Skyfall in context

I watched Skyfall (quite) a few days back. Yes, the James Bond movie that came on the 50th year anniversary. Daniel Craig is the new Bond, following an illustrious list of people from Sean Connery to Pierce Brosnan. Like many others, I certainly believe that Daniel Craig's portrayal of James Bond has been very novel - his scriptwriters and directors have presented a rare look into the "real" world of the spy. The rosiness of the life has been removed, and a much more brutal (and realistic) character has been developed. It has been a bold, a necessary and a successful transition.

Before we talk of transitions, though, we must establish what was status quo. James Bond represented much more than a good action movie to me, and I believe to many many young boys growing up like me. The essential thrill of a movie like James Bond is that they represent the ultimate fantasy life within the bounds of reality as we know it. Allow me to explain the paradox. You see, when you watch a superhero movie, the distance from reality is a foregone conclusion - I know that there is no man of steel, or a person who can generate spider-strings on the fly from their wrists. Because we don't know of them. But we do know of the spies, we know of RAW agents who can cross the Himalayas unaided and barefoot, or the US Navy Seals who can dive in and out of a 30-foot pool with their hands and legs tied behind their back. You see, the glitz, the action, the tense situations and the incredible risks that people take to get out of impossible situations - all of these made boys like me dream a little bigger. Whether it was the suave charm or the cool gadgetry, the fast cars or the gorgeous women, there was always an element of something I wanted or lacked, but that which James Bond possessed almost naturally.

Pierce Brosnan defined James Bond for me. Growing up, I saw that he had the pithy comeback lines, the boyish charm, and most importantly the confident swagger that can only come if you know you are the cool dude in town. For all the wonderful things that people rave about Sean Connery or Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan was the James Bond I grew up with, and his character portrayal was the one I idolized when I watched re-runs of the same movies again and again.

Enter Daniel Craig. Suddenly the gadgetry, the million exploding pens and remote controlled cars are gone. Instead, you have a spy chasing an assassin across really dangerous rooftops and overhanging construction cranes. It is difficult to explain, but the opening action sequence of Casino Royale made me shiver and brought the reality of the action so much closer, than the events of Pierce Brosnan diving off a cliff on a motorcycle trying to get on a crashing aeroplane. The former just seemed so much more real and dangerous.

I think I too have grown up alongside James Bond. My teenage and early twenties self looked forward to the James Bond who had the most hilarious, double-entendre lines. But my present self was ready to look at the bare nature of the line of duty. The shattered, desperate man out for a revenge, or the man who retreats away from a more powerful enemy just to engage in a fight where he stands a slightly better chance against certain death. I have been able to appreciate the James Bond in Skyfall a lot better than I would have ten years ago. The metamorphosis of the movie franchise has been significantly a parallel development of my own personality and outlook on life.

Finally, about the movie itself. I think it was a fitting way to say goodbye to Judi Dench and her character as M, and to introduce the new M with Ralph Fiennes, and Naomi Harris as Moneypenny. The significance of James Bond ultimately bringing M to where his parents are buried and his knife in the back of Javier Bardem in the last scene have all meanings beyond the movie just being another Bond flick. I would call the movie an inception - a rebirth of a franchise that holds a lot of promise for the future. I really look forward to the next movie; until then "hold your breath and count to ten". Enjoy the beautiful (and Oscar-winning) title track of Skyfall:

Comments

  1. Though not a fan of James Bond and don't know much about the movies, I understand your appreciation of grittier, more realistic, basic and unsophisticated portrayals of action heroes.

    Personally I have a preference for the stylized, polished, and less gritty versions of heroes who perform extraordinary feats without much effort. While I generally don't like action movies as violence is disturbing enough as it is, a more fast-paced, stylized and "cartoony" violence with cool effects and a perfect hero is certainly preferable to blood, sweat, realistic action and unfiltered gore.

    I don't think that preference is linked to "maturity" of the audience or otherwise. Basically action movies are action movies and at heart, fiction.

    From your description, I think the James Bond franchise still leans towards the stylized hero performing extraordinary deeds, while introducing elements of toughness and grit.

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    1. Hari - yes of course, almost all movies are fiction. We do have enough grit in real life already, but something dictates how much we can tolerate (at least for me, Indiana Jones is not believable but Casino Royale is).

      But you might be right - the basic theme of the stylized hero will be intact with just some toughness introduced here and there

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