Skyfall is bookended with two (what turn out to be) near drowning scenes. We see James Bond at beginning and at end of the movie struggling for air underwater and under circumstances of great duress. In both cases, the sense is that Bond is literally in over his head at the limit of life and death.
In the first scene, after being shot by his MI6 cohort, Bond finds himself underwater after a great fall from a bridge outside of Istanbul. In this sequence, it seems that he is saved by the silhouette of long and slender feminine fingers as the scene transforms itself into the usual, but in this case atypical, opening credit montage found in all the Broccoli produced Bond films. In this case, the credits are atypical because of their emphasis on blood and death—especially the death of James Bond himself. We see tombstones emblazoned with the name James Bond.
In the very next scene, we see Bond alive, and assume he has survived near drowning through his own self-determination, because we have no other information. Perhaps a woman saved him, but we don’t know where he is or how he got there after his previous ordeal. We simply find him meandering through a low budget tropical island paradise—a paradise that hints at the pleasures of a barely seen beautiful naked woman, and nights apparently spent drinking whisky on the beach with drum circle hippie drop-outs. Almost as if it were an afterworld appropriate for the lassitude of those who experience the burdens of responsibility to be ultimately unbearable, Bond seems to have found a place off the grid, where nobody knows his name, and where he can be free from the troubles of personal risk taking in the name of queen and country. Is this what Bond looks like in the underworld? Perhaps it is better to be a slave than dead.
In the other near drowning scene toward the end of the movie, we find Bond holed up in his ancestral estate in the Scottish Highlands named “Skyfall.” In an attempt to save M's and his own life, he waits there for the villain Silva's inevitable attack with a booby trapped to plan to foil it. During the attack, Bond finds himself under the necessity to shoot his gun through some ice that drops him deep into the dark waters of a loch. We again see him struggle for life underwater, and this time fighting one of his adversaries. Bond then shoots a gun through the ice from below in order to reach the surface and escape his death. This time we actually see him save his life on his own with his typical skill and daring. In terms of the movie, his actions allow him to save the day—or almost save the day—at the end of the movie.
In Skyfall the resurrection theme is pervasive. James Bond comes back from the dead, and so does the franchise. Older movies and their various tropes (visual and verbal) also make a comeback. The old school ways return—whether it is in terms of the toys of espionage, a return to traditional gender roles, or a return to the ancestral estate. Also, there is a return to the idea of the importance of the nation, serving it honorably and without tongue in cheek.
I’ll have more to say on Skyfall later.