18 Nov 2012
- Sydney Anglicans
James Bond has returned in Skyfall and this time he is back from the dead and decidedly middle-aged. The power of hoping on the part of his worldwide fan base triumphed over the global financial crisis that threatened to engulf MGM studios, as it did over feminism and the end of the Cold War. Of course, these small social and political obstacles were nothing compared to the prospect of Bond turning 50. How could the Broccoli family send their favourite son on another mission at his age?
After all, as security chairman Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) reminds us in the film, "It's a young man's game now" – and even the post-pubescent Q (Ben Wishaw) claims exploding gadgets are terribly passé. The ever-insightful producers are quite aware of this dilemma and so, throughout Skyfall, questions hang over Bond, his handlers and MI6, such as, "Isn't this shadow play a bit old-fashioned?" and "Surely we're too sophisticated for such a world view now?".
The answer? Resurrection, says Bond to Silva (Javier Bardem), his latest sociopath antagonist. It's a spiteful challenge to a disgruntled former MI6 agent for whom life has become "a disease that clings". Silva has his vengeful leer are set on the death of M (the redoubtable Judi Dench) at a time when the British government is less than convinced of the need for the "shadow warriors" of MI6. So Bond comes back from "enjoying" death himself to save the Motherland from itself and save M(ummy) from her past.
Yet what can a word like resurrection mean for James Bond? Surely reincarnation would be more appropriate? The dictionary gives us two very useful options:
1. rising from the dead: in some systems of belief, a rising from or raising of somebody from the dead, or the state of having risen from the dead;
2. revival: the revival of something old or long disused (the resurrection of a youthful dream).
Considering Bond doesn't actually die in this story (more of a variation on You Only Live Twice), Skyfall is very much the second. The director, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) deftly weaves reverent and sometimes playful acknowledgements of the Bond mythos (look out for Bond and M riding in the original Aston Martin) into a fresh plot with genuine substance. The action is spectacular without being gratuitous, the dialogue is witty without any "gags", the characters wrestle believably to reconcile national duty with personal loyalty and the womanising is exotic yet peripheral. The mature Bond has a resolve that has turned his belligerent swagger into real charisma.
Of course, from the persepctive of one of those "systems of belief" for which resurrection is crucial, Bond's revival is another word for nostaliga. True hope has an object, not an intensity, because true resurrection is a personal promise, not an imaginative revamp.