Wednesday, November 14, 2012

True Masks


A quick list of a few dichotomies in Skyfall...

Trust, suspicion
Revelation, concealment
Presence, absence
Clarity, obscurity
Culpability, innocence
Inner, outer
Truth, deceit

So we can order them thus:

Revelation          Concealment
-truth                   -deceit
-presence            -absence
-clarity                 -obscurity
-inner                   -outer
-innocence           -culpability
-trust                   -suspicion
-loyalty                -betrayal

Skyfall reverses these easy dichotomies through the trope of the shadow. For instance: Bond shadows an opponent, staying within the shadows himself in order to gain clarity, to see information revealed. Bond uses the shadows to project his own absence; it is in this projection of absence that his own presence becomes most valuable. 

Or another one: Bond, M, and MI6 are culpable because of the nature of their operations; what they do is illegal in most locales, though sanctioned by their own government. Their culpability helps preserve the innocence--whether authentic or not is another matter--of the populace.

The game of fidelity and betrayal is a complex one. Without the shadows, the supposedly positive characteristics, if practiced by Skyfall's characters, would lead to the deaths of many--as the deaths of the first three agents revealed by Silva bear witness. The ecosystem of betrayal--the supposedly negative characteristics--depends on the ecosystem of loyalty. 

Trust is the currency of those in the shadows. Without trust, cover stories cannot hold, false identities cannot be offered, and deceits cannot be perpetuated. This trust is the superficial trust of the average man on the street--the one who believes someone is a janitor because he's pushing a broom and wearing a uniform. It is the trust we depend on daily, yet it is the least secure trust of all.

Espionage fiction has always mined these dichotomies. Skyfall's effectiveness--indeed, that of all of Daniel Craig's Bond films--lies in the scripts' fidelity to a set of practices based on deception.

Well done, Commander Bond.

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