As we close in on No Time to Die, and the final Daniel Craig-era James Bond movie, I’m going to take a scene by scene look back in the next couple of months at Sam Mendes’ 2012 Bond mega hit, Skyfall…
War remains a key part of the British psyche. ‘The War’ is becoming less of a familiar colloquialism to new generations but the spectre of World War Two looms large over the James Bond series, and larger than ever at points over Skyfall.
Following the attack on the Vauxhall Cross MI6, now deemed according to 00 section mandarin Bill Tanner to be “strategically vulnerable”, the security services go underground – quite literally. Gone is the glistening paean to open modernism that was the attacked structure. It is instead welcome to the “new digs”, described by Tanner to Bond as having been part of Churchill’s bunker during WW2, with a history that even long predates Britain’s most famous Prime Minister, dating back to the 18th century. “Quite fascinating, if it wasn’t for the rats.” Tanner quips, a comment which will gain added resonance for Bond once he finally meets the villain who has forced MI6 into the depths.
Tanner’s comment about “new digs” is, of course, a sarcastic rejoinder from John Logan’s script, redolent of the character’s dry sense of humour (nicely underplayed by Rory Kinnear). MI6 have retreated into their bunker, cowed by the fear of an attack that goes beyond borders and boundaries and develops the post-9/11 anxiety in the Bond series about villains who eschew ideology. This is no IRA bomb or secret Russian move. This is a highly sophisticated attack with a personal agenda. “The assailant hacked into the environmental control system, locked out the safety protocols and turned on the gas. All of which should have been impossible. On top of that they hacked into her files. They knew her appointments, they knew she’d be out of the building.” Tanner claims and Bond rightly guesses that it was all about M seeing the attack, watching those people die, ultimately for nothing. Skyfall immediately places conflict in the context of vendetta and psychological motivation, to a degree no other Bond film previously had.
“We’re on a war footing now” Tanner claims, but this isn’t Britain against a pushy Argentina or a fascist Germany. Skyfall pits a wounded MI6 against a shadowy menace lurking in cyberspace who challenges the Bond series’ preconceptions of war itself.