With 2006’s Casino Royale, the Bond continuity rebooted. We met a young Bond who had never killed before getting his “00” status. In Quantum of Solace, Bond has to learn how to become cool and dispassionate about his work, with Judi Dench’s M telling him to figure it out or leave.
And now we have Skyfall. And we have James Bond becoming the James Bond we know from five previous actors (six if you count David Niven. Most people don’t.) The film opens with Bond and an agent named Eve (whom we learn later is a character we haven’t seen in a while) in Turkey trying to get back hard drive with a list of NATO agents. Bond is shot in the melee and disappears.
While Bond is off recovering with the help of booze and pills – You didn’t think Craig’s Bond was invincible, did you? – M comes under fire from Parliament, getting called on the carpet by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Feines). Then she comes under fire literally by terrorists, who attack MI6 headquarters. It’s when M is against the ropes that Bond returns. He clearly sees that M, not MI6, is the target. Bond is off to China where the trail leads to an abandoned city and a former MI6 agent named Silva. Silva has mommy issues, and by mommy, he means M. After a brief struggle, Bond apprehends Silva, but Silva escapes, having anticipated Q branch’s methods of cracking his computer systems. When Silva penetrates the House of Commons, Bond, along with Mallory, Eve, and Bill Tanner (M’s chief of staff), whisk M out. Bond goes underground, taking M to his family’s estate in Scotland for a final showdown. Q and Tanner lay a trail of breadcrumbs for Silva to find. The final showdown occurs on the Scottish moors, but in the end M is finished. The movie ends with with a sequence we are used to seeing at the beginning of the older Bond films. It turns out Eve’s last name is Moneypenny, and Mallory, the new M? His office looks very, very familiar, as in Bernard Lee’s office in Dr. No.
Craig’s Bond is a bit different in Skyfall. He’s gone from cocky and arrogant in Casino Royale to angry and vengeful in Quantum of Solace. In the beginning, we see flashes of Sean Connery’s smooth Bond. In one scene, he swings onto a moving train, flailing for dear life, then straightening his lapels and casually strolling down the aisle as soon as he has his footing. The quips aren’t nearly as cutesy as some of the more self-indulgent Bond moments in the past (I’m looking at you, Roger Moore!), but they’re there. When Silva sneers that Q branch doesn’t do gadgets anymore, Bond says, when a half dozen British Army helicopters suddenly appear, “Latest thing from Q branch. It’s called ‘radio.'”
Speaking of Silva, he’s probably one of the best Bond villains in years. Silva has a spiritual ancestor in Sean Bean’s Alec Trevelyan, a bitter ex-MI6 agent with a grudge. But whereas Trevelyan was basically James Bond going off the rails, Javier Bardem (Anton Chigur from No Country for Old Men) plays a man with sympathy for Bond, explaining that Bond is really just one betrayal away from becoming just like Silva. After all, Silva was M’s favorite. Bardem plays Silva as a sort of Perez Hilton with a homicidal streak. He is single-minded in his quest to kill M.
Bond and Eve have a playful, flirtatious relationship. In the field, she holds her own with Bond, at one point saving his fat from the fryer (and a Komodo dragon.) Naomie Harris is perfect in her performance as Bond’s MI6 foil, and it adds a new dimension to the character of Moneypenny that we’ll see going forward. The other returning character is Q. Instead of a middle-aged-to-elderly man in previous incarnations, Ben Wishaw portrays a Q who looks like he graduated with Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy (oddly appropriate, since Voldemorte is M’s boss, and later, the new M.) The change is appropriate, though, as Q needs to be a hacker, more at home at Google than at the IBM of old. Bond is aghast that “you still have spots!”
Casino Royale took Bond into unfamiliar territory. By the end of Skyfall, all the elements from the original continuity are in place: the hard-bitten veteran as M, Q improvising technology on the fly, Moneypenny flirtatiously keeping Bond in check. With Skyfall, a trilogy is complete. James Bond has returned.