The movie opens with 007 and his partner (Naomie Harris from 28 Days Later) pursuing a stolen list of embedded MI6 operatives in terrorist organizations. Bond does his badass best, even using a backhoe to prove that he doesn't just specialize in small and sexy gadgets. Alas, a shot goes awry, and the missing list remains a crucial plot point.
After the credits, the first hour and a half of Skyfall is predictable. MI6 comes under attack by someone who hacks into M's (Dame Judi Dench) computer and warns her: "Think on your sins." Her loyal 007 returns to her side and hunts down the villains. It all unfolds in a paint-by-numbers thriller sort of way, until Bond meets Silva (Javier Bardem). I joined the rest of the audience in shrieking in delight at Bardem's delicious line delivery. You'll know exactly what I mean when you watch it. Bond brings Silva into the new MI6 quarters, stupid things happen with computers (Husband-elect, software engineer, barely stopped himself from yelling at the screen), and then the movie transforms into a masterful showdown of shadowy good versus insane evil.
This movie belongs to Dench. Her M remains steely and completely committed to the mission of covert intelligence. M becomes the core of a story about how the reverence for technology frequently obscures the fact that human players deploy it, which makes the human element foremost in any war. The new Q, whose youth gets an incredulous stare from 007, represents the principle of innovation frustration; that is, whatever edge you think you have by developing the latest and greatest will always be susceptible to becoming obsolete by yet another innovation that builds on yours. Bardem's Silva, who mocks 007 throughout the movie for his old-fashioned fighting tactics, underlines the theme of the old ways versus new methods, in a world where computers offer near-unlimited possibilities to those with skills and a lack of scruples.
The first climax of the film occurs shortly after M faces the Prime Minister and other officials to defend the very existence of MI6. M has a candid moment as she makes her statement, revealing in broad sketches the world of shadows into which she sends her people, where she believes the fight must be waged. Then she delivers a knockout blow by reciting the last lines of 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 proceeds to become beyond awesome after that point. I want to watch it again, and cuddle it, and whisper to it that everything will be all right.
With that, I present to you the Skyfall drinking game:
1. Drink whenever M says, "Where the hell have you been, Double-Oh-Seven?"
2. Sip whenever Bond flirts with someone.
3. Chug when Silva [redacted].
4. Empty every bottle in sight when M [redacted].
Seriously, watch it. You'll understand. WATCH SKYFALL RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW.