Study Guide

Skyfall Old Age

Old Age

M: Are we to call this "civilian oversight"?

MALLORY: No, we're to call this "retirement planning." Your country has only the highest respect for you and your many years of service. When your current posting is completed, you'll be awarded GCMG with full honors.

By being forced into retirement, M feels as if she's been put out to pasture. She may be old, but she isn't tired, and she will never go down without a fight.

M: You know the rules of the game. You've been playing it long enough. We both have.

BOND: Maybe too long.

M: Speak for yourself.

M may be old, but she's not giving up. She's not going down without a fight. And she and Bond have that in common.

MALLORY: Why not stay dead? You have the perfect way out. Go and live quietly somewhere. Not many field agents get to leave this cleanly. […] It's a young man's game. Look, you've been seriously injured. There's no shame in saying you've lost a step. The only shame would be not admitting it until it's too late.

Is Mallory insulting Bond here, calling him long in the tooth? Or is he challenging him, letting him know how much harder the job will get with every year Bond gets older—if he lives that long?

Q: Always makes me feel a little melancholy. A grand old warship being ignominiously hauled away for scrap. [sigh] The inevitability of time, don't you think? What do you see?

BOND: A bloody big ship.

The ship in the painting is a pretty strong metaphor for Bond, and for how Q views Bond's role in MI6. Do you think the metaphor Q makes is sailing over Bond's head? Or does he get it and fail to acknowledge it on purpose?

Q: My complexion is hardly relevant.

BOND: Well, your competence is.

Q: Age is no guarantee of efficiency.

BOND: And youth is no guarantee of innovation.

Q and Bond get into a brief but heated debate about age vs. experience. Q thinks Bond is old and tired, while Bond thinks Q is young and incompetent. Both men may be right in their own narrow-minded ways: Bond couldn't hack into a computer system any more than Q could accurately fire a gun. The mutual ageism isn't winning either man any points with the other.

BOND: A gun...and a radio. Not exactly Christmas, is it?

Q: Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that anymore.

Oddly, as much as Bond and Q talk about innovation, Bond's "gadgets" in this film are two of the lowest-tech of them all. Maybe Q doesn't trust Grandpa Bond with anything more advanced?

BOND: Well, I like to do some things the old-fashioned way. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Bond shaves with a straight razor, which would be pretty hipstery if Bond hadn't proved himself to be so old-fashioned already. He probably listens only to vinyl and makes his own mayonnaise, too.

M: Oh, standing in the stocks at midday? Who's antiquated now?

M is also dealing with being a person of a certain age in a modern world. However, just because people spend 17 hours a day staring at screens, that doesn't mean we've moved away from tried-and-true forms of punishment, like public humiliation.