing in his job following his injury in the arm.  He can't hit a target, he can't push himself as hard, and he can't get a clear fix on who the attacker of M and MI6 could be.  Familiar characters are also added back into this outing who have been missing from the last few, namely Q and another whom I shall keep under my hat for those who haven't seen it yet.  This adds a feeling of familiarity and homage to the outing and helps stave off the feeling that "this isn't a Bond movie" that one might get watching it otherwise.  Seriously, it feels that different in comparison to the others (even the newest ones)...but as a wonderful seminarian stated in his sermon this morning, change is not only good, but essential in the evolution of any instutution.  And Bond is nothing if not an institution that needs to keep going for years to come.  Yet another two enthusiastic thumbs up for Skyfall...props to Adele, I've been singing the song all day.


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