Skyfall: an essay and memoir by Rob Cotton

Diamonds Are Forever, the author's first 007 film

Diamonds Are Forever, the author’s first 007 film

Backstory.
1971. I do not have a lot of family traditions. They tend to be repetitive motions which depending on time, place, experience, slip away through attrition and inconsistency. They fall away from us like a coat of paint on a wooden boat, we see them as always being there whether they are or not, but over time, they fade.

In 1971 my father took me to a theatre on what I have always been told was the opening day of Diamonds Are Forever. We walked into the theatre together and sat, together, for my first Bond film that I have any memory of. Familial legend tells me that my first film of any kind was Goldfinger OR Gone with the Wind, depending on whose story one wishes to believe, but that I was barely a toddler for either viewing. Moving on. I sat there in the darkened room and suddenly, with my first gun barrel, I was in a world I had never been in before. My little boy concepts of style, panache, humor, danger, what it was to be a man were all perceptibly altered. I was, in cinematic terms, redefining the world in a real palpable way and when that film was over, I had myself, changed.

From that point on, my father and I had a shared experience with each new film. It became part of our lives no matter where we were on this earth, to mark that day, to plan somehow to rendezvous for the opening day of the next Bond. And that was worldwide. No matter what happened, where we were, we tried to move heaven and earth to be there for that single event. Sometimes, we failed due to time and place and the occurrences which pull people away uncontrollably, but no matter where we were, singularly or plural, we went to see the new Bond on opening day and at minimum discussed the whole thing, shared the experience as best we could even from a distance. This was our tradition. Enough backstory. On with the review.

Right off the bat, I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall. We will get to the usual review material as we go, but this is the smartest Bond film I can remember and while I still like Casino Royale more, mainly because of the sense of discovery, of a new agent learning the ropes as it were, Skyfall seems to me the most thoughtful of the series and that is where we are going to start.
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It’s been four years since Quantum of Solace and apparently James Bond has grown up. He has spent the last few years becoming M’s favorite agent and off he goes to find a stolen computer hard drive that could destroy MI6. But somehow, during this mission Bond is nearly killed on M’s orders. Fine. I like this. It sets up the entire main plot of the film and that’s what makes this a really good adventure. This is a film that is going to follow an actual line of investigation. No hints as to the villain, no seeing him early or hearing his evil maniacal laughter and definitely no “Kill Bond, now!” moments. Instead, Bond is going to have to figure it out himself and pointedly without the help of his greatest Ally, M. Why? Because the cause of the entire plotline, is M, herself and in a brilliant character move, she refuses to admit to herself and especially to anyone outside herself, that this one is all on her head.

Yes, dear reader, instead of a barely serviceable plot with trademarked Nehru jacket and cat, we’ve been given revenge from the other side. Whereas last time Bond went after everyone on the planet to apparently burn off the death of Vesper, this time he has to stop an agent of his own caliber who is actually doing the same thing Bond was doing last time we saw him, seeking revenge as a rogue agent. It’s an interesting way to bring us back into the franchise storyline and I quite enjoyed it. We are given a villain who is actually an equal of Bond’s and who is out to destroy an organization (in this case MI6, in Bond’s case SPECTRE, QUANTUM, etc.) by toppling the head of that organization, which is what Bond does best. I quite liked the dichotomy and it led me far further into the story than I had expected. The story is good. Someone on the planet has stolen a set of files which can reveal the entire MI6 network of undercover agents hidden within various terrorist groups around the world.

Who could have done such a thing? From the beginning we’re told that this mastermind has to be someone who has worked on the inside and someone who is most definitely out for revenge on M on a personal level. This was set up beautifully and amazingly still employed enough Fleming to keep me guessing. We get the final few pages of You Only live Twice and a truncated version of the Man with the Golden Gun that took the best of the book and the movie and remixed them without being horrifically obvious. I was thrilled.

Bond goes off after the villain and has no idea who it is. He has to actually spy, actually detect. He has to figure things out and put himself into specific situations where it’s him or the grave. This is something that has been seriously lacking from the series for decades. What is it? It’s the possibility that this James Bond is not going to make it, that he is actually in over his head and is going to have to fight his way out. When Bond calls in the helicopters, he is matched by the villain calling in his troops. When Bond goes after the antagonist, Silva, in Silva’s lair, Silva goes after Bond in his. This is the most fun I have had in years and I have to say that if the rumors are true that the producers have signed John Logan for another two films, I am more than happy. I also hope they keep the director as the series has needed someone with a subtle touch for a long time. We’ve seen what action for action’s sake gets us, this time there was not an action scene without purpose.

Now, here’s the best part. Instead of letting Bond walk into any of the many exotic locales visited in the film so we (and Bond) can be handed information so we can get on with the plot, we are given actual situations during which Bond (and we) do not know exactly what’s going on! We’re learning the next steps as Bond does. This was by far the best part of the film. Take the entire Shanghai sequence for example. Bond is sent to Shanghai after a secondary character, follows this character, ends up in one of the best fight scenes we’ve had for years, and at the end of this segment, the man he was supposed to follow is dead and it is only through the clues that are left that we end up at the next location. There’s no sweaty informant giving up the information, just a gambling chip with the name of a casino in Macau on it. Now what? We follow the clue and that leads us to the casino and a familiar face which leads us to the next sequence. I liked this tremendously.

I’ve said this before, I hate being handed information. A couple of people in the audience during my initial viewing whined that they didn’t understand why he went to the casino. They didn’t get it because they weren’t paying attention. They were too busy discussing universal health care in the middle of the movie and that dear reader is why I liked far more of this film than Quantum of Solace. If you were thinking, this film gave you what you were after, a thoughtful, intelligent Bond film made for a change by people who not only love the series, but are serious filmmakers. This one was made by people who weren’t in it for the Bourne look, but were in it to take an actual shot at turning James Bond into a motion picture and not simply another episode in a franchise. If you were looking for a simple story and maybe a pun about killing two hours in Rio, this one isn’t for you. The perfect metaphor for this film is the stance Bond takes on the deck of the boat as they head towards Silva’s island. It’s a screw it, let’s see where this goes, balls in the wind moment that we haven’t honestly had in a damn long time. Real tension, a true sense of adventure and a character based story. Finally.

So, where do we go from here? We have a number of story elements that don’t seem to match up at first. We have a file that has turned up missing, James Bond has fallen off the map, literally, and M is supposedly trying to hold British Intelligence together single handedly. But there’s more to this one, and the key is M, herself. In the previous two films, we have been taught that M is a mother figure to Bond, but with an edge. In this one, we learn that the edge is sharp and cuts both ways. Yes, she has raised Bond in her own way, but he is not the only one that she has ever treated in this fashion. There was someone else who came and went before. Silva, the villain of this piece is that man. He’s an interesting character, brilliant, dangerous, completely psychotic and thoroughly engaging.

Javier Bardem as Silva

Javier Bardem as Silva

This is the first major gay character in a Bond film and his presence is a little precocious for my tastes, but the performance is at times mesmerizing to watch. I do not like stock characters and during the first few minutes I began to wonder if we were being handed a stereotype instead of an actual character, but the eccentricity of the performance by Javier Bardem pulled me out of that and ended up moving me far more than I had expected. Yes, the character is gay, which adds another level to the usual interrogation scene, but that is just the surface of the character. Beneath that are layers of motivation that we haven’t seen in years, if ever.

But we have to get back to M. She shows in the first sequence of the film that she is willing to let her agents get killed if the goal of the mission is intact. While Bond has known that instinctively before, now he gets to experience it first hand and it breaks him. This is what I loved about this film. Bond deems himself betrayed by M and disappears. Sound familiar? Silva’s motivation is Bond’s. The villain and the hero literally go through the same mental processes and that is where this film soars. Before Bond even got there, Silva was M’s favorite. She built him up and let him fall and now the same thing has happened to her new favorite. The difference is in the outcome. Bond returns to the service out of both a sense of duty and because he cannot exist in the outside world. Bond returns angry, filled with blame, but ready to do it again for Queen and country. Bond is searching for redemption. Silva, on the other hand turns those very same motivating emotions into a desire for vengeance and his return is in order to destroy his betrayer and the organization she heads. Ironically Silva’s return becomes the vehicle for Bond’s resurrection, a theme that plays out throughout the film.

Judi Dench as M.

Judi Dench as M.

So, the catalyst for the film is for the first time not some mega-villain, not some world dominating organization, but M herself. I didn’t realize how deep this went until long after I saw the film, when one of the trailers showed on television and there was Judi Dench looking over the caskets of the agents her character had sent to their deaths. There is more in that scene than remorse, there is rationalization. These are deaths towards an end, means towards a finale and this is her job. This is what she has chosen to do with her life and while it may be difficult at times, she does that job and collateral damage is just that. But the interesting thing is, she knows who the villain is, she knows what has been done in her name and yet in the midst of all of this, she doesn’t say a word. She literally hides it until it becomes necessary to admit to her mistakes, and then it becomes essential to her character and to Bond’s how they both react to it. This unspoken motivation is something handled beautifully in the film. When Bond returns to M’s flat (how the hell does he keep getting in there?) he is dead. He is no longer on the computer files that our villain has stolen. He does not exist and M knows it. It’s on her face that she realizes she has an option, a blunt instrument out of nowhere that the villain doesn’t know about. True, this falls to pieces a few minutes later when she puts him back in the system, but that option is there and was one of the few ideas that I felt could have been taken much further. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back to resurrection.

Bond returns from his self-imposed exile used up, tired out, his abilities in question most especially to himself. He fails his tests and he knows it. One of my compatriots told me he believed Bond found out about his tests from Silva. I think Bond’s fears were confirmed by Silva but that he had realized it far earlier, after the fight in Shanghai, when he sits back, just beginning to comprehend how far down he has come from the super-agent he once was. That’s why the fight in the casino is so daunting and why the outcome was in question, even for James Bond in a James Bond movie. That’s also why he’s so visibly grateful that certain people assisted in the nick of time.

The film is full of moments of recognition for Bond. There’s a scene before the casino in Macau where Bond is facing a mirror, shaving the beard he has had since his presumed death earlier in the film. It is a telling moment. He is literally getting ready to put the suit back on and instead, he is filled with uncertainty. This is why the shaving scene with Eve is so strong. Yes, there’s sexual tension there, but there’s something else. As she takes the razor from him, she takes him in hand, so to speak, and begins to remove that outer layer. She helps him turn back into 007.

I know, this review is turning into a novella and that’s not fair, but bear with me, there is so much more to discuss this time than last.

Things I disliked? Yes, there were a few. I loved an actual English James Bond adventure, especially the fact that we got London as more than a simple backdrop, but I do have to ask how one second the London underground is filled with passengers and passersby and the next, when the villain sets off his explosion to send an entire train hurtling at James Bond, there are no people in it. I know, that would have meant a sequence of the walking wounded dealing with the crisis, screaming passengers, the injured and the dead, and that is not the point of a Bond film, but this was the sequence most people mentioned in the days that followed as being out of sync with a film that worked so hard to make you feel that these were real events and like M’s decisions which set the story in motion, real events have consequences. I have to admit to being taken back to Quantum’s drought stricken village and Bond and the girl walking nonchalantly to the bus without doing anything for the people. This time, Bond would have had to deal with the injured and still have to make the decision to go after Silva. Another opportunity to explore the character left behind for action’s sake.

I did not like Silva’s escape proof booth. I’ve seen enough of that in other films; you know which ones, so there was nothing special here. I admit to initially grumbling that Silva’s escape was too easy for such a high tech establishment, but in thinking it through, I have to give them some credit as we are talking an emergency headquarters put together quickly. On the other hand, would this change of venue have given Silva time to set up so complex an operation? Apparently one of the traits M and I share is the capability to rationalize…

Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

Turning to the more technical aspects, I have to say that one of the biggest keys to Skyfall’s success as a film is the director, Sam Mendes. I have always hoped that Eon would bring in an a-list director at least once so that we could see what a real James Bond movie could be. This was the time. I have not been this happy with the direction in a Bond film since Thunderball. Sam Mendes needs to be kept on. No two ways about it. I have my fingers crossed that this is in the cards. This is the first time since Terence Young that a director has the opportunity to put his stamp on the series as a filmmaker. Visually, stylistically, Skyfall is so much more than it might have been in the hands of some workmanlike director that I don’t even want to think about it. Subtlety. The wink Bond gives Mallory during the hearing scene, the need expressed in Silva to touch Bond during his interrogation of Bond, the closeness of the aforementioned shaving scene are all essential pieces of this film and all of which could have simply been walked past by another director. This takes time and thought and preparation that has not been apparent outside of Casino Royale and a few of the other earlier films. I am so dazzled that the series could come back from the complete miasma of Quantum in so confident and intelligent fashion that I do not want to even consider letting Mr. Mendes off the hook.

The writing was far above par this time and most of the film works on characterization rather than situation. I had qualms with the presentation of the villain’s backstory as I like my exposition hidden, laid out carefully, but sometimes it’s best to just run with it and get it out of the way and that’s exactly how it was handled this time. While I do have problems with villains spilling the whole thing all at once, this time, Javier Bardem as Silva played it so cleanly that I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed his take on the character. Mannered and difficult but totally in control of everything around him, if not himself, Bardem carried this one off and made me completely forget the ineffectual villainy of Quantum. According to sources, Bardem had the script translated into his native language so he could get down to the meat of each line. Take into consideration how serious even the introduction of a tear could be in the kinds of films Bardem usually inhabits, and the emotion involved in his final scene with M moves up complete levels from what we’re used to seeing.

The dialogue was a serious step up from Quantum, near the quality of Casino Royale, but that is a minor detail when I’ve been handed something worth watching for two hours plus. According to the press Purvis and Wade are moving on after this one. I honestly do not know who was responsible for the rebuilding of the Bond universe this time around, but Mr. Mendes and Mr. Logan seem to have been the major forces in that rebuild. It should keep the series going for years without the introduction of various “timely” interruptions. I don’t need “Bourne” moments, I need James Bond moments and this film exceeds the minimums quite nicely.

With the introduction of Ralph Fiennes, I realized that the story only had two possible endings, both of which I was willing to accept. I got the one I didn’t want, but hoped for. I think anyone who loves these characters and their personal evolutions knows exactly what I am saying. More on this later.

The introduction of Q made me very happy indeed. To take the old Q’s frustration with the younger Bond and turn it into begrudging respect from a young genius for a seasoned field agent was perfectly done.

The same applies to the character Eve. I loved the way they worked her in from beginning to end. A very nice way to introduce someone after knowing them all these years. So it doesn’t exactly match up. I did not care.

The finale at Skyfall was handled middlingly. I like the idea of Bond not coming from money and being at Eaton by someone else’s graces. I don’t think I’ve ever pictured him as having a family estate and that threw me, yet the disdain that he showed for the place, especially watching it burn with little emotion worked for me. But when the baddy blew up his car, something Bond actually cherished and achieved himself, he was thoroughly enraged, and I loved that.

Daniel Craig and Aston Mart DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

A quick note about the car. I have actually had people whine that since Bond was with a male M in Goldfinger when the car first was given its armament, this throws the whole series out of order because M is now a woman before M becomes male. Really? Continuity? Wouldn’t that make this film have to take place in 1964 and a half? Never mind that Felix is black, that certain other people were never field agents and then secretaries, and above all else never mind that James Bond himself has been six people and keeps getting younger before he ends up taller, English and finally blonde? For God’s sake, people, let this kind of thing go and enjoy the movie. And let’s be honest, if I can let this kind of thing go for the sake of a well told tale, anyone can.

On the other hand, Timothy Dalton was a time lord in an episode of Doctor Who and that explains EVERYTHING! I digress. Moving on.

Albert Finney was fine, if a confusing addition to the canon. I really didn’t see any reason for him to be there, but now that we’ve been given this much of a background for Bond, why not. It’s an interesting choice, something that may come up again someday, but there’s literally no reason for this character to be there. M could have easily helped Bond through the finale and then moved on as it were without the addition of this extra person, but he’s there and that’s that. No problem. In the past few days the concept that the part was written for Sean Connery has come out in the press. If true, it would have been a nice moment, but an unnecessary one. As far as I am concerned, Connery has announced his intended retirement from filmmaking and that should be honored. Still, the ten year old in me thinks it would have been cool beyond words.

Ralph Fiennes was an incredible addition to the film. From the moment he appeared I have to admit that I knew he was either the villain or the new M. It just felt right either way and when it came together how this was going to play out, I was happy. Instead of being told that we were to respect this character, we were shown that he was deserving of that respect. His scenes brought a gravitas to the character and his appearance in Q’s laboratory sealed the deal. That last iconic scene with the two men standing at opposite sides of the screen, their screen history actually ahead of them, it was an absolutely stirring moment.

I truly appreciated the events surrounding Silva’s attempt to assassinate M. It pulled me thoroughly into the story and for the first time in many years I was completely into the film. There was no writer’s distance holding me back, keeping me as an observer of events. I was there. True suspense is something I cherish and this time around they totally got me. Fiennes character proving himself in both Bond’s eyes and ours was absolutely brilliant. I cannot think of a better way to do this.

Judi Dench was superb and yet I didn’t like her becoming so dependent on Bond and Kincaid at the end. It didn’t fit her character nearly as well as it would have for her to do these things herself and then let the situation fall to Bond because it had to. This was the only truly out of context moment in the film for me. I don’t appreciate secret tunnels and happenstance nearly as much as I did when I was younger and it seemed to be an added attraction rather than a part of the story. M is still M and is a stronger character when she does what she does. If Bond told her to head for the chapel and stay low, she would have, Kincaid or no.

Silva’s final scene was amazing. Something I truly like in this film is the fact that almost all of the tension comes face to face. Everything is personal and close. All of Silva’s moments that remain with me are in close proximity. When he explains himself, when he draws out the teeth, when he confronts M and is heartbroken that he has caused her pain when he really just wants to kill her or more specifically, to have her kill them both, he is inches away from his nemesis. This closeness struck me as making the character so personal, his goals so singular, that it is going to be hard to find an antagonist with so strong a connection to the heroes ever again. One of many amazing performances in the film, if not the best.

M’s death was handled well. I thought it a bit quick that she looks down, sees some blood and then heads off across the moors, but it was there and that was that. I liked the fact that she hid it, but thought it might have been played up a bit because once again, the people not paying attention couldn’t figure out what was happening. I half expected them to wonder aloud if Silva was going to rise like a vampire to attack Bond at the last second… They didn’t. Even they were caught up by the finale.

There is something that has to be said here at the end and that is that the Bond films are each a product of their times. I keep hearing people calling this one the best Bond ever. Well, it may be, but we have to look at this kind of thing carefully. Nearly twenty years ago, when Brosnan took over the role, Goldeneye was loudly proclaimed as having saved the series, given things a new direction. Did it? Yes, in a way, but looking back on that film or any of the preceding films one has to take into account the style of the time, the writing of the time. Skyfall twenty years ago was Goldeneye. Rogue agent, etc. It’s all there, but the world is different. How would we have accepted a Bond as rough hewn as Craig in a time when Pierce Brosnan was being touted as the perfect Bond? We had just gone through Dalton’s Bond as a serious, sometimes regretful killer after years of watching Roger walk nonchalantly through a world with little connection to reality. The writing style has changed entirely from the earlier films. There is no grandiose flourish to the dialogue, no nod to the audience, no reference to how ridiculous a situation is because the world has changed and luckily so has the writing.

Fleming’s world was Fleming’s world, but the Bond we have today simply is not the same character that we began with. Can we picture Craig’s Bond at the karate school from the Man with the Golden Gun? Calmly discussing world domination with Charles Gray’s Blofeld while the ghost of Jimmy Dean whines in the background? No. And that’s a good thing. This Bond is dealing with emotions and conditions that previous Bond’s could not because it would not have fit the times the stories were being told within. Screenwriting has changed immensely in the past ten years. Things I was taught and which served me well in my writing career have gone the way of the dodo in 2012. Yes, some of the same rules apply, some of the same set pieces are there, but they have a further more stark connection to reality than they could have before. Take for instance the scene with Bond and Silva contesting their marksmanship on Silva’s island. We would never have seen that in previous years, especially Bond’s wavering and the finale involving the girl. True, it does end with a quip, but after a deadly turn and even then, the villain throws the quip right back at him later on. We saw a serious turn towards character during the Brosnan films only to see them falter at any real change to the character. Now, after three Craig vehicles, we actually get a completely character driven storyline. This is not to say that we haven’t had character snippets before, but they were all couched within the specific framework of the time, the actor, and the style of a long running series. Skyfall breaks those traditions by recreating them. If Richard Maibaum had written Skyfall forty years ago, they would have laughed him out of the room. That first generation of Bond films had a specific look, a specific direction and a specific writing style that while we look back at those films and either love or hate them according to our various tastes, we accept as being “of their time”.

You Only LIve Twice, a product of its time

A product of its time

Try watching You Only Live Twice without keeping it within the context of the 1960s and you will see what I mean.
Writing styles change. If in the middle of Diamonds Are Forever, Bond had paused, had reflected on his mission, on what he was doing with his life, on his childhood, the audience would have left in droves. The same applies today if Craig’s Bond walked into a nightclub and started spouting Roger Moore lines while trying to keep his eyebrow cocked. The times have changed. I will always give the series immense credit for keeping up with the world around it. Skyfall absolutely does the job for me. It takes Bond and removes the last vestiges of the comic Bond and replaces it with a very modern interpretation of the character. I like this one. There is something special in this Bond. We are actually looking at the character, seeing what he is going through, where he has been. He is not an empty suit to be filled with an actor’s personality. He is a man. In the Moore films, Roger would joke around for two hours and somewhere in that two hours he would put on his serious face (which in my opinion always made him look a bit constipated) and say something profound about “in this business” or “first dig two graves” and we would eat it up because as far as we were concerned, in the Bond world of that period that was what being a spy was all about. It was comic book rationalization, candy coated with pressed linen suits, but you and I were lined up for it, weren’t we? There was no dirt, no grit. Take Moore’s fight with Chang in Moonraker. Stylish, obviously a studio set with perfect lighting and Roger dressed in superspy stealth attire. Now picture Craig in the skyscraper in Shanghai, dark, violent, remorseless. Same character, same general situation, but the films are entire universes apart. Why? Because we were willing in the 1970’s and beyond to take that snippet of character work and rationalize it into our acceptance of the world we were being shown. Of course Bond could be a little overweight Englishman with reddish dyed hair and a cadre of stuntmen as long as we got our jollies watching it. Dalton’s approach didn’t catch on with a lot of people, but he felt far more real than the comic book world would allow. Brosnan found a good middle ground, but where could they go? They went with the time. A little bit of angst on a beach in Jamaica and on with the usual falderal. Honestly, there is more than a little of Skyfall in Goldeneye, but the previous film is literally stuck in it’s time. Bond couldn’t go where Skyfall goes in Goldeneye because that was not the world we lived in, but now, to me, Craig is the Bond we deserve at this time. Critics in the seventies would have decried Skyfall as too violent, lacking in style and what in the world is going on with that villain? But right now, for our times, this is the Best Bond Ever.

To me, Casino Royale was the beginning of the rebuild and Skyfall the completion. I don’t know what to expect from the next film and I like it that way. I have not gone back to see Skyfall a second time, but when I have the chance, we’ll see. Will it be one I return to over and over? I can’t really say, but I think so. I disliked Quantum of Solace immensely, but once again I can return to it now and then and find pieces I thoroughly enjoy.

I will finish this by writing something about Daniel Craig. He has easily become my second Bond and had Connery not established the character so clearly, he would be my first. I purchased the blu-ray fiftieth anniversary set of the Bond films and watched them all in order of release. I found myself enjoying a few I had never thought much of and disliking a few that I’d tolerated or never truly liked even more, but Craig finally passed Dalton as my second favorite Bond with this one. I honestly hadn’t noticed how much Mr. Craig has changed since his first film, but the Bond in this film has grown considerably from the new double 0 of Casino Royale, and so has the actor. Bond is older, rougher around the edges in this one and it thoroughly fits the character. He has few moments at rest and by the time he is on the roof of a building overlooking London at the end of his mission, there is actual palpable resignation. Yes, it’s over, at an incredible cost, and this remains. He’s tired, probably totally exhausted, his entire world has changed and I do mean his entire world, and he looks out over London and the only thing he has left is the notion in his mind that whatever he has done has been worth it, has been good, has been right.

People at my screening talked about the bulldog figurine, about it being the perfect metaphor for Bond. I think I like that and will end with that.

So, this entire review has been based in back story. Bond’s, M’s, even Silva’s. Now it’s my turn. Let me explain.

My father and our tradition lived through Casino Royale. We didn’t get to see that one together, but we did manage to see it and talk it over. I remember saying to him that I thought Craig could do it and he agreed that if they were ever to get it absolutely right, this was the fellow they would get there with. We were both mightily impressed with Casino Royale and were happy and looking forward to the next one. Less than a year later my father was gone. Suddenly. I cried that day as hard as I have cried in my entire life, but once again, life goes on. The day in the day out, this all goes with us and the emotions we experience remain, possibly not on the surface where they can be seen, but they go with us nonetheless. I moved on as we all do, until out of nowhere came news that Quantum of Solace was coming out. A new Bond film and the sudden realization that a tradition had ended. I had taken my son with me for the past few Bonds, from Goldeneye on, and so I poured myself into the assumption that the tradition would continue with him and I in this fashion, but I honestly hadn’t realized how deep this connection had gone for me. As the opening day approached, my dearest friends, knowing about the tradition, gathered and all the arrangements were made. We went, as we needed to, on opening day, and as I sat there watching the gunbarrel cross the screen at the end of the film, I looked up and told my father that we had made it, perhaps awkwardly, but for that moment we were there as together as we would ever be again.

It is now four years later. Forty one years since that first opening day and a whole new generation of Bond fans have come out for that first showing on opening day. My friends from the previous year were somewhat scattered, but we managed to see it on the first day, wherever we could. There was a joy in setting things up and actually making it to the theatre as a group and those who couldn’t be there were missed. Skyfall felt like the answer to the prediction my father and I had made after Casino Royale. It felt like it all came together once, that a real filmmaker had put his all into a Bond film, that the writing was top notch, that for once we could see a Bond film and not have to rationalize its qualities as being another part of a franchise, a “James Bond movie”. This one stands on its own. I hope sincerely that we never go backwards, but for me, all I can truly say is:

We made it, dad.

For my son,
Letter Grade – “A”
Robert Cotton

Copyright Robert Cotton – 2013

One Response

  1. […] Skyfall: an essay and memoir by Rob Cotton […]

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