James Bond: An Ageing Agent in Skyfall (2012)

Klaus Dodds gives us his analysis of the latest Bond movie, Skyfall. I recently rewatched this to reassess it after an initial viewing that left me disappointed. Although it was better than Quantum of Solace, it did not reach the heights of Casino Royale, which is a very well realized movie. Klaus here focuses on the body–not just Bond’s but also that of M, and their co-mutual ageing and subsequent weakness and (possible) recovery (or acceptance). He might also have mentioned Silva’s (the movie’s bad guy character) own bodily damage, as when in captivity in the makeshift MI6 HQ he takes out a retainer from his mouth and his face falls in. This is meant to be a central motivating scene in the movie, similar to that of Alec Trevelayn (Sean Bean) in GoldenEye. Both Trevelyn and Silva are former MI6 agents who feel betrayed and are seeking revenge (one of the weaknesses of Skyfall is this derivative plot line).

The best part of Skyfall are the scenes at the eponymous locale in Scotland where Bond grew up. We know from the books that he has Scottish origins and is an orphan. This is the first time I can recall any significant reference, never mind placement in Scotland or Bond’s youth (again this would fit Klaus’ analysis of Bond’s body, but here with the implication of youth and growth). As evidence of this the old retainer of the estate is still dwelling there and helps M escape (although M has been shot this is not displayed, or perhaps she hides it as much from herself as from Bond and Kincade, the retainer).

This destroys the estate house (destroys Bond’s youthful body?) and results in the deaths of both M and Silva (the latter in a badly acted death scene).

I agree with Klaus that this movie is a lionizing of the older ageing body (and character) of Bond, but would trace it back to earlier films where M calls Bond out on the carpet as a sexist relic of the cold war (whichever one that was, perhaps the first one where Judi Dench plays M, ie GoldenEye). This was surely an attempt at relevance for the series in the post-Cold War, but pre-9/11 era.

Looking forward to more Bond analysis from Klaus! I must admit to being a fan since my early teens, reading all the books etc. Its ironic acknowledgement of its sexist premise and its ageing character may not be much, but are finally what sets it apart from completely unironic and unappealing fare such as 24.

As I am going to have to wait a year for the proofs to appear for my latest James Bond article, to be published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television, I thought I would offer a few thoughts on what will follow in due course. Entitled ‘Shaking and Stirring James Bond: Age, Gender and the Resilient Agent in Skyfall (2012)’, it explores how Bond’s ageing body is the primary subject matter of the film.

While there is clearly a plot involving a disgruntled MI6 agent and attacks on London (which features far more prominently than any other James Bond film), it is Bond’s body that should occupy our attention. It is worth recalling that a number of film scholars such as Lisa Funnell have made the point that Casino Royale (2006) was noteworthy because of Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond as something akin to a Bond-Bond…

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