Study Guide

Skyfall Themes

  • Old Age

    Sean Connery originated the role of Bond as we know it. When he debuted in Dr. No, he was just 32 years old. But time ticks on, even for James Bond; when Connery last played the role, in Never Say Never Again, he was 53.

    That's nothing compared to Roger Moore, who played Bond at age 57 in A View to a Kill. More like a view to a hip replacement.

    Daniel Craig falls somewhere in the middle. He starred in Casino Royale at age 38. In Skyfall, he was 44. He played Bond again in Spectre when he was 47. How much longer will he keep going? Will he go from Blond Bond to Agent Gray?

    Craig is reaching an age when Bonds get phased out—even though the Bond Girls stay the same age. In Skyfall, though, he shows no signs of stopping. Is it something about Craig that makes his tenure as Bond unique? Or are we more comfortable with having a Bond almost as old as the franchise itself?

    Questions About Old Age

    1. Is Bond getting too old for the job? On a meta level, is Daniel Craig?
    2. Do you see Silva as older or younger than Bond? What accounts for the difference in age, even though they are biologically only a year apart?
    3. What is a bigger concern about M's ability to do her job: her age, or the amount of time she has spent in the position?
    4. Is Q disrespectful of Bond because of his age, or because he sees him as a grunt? Does Bond unfairly assess Q because of his young age?

    Chew on This

    Bond and M may be old, but it doesn't mean they're entirely useless. The world needs them, but it also needs them to work together with the younger crew.

    At the end of Skyfall, Bond defeats Silva using old tricks and ingenuity, which triumph over technology and flamboyance. The movie's stance is that this old dog doesn't need to learn new tricks.

  • Betrayal

    Betrayal goes hand in gloved hand with the spy game. Spies have to be able to lie, cheat, steal, and betray those who may be close to them. But they also have to be able to take it. And some of them are better at the taking it than they are at dishing it out.

    Take Silva in Skyfall, for instance. He can never let go of what he sees as M's betrayal of him. But Bond lets the same actions roll off him, just like the water rolled off his toned back when he came out of the ocean in Casino Royale.

    Err, we got distracted. What were we talking about? Oh, that's right: betrayal. Some can take it better than others. We all felt betrayed when Quantum of Solace was so bad, but we forgive Bond. If we can get over that movie, then any other betrayal pales in comparison.

    Questions About Betrayal

    1. What hurts Bond most about M's order to shoot (besides the bullet itself)? How is he able to get over his bruised ego and forgive her?
    2. Why isn't Silva able to forgive M? Why does he devote his whole life to getting revenge for her betrayal?
    3. What makes Bond suspicious that Eve might be spying for Mallory? Why would she do that? How would it affect Bond if she were spying for Mallory?
    4. Do either Bond or Silva have a rightful claim that M betrayed them? Or is M absolved from responsibility as a result of her duty to her job and her country?

    Chew on This

    Spies are hurt more by injuries to their egos than to their bodies. Both Bond and M feel betrayed by people who feel like they can't do their jobs right.

    To Silva, the most important thing in life is himself. He can't get over a bruised ego, because an ego is all he has.

  • Loyalty

    Loyalty doesn't come easy to a spy. Spies have to assume secret identities, they rarely stay in one place for a long period of time, and people are always shooting at them. No wonder Bond has a different woman in every movie. Those trust issues run deep.

    But there is one woman Bond has remained loyal to for many years: M. Now, his loyalty to her in Skyfall is complicated: it can be viewed as a mentor-student relationship, or even a mother-son one. But it's further complicated by the fact that while Bond may be loyal to M, she isn't necessarily loyal to him. Can loyalty be a one-way street? Or is that simply a dead end?

    Questions About Loyalty

    1. Is Bond more loyal to M or to England? Or are the two inextricable to him?
    2. Does Silva have any loyalties?
    3. Severine appears to have trusted Silva at one point. What changed? Or did she ever truly trust him?
    4. Does M inspire loyalty in her agents and other employees? If so, how? If not, what does she do wrong?

    Chew on This

    M's loyalty is primarily to her country. She would sacrifice anyone for the greater good of England…even herself.

    While we can't be certain how Silva gets his men to stay loyal to him, we imagine it is through the promise of wealth or power. That kind of loyalty is fleeting, but the kind of patriotism instilled in Bond ensures he will remain loyal to his country even if wealth or power is not guaranteed.

  • Pride

    Is there a word for a group of spies? We all know that a group of crows is a murder, and that a cluster of kittens is a kindle. Yes, a kindle of kittens. And anyone who's even heard of The Lion King knows that a group of lions is called a pride.

    Well, maybe a group of spies should be called a pride, too. It takes a certain amount of cockiness and confidence to work in the spy game, but as we see in Skyfall, pride is dangerous in the spy game. Pride can be injured just as easily as a spy's body can, and the consequences can be just as deadly.

    Questions About Pride

    1. What is M most proud of regarding her job?
    2. You may have heard that pride comes before the fall. Is M's pride the cause of her eventual downfall? What could she have done differently to change the outcome?
    3. When Bond returns to work for MI6, is it because he takes pride in himself as an agent, or is it because the country comes before his own personal pride? Or is it a mix of both?

    Chew on This

    Silva's actions comes from the dark side of pride: he believes he is better than everyone else, and that he deserves anything he wants.

    In the end, M appears to regret many of her actions, a regret she would never have voiced before because of her pride. But she expresses her pride in Bond so that it will live on with him.