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Immersed in Movies: 'Skyfall' Is Both Homecoming and Breakthrough

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood October 19, 2012 at 4:29PM

James Bond has always been about looking forward and back at the same time, but never more so than in "Skyfall," which is both a homecoming and a breakthrough for the 50th anniversary. In fact, it's all about exploring the old and the new. That's the central metaphor; it's embedded in every ambiguous moment. It was worth the extra year taken to craft the script, do the prep, and hone every delicious detail into an organic whole.

"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
Made weak by time and fate,
but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find,
and not to yield."

But it's not only a question of pushing the seriousness but also celebrating the style and wit that make Bond so distinctive. We want to see Bond brazenly enjoying his freedom and power. That's why he's lasted so long as our most enduring cinematic figure. As Craig says in Esquire: "What's fantastic about the Bond stories is that there's always darkness, but with a sense of humor. It's about danger, about someone who's saying, 'Fuck you' to risk, 'Fuck you' to dying."

Still, it's fun watching Mendes mixing up the familiar Bond tropes in "Skyfall": The return of Q (Ben Whishaw) as young and nerdy yet vital to the mission because of his computer hacking skills; field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) giving Bond "a close shave" and serving the function of Miss Moneypenny in a whole new flirty way; MI6 going underground in Winston Churchill's bunker; the return of the fully-loaded Aston Martin DB5 but in a way that suits Craig rather than Sean Connery; the dance with Bardem's baddie in a brilliant six-minute exchange that's more sexually charged than Bond's seduction of Berenice Marlohe's Severine.

It turns out that you can teach an old dog some new tricks after half a century -- and then some.

Skyfall, Bardem

This article is related to: Skyfall, Immersed In Movies, Reviews, Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes, Reviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.