Sunday, November 04, 2012

 

Skyfall Shows us an Uber Patriotic Bond

I've never been much of a Bond fan; since Gold-finger I've found the plots dire, the acting risible and the special effects mostly boring. I started watching Casino Royale, admittedly on a plane and, for a combination of all the above reasons, especially the lest, switched off after fifteen minutes. But with Sam Mendes directing, I thought Skyfall worth a try and really enjoyed it last night. It actually has a skilfully crafted plot, (unbelievable of course, but this is a film thriller after all), there is less emphasis on clunky sex scenes and those even clunkier double entendres.

The film last nearly two and a half hours but my bum- my barometer of enjoyment during long films- did not begin to ache until well over the two hour mark. And we actually see some acting, a rare occurrence in a Bond film hitherto, from Craig himself, Judi Dench inevitably, Ben Wishaw certainly and the splendidly villainous villain, Javier Gardem. But I noticed another powerful theme in the film: it was very British- almost all the actors were home based- most of the locations were British, and it was also a very patriotic film rooted in the present political context.

We learn that Bond, far from fulfilling the stereotype of being cynical, hedonistic and self seeking has a profound and genuine love of his country.  Furthermore, at the committee hearing at which MI6 competence is being criticised Judi Dench's 'M' defiantly quotes Tennyson' poem Ulyssses:

"We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are--- 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Given the threat posed by Gardem's psychotic master high-tec terrorist, and the depredations of terrorist hits in the recent past, this quotation drew upon ancient national folk-lore of resilience in the face of great peril, whether from Napoleon, Hitler or, as in the case of this narrative, crazed terrorists. 'Crazed', note, but not religious: Gardem's villain is no Muslim, just another in the line of megalomaniac baddies, like Dr No, Gold-finger or the cat-loving Ernst Stavro Blofeld..

Why the overt patriotism? Maybe to resonate with a very patriotic year of sporting achievement? Maybe to celebrate the Queens 60th anniversary of her accession? Maybe Mendes is a very gung ho Brit? News to me if he is. Or maybe British film-makers have caught the Hollywood habit of bigging up their home country. I do hope not.

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