What happens when one of the world’s most recognized brands decides to reposition itself? Well….f or starters, it’s a huge risk! But what a brilliant risk it turned out to be in the case of ‘Skyfall’, the boldest Bond film ever. It needed the genius of a Sam Mendes to deconstruct a powerful franchise, nurtured over 50 long years and come up with something that challenges the entire mythology around James Bond. ‘Skyfall’ is about courage. Not physical . But moral and emotional. This is not the typical 007 masala movie. It takes a gigantic leap into the dark unknown. And that unknown is the mind. This is by far the most layered, deep and philosophical Bond blockbuster, that dares to go where the others haven’t – into the agent’s shadowy past and heart. In fact, the film is so damn dark, there is hardly any relief, even visually. If anything, the Union Jack fluttering behind Bond’s head, is the only bright image….perhaps a deliberate reminder and reassertion of the essential Englishness of the original book and film. An Englishness that had got lost or had become stilted during the last three decades.
The character of Bond himself was made to stand on its head this time, and it was brave indeed of the craggy Craig to display a grey stubble, show signs of fatigue, and play 007 with an air of resignation for the most part. It was the subtle coming to terms with the new order and a new world, that made his Bond so appealingly vulnerable. Then again, Mendes seems to mock physical beauty, which was once the USP of the brand. Everybody in this movie looks pretty ugh, including Bardem ( a bow in the direction of ‘No Country for Old Men’?). It’s a dramatic clash of two worlds, different values, in which there is no place for the old ( goodbye, Judi Dench, hello, Ralph Fiennes). Even the starchy Miss Moneypenny from earlier films is replaced by a sassy, foxy Black girl. As for the latest Q ( quartermaster), he turns out to be a geeky, bespectacled, arrogant alarmingly young genius ‘with spots’.
But it is M’s role ( brilliantly played as always by Judi Dench) that officially signals the end of an era and the reinvention of the Brand Bond. The new M is a handsome chap in a sharp suit, and not a mysterious, menacing, middle aged spook. Just as Bond himself is a changed man who abandons his sardonic, emotionless, stony façade and reveals hidden secret sorrows! Worse, Bond is filled with self doubts! Eventually, it is a vintage Aston Martin that provides the best clue to what audiences can expect next.The car is made to appear quaint and sexy. The clash of the two worlds,two value systems, is dealt with neatly in Skyfall, summed up in the cheeky words of the brat Q when he informs Bond that the era of ‘exploding pens’ is over. ‘Skyfall’ is about transition. The danger this time is internal. The enemy - within. It demands introspection from viewers. M quotes Ulysses ( inspired choice, there!). And the eternal fight between tradition and change is wonderfully captured against the stark backdrop of the Scottish moors, when a hunting rifle, a few sticks of dynamite, and an old fashioned knife are all that old man Finney can offer Bond. Of course, we know Bond will win this round. Even if the enemies are armed to the teeth and arrive in a monster chopper. Stylishly carrying the torch of tradition forward during the fantastically choreographed finale was a fine display of Mendes’ bravado at its most dazzling.
Brand Bond just got bigger. Much bigger. That’s pure brilliance.