Of course I saw Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, as soon as I could, just as I had the other 22. So far as you no doubt know, it has been a 50 year project. The one that stands out in my memory is Thunderball and that has more to do with the way I got there than the movie itself. We set out in our new racing green 1965 MGB with the top down on a pleasant evening. We were cruising along the freeway, happily anticipating the film. As we drove under an overpass, the driver of the semi next to us pulled on his air horn, elevating us out of our seats -no seat belts back then- and setting our hearts racing. I could see him laughing madly as he passed us. Thunderball could only be an anti-climax.
Skyfall I liked much better than Quantum of Solace although I’ve never met a Bond movie that I didn’t like. As the usher assured me, Skyfall is old-fashioned Bond.
The movie begins with Bond’s death and when that proves, unsurprisingly, greatly exaggerated, we see a battered, unshaven Bond wearing jeans and drinking —- beer. Back in harness, he is expected to re-qualify as an agent and is assured by one and all that he is past it, that, in fact, the concept of agents going out into the field is itself passé. Computer nerds can do all that work now without getting out of their pyjamas.
M, Bond’s boss, played by Judy Dench, is of course, even older and appears to have lost control of MI 6. Eventually, she is called before a parliamentary committee to face the music. In answering the badgering chair of the committee, she quotes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “Ulysses”.
The poet imagines the great adventurer Ulysses, the ancient Greek commander who defeated Troy by using a wooden horse. In the poem, Ulysses old and bored with his home island of Ithaca, exhorts his men to join him on one last great adventure from which they will not return. The poem ends with the lines which M quotes:
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.