Monday, 28 January 2013

James Bond and the Mum/Maam Factor

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?


  1. Agreed... I found the film utterly captivating. I saw it on my own and soaked in every second. What a fantastic bond film :0)

    1. Gabrielle, totally agree. It's a masterpiece

  2. Having also Skyfallen twice I find myself shaken AND stirred to write in praise (without any plot-spoilers) of what is fast becoming one of my favourite 'popcorn' films of all time.

    Sam Mendes has created a masterpiece in which the narrative is constantly moving towards the inevitable confrontation between two members of the spy brotherhood competing for the same parental affirmation. The careful editing, compelling action sequences and storyline development meant I was still unaware of the stated 2½-hour duration on my second viewing.

    In this fiftieth Bond year, references to previous Bond movies abound for the diehard fan. Yet these contribute to rather than divert or pause the narrative impetus (e.g. allusion to Bond's arch-nemesis Jaws, Connery's weaponised car, Moore's alligator crossing, Brosnan's underwater tie adjustment to maintain his dapper appearance). The Bond afficiandos will enjoy searching for more.

    There is less emphasis on bedroom interaction with the Bond girls, and more emphasis on how they advance or add to the plot. As well as part of the expected Bond convention, the sexual tension and repartee between Bond and Naomie Harris' character is critical to the plot denouement when her eventual role in Bond's life is resolved with satisfying echoes across the entire Bond cinematic canon.

    As in Casino Royale (and the follow-up closure over Vesper Lynd in Question of Solace), Daniel Craig's Bond wrestles with emotional attachment to a central love in his life. As he fights to protect his Queen (or a substitute imperial matriarch) and country, Craig's Bond experiences an unwanted personal devastation that his enemy has sought but which Bond denies him at the climax of the film. This is the central strength to Craig's Bond - the paradox between his dispassion as a killing machine and his search for affection. This is what has made him the best Bond to date.

    Skyfall. Done. And done brilliantly.

    1. Very well said Mark. This is the first Bond film where we REALLY get to know more about Bond's back story and his need for attachments. And why!

  3. It is s-o-o-o-o-o-o-o good to see you back in the fold. Walk tall dear one.