Skyfall is perhaps the greatest contribution to vampire cinema since the 2004 Swedish film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in). It brilliantly appropriates the high concept of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and interprets it into a sympathetic portrayal of another eroticized and immortal monster of the ancient past: James Bond. Like Count Dracula, James Bond hails from a land that was once the heart of a vast and terrible empire but now lacks any global significance. There is something tragically romantic in seeing Bond, a creature of another age, persist in strange state of un-life in which his mere existence is an assault on modernity. In examining the legacy of James Bond, we must confront the dark history of Old Europe made flesh, something Skyfall achieves through kinetic action and with a disarming affability.
Daniel Craig plays the sexually-dominating, soulless killing machine that is James Bond with weathered majesty. He summarizes his brief time spent in hiding as a period of “enjoying death.” Of course, Count Boundlua never stays in the grave for long. When a flamboyant, scarf-wearing computer expert (Javier Bardem) begins systematically destroying the London safe-havens of Bond and his dark master, M (played with an icy, Satanic stoicism by Judy Dench) Bond must retreat into the past from whence he came. Bond and M regroup on the agent’s home soil, where he is vastly more powerful. Bond, like most vampire aristocracy, hails from a dank, moldering castle in a brutal and backward realm—in this instance, a place called “Scotland.” It is here the final battle between this undead monster of empire and the progressive ideals of a modern age fight a climatic battle. This is a Bond film, so you know who wins.
If you’re looking for a good old-fashioned Huzzah for the Union Jack, and are willing to accept a sympathetic portrayal of a bloodsucking, murderous poon-hound, Skyfall is a wonderful vampire thriller with a brisk pace and abundant action. By the film’s end, you are almost able to forget how insidious James Bond really is—or at least forgive him for existing as the monster he can’t help being.
It is perhaps unsurprising that director Sam Mendes and his writing partner, John Logan, are now developing a cable TV series entitled Penny Dreadful, a “horror-flavoured detective drama featuring various fictional characters investigating supernatural events in turn-of-the-century Victorian London” that will include characters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The two seem to do well with this kind of storytelling. It will be interesting how they present a more direct interpretation of the source material. Skyfall has already proven they can write one hell of a modern vampire tale.