James Bond and the Mum/Ma’am Factor
There are very few films I’ll see in the cinema twice - not even on Orange Wednesdays - but Skyfall is one of those rare movies to have merited a return trip.
There are many reasons why I’m not alone in thinking that this could just be the best Bond movie to date (and how appropriate on the 50th anniversary since Dr. No).
Craig gives us a hero that mirrors M’s favorite possession - a bulldog made of (ultimately broken) China.
Bardem’s performance (check out his 100 second single shot intro) is both terrifying and compelling.
Dame Judi dexterously mixes ruthlessness with sentimentality.
And Ben Wishshaw is a fantastically minimalist Q.
I would have warmed to Skyfall just on the basis of its characters alone.
But there’s more.
As a bonus extra, we get a surprisingly strong story.
For here we are presented with two characters - Bond (Crag) and Silva (Bardem) - from the same stock.
Both have a background in the British Civil Service and have been nurtured by M.
And it’s here that the movie succeeds in moving us.
For ultimately the lasting significance of Skyfall is its exploration of M as Mother.
M is a mother to both Bond and Silva.
And these two men end up warring for her affections and attentions like jealous brothers.
In Skyfall, M is not just Ma’am.
She is Mum/Mom.
And to Bond especially, she is the closest thing to a mother he has had since he was orphaned as a boy.
Which is why M tellingly says to Bond: ‘orphans make the best recruits’.
There is so much more I could say here.
I could talk about the fact that Ian Fleming called his mother ‘M’ when he was growing up;
About the mother shaped void in Bond and how M fills that emptiness;
About the mother wound in people in our real (as opposed to celluloid) world;
About how we look for substitutes to fill that void - often ones that, like M, can be dangerous to us;
And about how this void is only ultimately filled by a greater, holier, and divine love.
But for now, I want to celebrate the rich contribution made by Skyfall to the Bond series.
Sam Mendes has done a masterful job.
For the first time, we have a Bond film that’s multi-storey - many layered not one dimensional, serious not frivolous.
And for me, one of the fascinating questions it leaves with us is this.
Will the orphan-spy in the next movie look to Gareth Mallory as he has looked to M?
Will he see in Mallory a substitute for his father?
Will M become F in Bond’s orphaned heart?