Film Review — Skyfall
As someone who not only sees, but also enjoys a lot of movies in theatres, it's easy to get caught up in the moment and start prematurely calling every "good movie" I see a "masterpiece." So I try not to use that kind of language. But every once in a while, that's exactly what you get.
Skyfall can only be described as a self-aware masterpiece. It's a film that almost seems to know that it's part of a franchise that's 23 films deep and half a century old. It recognizes its past legacy yet still knows that it has something worthwhile to say. It almost takes on a personality of its own in this respect.
It's a nod to Bond films past, paying tribute to the goofy gadget years of exploding pens, Aston Martin cars (complete with eject button on the gear shift), and snippets of the classic soundtrack. It's an homage to the quirkiness that made James Bond so much fun in the films of yester-year, while avoiding the pitfalls that made 007 so ridiculous and annoying at times.
Disclaimers:Skyfall contains all of the institutions that have been featured throughout the 007 franchise—violence, occasional coarse language and brief bits of sexuality (though mostly implied and never explicit in this particular case).
As such, be advised that this James Bond is in many ways the same person that has been operating for more than 50 years. It's nothing new, but be advised that those aspects are still there, though considerably milder than you'll find in a lot of popular movies today.
Technical Notes: On a filmmaking level, this movie should be given some recognition for its audio and visual direction, both of which are stunning. It's hard to think of a movie, and especially a Bond movie that's had this kind of cinematic greatness and driving, atmospheric soundtrack and score.
Alongside that, the script is brilliant in all the ways you want it to be. Those looking for a smart, cerebral screenplay will find it here along with the dry wit that has made Bond so loveable for the past five decades. And even those who loved the campy, bordering on silly quips from Bond films of old will be delighted in what they get here, though it's written in a way that feels ironically clever.
Deeper meanings and greater gleanings: At the heart of Skyfall is the theme of "knowing." How does one know when change is needed or when something is truly timeless? How does one discern between the two?
James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) is an agent seemingly caught between the two ideas of necessary change and timeless virtue. Skyfall paints Bond as a man-out-of-time. The world around him has changed, and with it, so has the spy game. As such, Bond struggles with finding his place in an unfamiliar world, and struggles to find his place and purpose, something that all audiences can identify with.
Skyfall raises the important point of seeking out the essential: Bond slowly realizes that new methods are sometimes needed to be successful, but at the same time that the core of who he is still has value and that his own personal virtue and honour will never be outdated. Change is occasionally needed, but not at the expense of one's core integrity.
For Christian audiences, this speaks volumes into how the Church can all too often get caught up in "hymns vs. chorus songs" type of debates and easily lose track of keeping Jesus the centre of our praise. Bond struggles to know the essentials and core value of what he does, in much the same way that the Church can lose sight of what makes it different from the rest of the world.
And, to conclude, that difference is redemption. As much as anything, Skyfall is a story of redemption. In the film's opening action sequence, Bond is gunned down and falls into the depths below, only to rise again and find redemption and validation in his mission as Agent 007.
As the Church, we are a redeemed people. And with that, we have a responsibility. Bond is given a chance to opt out of being a spy, and live life as a normal person in hiding. But he knows that he still has something to contribute to the greater mission—the job is not done yet. And it's not fancy cars, exploding pens or gadgetized watches that he brings to the table—it's his unique skill set and personality of redemption, something that's altogether timeless regardless of how much his world has changed.
The Resurrection and redemption of humanity is what makes our walk of life special. More than a gripping "funny-guy" speaking pastor, more than an "awesome" contemporary worship band (complete with smoke machine), it's the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus that lies at the essential centre of what we the Church have to offer.
We may swap out our church pews for more plush padded chairs, and our old pipe organ may be well past its prime, but the Resurrection is always relevant. Let's focus on that.
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