How do you respond when your leader allows you to be tortured, perhaps killed, for the sake of the nation?

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Connecting with Culture

Skyfall – A Tale of Two Sons

Skyfall may or may not be the best Bond film ever but it is certainly the most compelling psychologically, thematically and culturally. At its throbbing heart is the question of sacrifice for a cause. How do you respond when your leader allows you to be tortured, perhaps killed, for the sake of the nation? 

In Skyfall, two agents respond in very different ways. Bond, sacrificed by M, looks as if he will abandon Queen and country; but in the end, like the good son in Jesus’ parable of the two sons (Matthew 22:28-32), does not. By contrast, Silva, Skyfall’s chilling arch villain, is turned viciously vengeful by what he sees as M’s heartless betrayal. ‘M’ is for ‘Mother’ in both cases. The thought: ‘If M cared about me, she wouldn’t have given that order’ is not that far from ‘If God really loved me, he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen...’ Total commitment in military or divine service is no guarantee of physical protection – as the crucified Son, and his followers, know. There is a bigger picture.
In Skyfall, the bigger picture is a mature patriotism, a curiously uncynical, realistic view of our country – not what it once was, but still worth something. Similarly, there is a refreshingly realistic view of Bond himself. The stubble on his chin is grey, he is past his best, and perhaps past usefulness, like the once mighty, Trafalgar-winning The Fighting Temeraire ‘being ignominiously hauled away for scrap’ in the Turner masterpiece that Bond ponders.
Nevertheless, there is something to offer. In Bond’s case, it comes from the heart. Last Friday’s Times commented that Britain gets the ‘Bonds’ we deserve. But I’m not sure we deserve this one. Indeed, as he sprints to Westminster to try to save M – boss, mother, country – M is reading from Tennyson’s Ulysses:
    'Though much is taken, much abides; and though
    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.’

Skyfall is not a film that appeals to some vapid fantasy of male invincibility, emotional indifference and sexual irresistibility; rather, it is a summons to offer every sinew to a noble cause.

And with the stubble grey on my own chin, I pray it might be so for me.

Mark Greene



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