All the talk when Casino Royale was released was how it was a reboot of the Bond franchise, a sort of origin story that reset the character for the post-9/11 world. And for the first third of Skyfall, it seems to be continuing in the vein set by Royale and Quantum of Solace. Then Javier Bardem’s bad guy shows up, and the film spends the rest of its running time seemingly saying, “Forget this, let’s make James Bond movies.” The last scenes of Skyfall are nothing short of a second reboot, this time casting the franchise firmly back to its Connery glory days.
In fact, were it not for a clear shot of his parents’ headstones, Skyfall could very much be about a secret agent played by Daniel Craig coming to grips with inhabiting the cover identity of James Bond. There’s been fanwank for decades that Bond isn’t a person, but an identity, and that each actor has really been a new agent stepping into the perpetual Bond shoes. And there are moments in Skyfall that seem to support that. Bardem’s character demands that M call him by his real name when she calls him “Agent Silva,” planting the idea that agents change their names when entering the service. Bond has the good old tricked-out Aston Martin in storage, sliding into it like it’s something he’s been avoiding, a part of the act he hasn’t wanted to acknowledge. There are little nods to past Bond films all over the place (particularly Roger Moore’s famous tip-toe across the alligators from Live and Let Die). And the final scene plays like he’s accepting not that he’s an agent with MI6, but that he’s James Bond, a point underlined by the film ending with the classic gun barrel sequence, complete with Craig strolling in and firing his gun. After three films of relatively more realistic, almost Bourne-esque adventures, the James Bond so many remember is finally back up on the screen. The question remains as to whether that’s the direction they’re actually going with the next film, but I can’t imagine a tease like that if they’re not.
Beyond all that though, Skyfall is a pretty great movie. It’s got a hell of an opening sequence, a fantastic mid-film action sequence, an amazing final confrontation, Bardem adding his name to the ranks of great Bond villains, and some truly breathtaking cinematography by Roger Deakins. And striding through it all with lethal confidence is Craig, now completely owning the role and firmly from the Connery school. If they are taking the franchise back to formula, so to speak, let’s hope they go with the original. Hell, while they’re at it, fork over whatever amount of money that have to and get back the rights to Blofeld. If you’re going to go old-school, do it right.