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“007: Reporting for Duty”

“Quantum of Solace” left a rare bad taste in our martini aroma filled mouths and James Bond needed to redeem himself. It had a fascinating premise: control of renewable energy by an evil villain. While there are memorable scenes and action sequences (the opening chase and the walks through the desert), collectively the 22nd Bond installment of 2008 fell flat. It revealed the classic shortfalls of bad movies: lack of great characters and a mediocre script. Regardless of the number and scope of fiery explosions, they amounted to only a flicker. A modern comparison would be a film with an overuse of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery.

Without context, meaning or believability, big explosions appear 2-dimensional.

This is what Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer said after defeating Cal earlier this year.

“The best thing about 3-0 is you get a chance to go 4-0 … and get better. I can promise you we are going to get better,” Urban Meyer said.

This brings us to November 2012. After an under-performing 22nd Bond installment, one thing was crystal clear: The best part about making the 22nd Bond movie was the chance to make the 23rd Bond movie.

“Skyfall” had to endure what no other James Bond film has, which is the realistic threat of extinction. Without delving in too deep, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) faced bankruptcy and the entire franchise was financially starving. According to, “The Broke and the Beautiful: Bond Edition” on WSJ online, the movie studio went through bankruptcy in December 2010. With generous funding through advertising (Heineken among others), it was determined that James Bond would have to ‘die another day.’ It’s important to note that plot secrets will not be revealed in this entry, but instead includes what can be seen in the trailer or interviews with the actors before the premiere.

This is a non-spoiler commentary, aimed at those who have seen and those who have not (yet) seen “Skyfall.”

What makes “Skyfall” so appealing is the return of James Bond as portrayed by the brawny Daniel Craig. “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” had a storyline interwoven that included the professional yet emotionally vulnerable Vesper. The newest adventure takes the audience in a new direction, one with poignant overarching themes.

As the trailer above shows, James Bond has decided to enjoy his ‘death’ by living in moderate opposition to the MI6 handbook (now there’s a must-read!). The decision is made to return, but as the trailer shows, his shot is frustratingly off. He is visibly shaken. But, rest assured that villains still need his undivided attention and the diabolical, blonde haired Silva (Javier Bardem) is in his cross-hairs this time at the direction of M (Judi Dench). And there is no doubt that Silva fills the shoes of a classic Bond villain, plus some. In fact, he is one of the best Bond villains…ever.

Silva is a cyber-terrorist and is very proficient in his trade, which poses quite the challenge for Mr. Bond. The sophisticated use of computers and technology in the movie is a good representation of the primary battles and wars we will face in the not so distant future outside the movie universe. Inevitability may be the most appropriate adjective. In this good v. evil battle, there is the need to first understand the nature of this terrorism. To do so, a new and innovative perspective and tact is required. Insert the young, shaggy haired, technological wizard known as the Quartermaster, or Q for short.

The trailer shows Bond and Q sitting side by side in a museum with the following dynamics: short hair v. long hair, young v. old(er), strength v. computing and old school v. new school. As the world changes, so do the partnerships. Force can be exerted in a myriad of ways, with these variations falling within the realms of the physical and mental senses. And as with most things in life, balance is still of the up most importance.

As mentioned above, 007 must come to grips with the actualization that he has lost a step since going six feet under. Sam Mendes said he was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of Batman. There are definitely similarities between the films that reflect this admiration of a hero having to ‘rebuild’ himself, but this story of everybody’s favorite British spy is unique to the James Bond legacy. To be clear, there is no doubt that this is a 007 movie.

Each of Craig’s three films have shown him as a Bond that is tough that, at times, exerts brute force. He may even represent a secret agent that could exist in today’s world. But within this rough and tough exterior also exists a drinking, smooth talking ladies man with room for friendship, compassion…and even love (Vesper). The personal shortfalls and emotions he experiences can be felt through the screen and have since his debut in “Casino Royale.”

Is the kind of visible despair he goes through, with Mathis and Vesper for example, good or bad for the character of James Bond?

And why does James Bond experience this? One reason for this movie may be that the 2012 007 is dealing with a very savvy 2012 villain who challenges him in ways that are difficult to anticipate. Evil is no longer restrained by powerful figures within government and its military. Like in the non-movie world, evil’s only limitations are those determined by the individual leading the charge. This is another intriguing reality portrayed in “Skyfall.” How does a government defeat an individual or group with independent resources who walk and strike without a uniform or home base?

“Skyfall” is full of  themes that resonate and action sequences that excite. Though it does not necessarily qualify as a gadget and is more of a feature, the palm printed gun that Q gives 007 in the museum is nothing short of a splendid modern day example of innovation. Only Bond’s prints can activate the trigger. Brilliant. Since it’s featured in a movie, certainly this concept has been developed and used by our men and women of the CIA.

It’s always been an assumption of mine that if we, civilians, can think of a cool gadget idea then the probability is extraordinarily high that people within the government have had the same idea, but years earlier. It’s almost unnerving to contemplate that a print locked gun is only the tip of the iceberg of inventions and ideas floating around my and surely your head. Just imagine what is being proposed and use at this very moment…

James Bond faces an incredible adversary in Silva. Not only has the world changed, but Bond too is forced to readjust. The enemy and challenge before him is unlike any he has ever faced. It’s a new chapter in the 50 year James Bond franchise.

It’s been said that businesses do their best when looking into the abyss. James Bond and its studio faced such a scenario.

I suppose you could say they navigated their abyss by means of a “skyfall.”