I need to re-watch Skyfall. I have had a bit of a revelation about the film. I believe it is the best film about what it means to be a man (or what it once meant to be a man) of this millennium. It also is an interesting take on the decay of Great Britain’s moral and political superiority on the world stage.
The film shows that Bond has aged. His “resurrection,” as he calls his comeback at one point, thrusts him into a world where young men no longer aspire to be Bond like. Instead they are like the new Q: nerds, computer dorks, and largely effeminate.
Perhaps a broader theme of Skyfall than that of manhood is that of old versus new. Q tells Bond of how he could do more damage on his computer than an agent in the field could do with a gun. Yet, by the end of the film, Bond and M are using a primitive hunting rifle, knives, etc to defeat Silva. Not only that, but they do so off the gird at an old estate in Scotland’s highlands - far from the technologically savvy world.
On Great Britain:
Silva is not your typical Bond enemy. He is not a villain hell bent on taking over the world or destroying Great Britain. He is purely someone forcing M and Bond to reckon with their pasts.
I believe this signals that G.B. is no longer the player it once was on the world stage. Bond is no longer fighting the Soviet Union. Just a terrorist here or there. The old days of British warfare are gone.
The film does not even put the British at the forefront in technology. Silva makes them look foolish with his computer skills and has them running in circles until Bond defeats him the old fashioned way.
There are three striking historical anecdotes thrown into the film to highlight this theme.
The first is when Q sits next to Bond in an art gallery looking at a painting of a steamship towing a ship of the line that had fought at Trafalgar to the scrap heap. While one may look at this to be symbolic of Bond’s generational manhood coming to an end, it is also emblematic of the end of Britain’s height on the world stage. Everyone else has the steamships now.
The second anecdote is M’s recitation of Tennyson during her tribunal:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Pretty blatant - she is explaining that the British aren’t what they once were. Yet she intends to keep fighting.
The final anecdote is the Bulldog statue M leaves Bond upon her death. I would venture to guess that it is a symbolic representation of Winston Churchill. Much like M, now a figure of the past.
I think it would be fitting for the Bond movies to end here. This would be a strong end to the franchise. Alas, Craig is signed on for several more films so it will not be. I am sure they will be great films, but the messages of Skyfall will be hard to top.