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Skyfall


The makings of a spy, part three

Bond is no ghost. He is dead, or he is not. This is a necessary part of his education, it would seem, the last part: Understanding tragedy without becoming a tragic hero. The setting of this last story perhaps is everything all by itself. It suggests that Bond can only live as a private man – given to the pleasures of drink & lively women – if dead. We may in fact be seeing Bond’s opinion about heaven, so to speak.

So we must ask ourselves: What ties Bond to this life? Obviously, England. Why should that matter? Answering this is answering everything. Bond lets it be called his hobby: Resurrection. When disaster strikes, the executive moves into Churchill’s bunker. These are echoes of England’s greatness; but these are lonely, latter days. Notice M’s china figuring, the British bulldog: Cheap, vulgar, comic. The comic image of English virtue, itself part of English virtue. This bloody courage, unbowed, ridicules evil defiantly.

This setting suggests a question: Why would any man love England without her empire? Our story is a story of betrayal & revenge; the actions that terrify us started when England returned Hong Kong to China. Politicians only manage England’s decline today. They have no great fear, no great ambition.

Bond is shocked at his anonymity when he returns to duty & country. M wrote an obituary for him, which he calls appalling. They agree, however, about his fortitude. His effects & house have been executed. M insists that this is right: She is not his grieving mother. She forces him to confront the realities of the public life. If he will serve England, it would not do to deceive him.

His enemy confuses private & public. His ugliness requires revenge, he thinks. He might be satisfied with self-destruction. This is a very dangerous man. It is not the first time Bond meets a man very like himself. His survival depends on understanding the crucial difference. Bond understands that necessity must be respected & obeyed. Bond listens to his enemy’s introduction: He is told, in effect, that necessity creates monsters. He immediately realizes this is not proven: If he can destroy his enemy, then his enemy is not a creature of necessity. So Bond argues that he makes his own choices. This is the basis of his manliness, which aims to protect his country.

Bond does not try to save those he cannot save. He does not argue whether they deserve life or death. He makes one ugly joke, when a dragon eats a Chinaman: The circle of life. Why is Bond not as ugly as his enemy? Why has necessity not mutilated him? He calls his enemy’s conspiracies & schemes hobbies.

The most dramatic Bond movie. Daniel Craig‘s finest hour.