A Road As Long As Espionage

Spoiler Alert: Beep-beep, zip, bang!

If Barack Obama had lost the 2012 election Skyfall would be a completely different film.

In this golden anniversary edition James Bond is a man caught between his future and his past, liberals and conservatives, life and, as always, an Esperanto-noir death. The femme fatale is Britain, and our hero, by the loosest definition, represents common man, or in the less sexist MI6, Western Civ’s middle class.

He is attacked from all sides by the symbols of the left (a crashing underground Tube; a bad guy making a pass at him) and the right (an exploding boyhood home on the Moors; more uranium enriched bullets than you can shake a martini at) and the only way forward is to cast himself back. He must accept this change if he is to survive, but the decision is his, and that’s what makes Skyfall one of the smartest, timeliest Bond’s ever.

I carried a black umbrella with wood handle to the theater because it had rained, then chuckled as I drew its rapier length from the seat next to me during the end credits. The perfect British icon. I could just as easily have withdrawn Hitchcock’s 39 Steps, which gets multiple boggy espio-nods in this film, or driven an Aston Martin with machine guns and an ejection seat, a less likely possibility.

Sounds like Osama Bin Laden, but it’s really Javier Bardem looking an awful lot like Judi Dench’s son …

Present and accounted for are the standard issue SIS winks and quips from our Geek Squad Q, but Roger Deakins’ cinematography disdains the blacks and whites of the Cold War by keeping Bond in the shadows. In the end it doesn’t matter what decade you’re in, whether you are liberal or conservative, fighting to live or fighting to die. If you start killing people you’re gonna get taken down.

A former employee, a harbored grudge, from a Marxist perspective a labor dispute. Sounds like Osama Bin Laden, but it’s really Javier Bardem looking an awful lot like Judi Dench’s son, playing his second best sinisterio after Anton Chigurh. Gentlemen, it seems, prefer not only blondes, but also to be them.

When it comes time to pass the torch and accept new ideas who better to lead the way than an agent of change, a provocateur. Someone familiar with the moving shadows cast by a passed torch, an orphan perhaps, from the north, from Scotland. This is not Mitt Romney, or in a pull-back, entitlement and blue blood.

If Romney had won Skyfall would be a contradiction, a dissent, but fortunately for Barbara Broccoli and Adele he did not. Instead it is roundly agreed to be a success, the best of the post-Fleming Bond’s, if not them all, a validation and somber celebration. The battle has been won, but the road ahead is as long as art or espionage.

The only egress from the shadows, that world of constant flux, a world where the sky is always falling, is forward via the past, codename: Skyfall…done.

In a world of such rapid and disorienting change, the man who has never known himself may be the best guide of all.

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