FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Missing Line From Skyfall

by PETER LEE

Skyfall was enjoyable, in a grim sort of way.  I certainly regretted the shortage of many of the signature Bond tropes—babes, booze, quips, and gadgets– that  enlivened the earlier films, especially in the self-mocking days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore, and made the gaping plot holes more endurable.

The wheels come off Skyfall in the final act, where Bond returns to his ancestral home in Scotland with his bosslady, M, to lure the archvillain, Silva into a trap.

For some reason, although MI6 is aware of this ruse, Bond receives no official backup and has to fight off a helicopterload of henchman relying only on his wits, courage, Dame Judy Dench, and the decrepit but murderous old family retainer and caretaker, Kincade, played by Albert Finney.

In the good/bad old days, Roger Moore would have marched into the old homestead calling peremptorily for Kincade! only to be pleasantly nonplussed  by the appearance of the current officeholder, Kincade’s gorgeous granddaughter, wearing nothing but a bikini under an ankle-length fur coat and wielding a shotgun.   Then, after some improbable but amusing mayhem, the villain would be subjugated,  Felix Leiter would appear to mop up the underlings, and M would be on the helicopter back to London harrumphing, “Where’s Bond?”  Cut to Moore luxuriating with the lovely Ms. Kincade in a profusion of mink before a roaring fire, purring, “I’ve always wanted to explore the hills and valleys of my native Scotland…”

Roll credits.

In Skyfall, by contrast,  much unconvincing elder-abuse derring-do ensues, culminating in a showdown in the wee kirk in the heather that holds the bones of Bond’s sainted parents.  With Bond temporarily detained below the ice of the local tarn, Silva takes by surprise Dench—and Finney, who appears to have chosen this dangerous moment to take a crap in the church outhouse, only to return through a side door adjusting his suspenders just in time to stand there like a gormless idiot while Silva pulls the awkward stunt of putting his own gun to his own head, lining up Dench’s head next to his, and imploring Dench to pull the trigger, end it for them both, and take care of his mommy issues.

This would have been the perfect opportunity for M—already mortally wounded but fortuitously not exhibiting the shock, disorientation, trembling, stammering, and meaningless gibbering usually associated with severe blood loss—either to toss off a devastating quip—“No, after you, I insist!”—while twisting herself out of the way and pulling the trigger, or do the stiff upper lip thing, snuffing Silva at the cost of the remaining four minutes of her life and sacrificing her not-a-damp-eye-in-the-house death scene with JB.

Spoiler alert: Neither of these two things happens.

The key dilemma for any Bond movie is finding a plausible, crowd-pleasing mission for a heartless government assassin that doesn’t make him look like a thug or recreational terrorist or scab taking work away from the CIA and Mossad.

If you read the relentless fluffing in the Guardian (and paid attention to the whole “Queen parachutes into London Olympics with Daniel Craig” deal) you will realize that Skyfall hangs its hat on English patriotism.  Early in the movie, in a psychological evaluation, Bond responds to the word “country” in a free association test with a steely “England” (instead of “club” or “Marie Osmond”, or, for that matter, “Scotland” no doubt pissing off the independence enthusiasts that hoped he might have gone all Braveheart).  There is also some Churchill and British bulldog-related flagwaving intended to evoke thin red line/all for England emotions.

Mission accomplished; Skyfall, has surpassed Avatar as England’s biggest national grosser.  The unintended amusement emerges when we learn exactly what Bond is protecting England from.

The set piece for this conundrum occurs during the superb second act attack on London, in the parliamentary inquiry scene where some officious young MP gets in M’s face and tells her to discontinue MI6’s black ops activities in favor of the modern point and click intel gathering that is all the rage these days.

In her reply, Dame Judy Dench deploys high dudgeon in the service of low seriousness, talking about the big, bad, dangerous world and justifying the 00s with the rhetorical question “How safe do you feel?”  Fortuitously, at this moment, Silva bursts into the hearing room on his mission of mayhem, proving that spry if wrinkly velociraptors like James Bond and even lumbering brontosaurs like M have their uses.

At least, that’s what director Sam Mendes thinks.

The catch, of course, is that Silva is an ex-MI6 agent whom M abandoned to the tender mercies of Chinese intelligence and who subsequently turned rogue.

I would have found it preferable and infinitely more entertaining if Dench had used the occasion of Silva’s irruption to acidly berate the franticly scurrying MPs, “This is exactly what I’m talking about!  If we stop employing overtrained psychopaths, who is going to deal with the overtrained psychopaths who leave our employ?”

Which brings me in a roundabout way to Syria, where the anti-Assad powers (including Great Britain, of course, but also including a) the US, Turkey, and the rest of NATO and b) the GCC)  will soon have the pleasure of scraping up the mess created by their material and diplomatic support of the insurrectionists.

Undoubtedly one of the options on the table is to send in some kind of armed force, not to deal with Assad (who is now having the sort of difficulties in his capital—high level defections, serial car bombs, loss of control of the airport, etc.—usually associated with regime collapse), but to restore order and support pro-Western opposition forces after Assad falls.

The general disinterest in this development astounds me.

Consider the matter of the NATO plan to position Patriot batteries in Turkey.

Is Assad going to compound his current woes by attacking Turkey?  Is there any conceivable explanation for the NATO move other than to reduce the danger of Syrian regime retaliation if Turkey sends in troops?

Consider the matter of the US and UN warnings about chemical weapons.  Assad has announced that the regime will not use them against domestic enemies; in any event, given the close quarters mayhem going on in Syrian cities (and the presence of civilian human shields by accident or design), it doesn’t seem a workable option.  The most likely use, if any, of chemical weapons, would be against a foreign army.

Consider the matter of the hurried reorganization of SNCORF—an exercise in regime change that replaced  the corrupt and conspiratorial Muslim Brotherhood-dominated SNC with a new group of stooges, equally ineffectual and isolated from the domestic opposition, but who presumably will be more responsive to foreign demands once it comes time to erect a useful pro-Western intervention-friendly proxy on the rubble of Assad’s regime and the bodies of the bloody-minded Islamist insurrectionists.

But the whole Day After contingency planning angle—including the explosive possibility that Turkish troops will be marching into an Arab country, thereby reigniting not-so-fond memories of the Ottoman Empire—gets almost no attention in the Western press.

Of course, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire—and the fragmentation of the Arab Middle East into arbitrary, unstable, and largely unrulable fiefdoms—was very much the work of the British Empire during and after World War I.

In large part, the last fifty years of US foreign policy in the Middle East has been dealing with the consequences of Britain’s inability to hold on to its empire from Suez to Tehran or even manage its dissolution.

Maybe there’s a movie out there about England stepping up and shouldering the grim obligation of cleaning up the abortion the Empire midwived in the Middle East.

It certainly isn’t Skyfall.

P.S. Want the Skyfall china bulldog?  It’s sold out.  But Royal Doulton has promised to grunt out another litter by March 2013.

Peter Lee edits China Matters. He can be reached at: chinamatters (at) prlee. org.


Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious madness in Ulster
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail