Regrettably, I can't take credit for this level of analysis, but I found these two reviews. They are quite deep, but i like the thrust of their analysis. Have the hit on something? or are talking pretentious bollocks?
David Thomson commented
The film is hugely fun, but has a very serious theme: the place of tradition in the modern world. It really feels like a statement about modern Britain by Mendes, Deakins and Crag - three of our leading
Skyfall is by far the closest depiction of the Bond from the novels. The novels are in many ways are about the traditions of the British Empire colliding with post WW2 decline. Something that Skyfall almost stands as a response to. Skyfall itself is an answer the questions and insecurities Fleming exposed as the Empire rapidly declined in the 50s and 60s.
The central Tennyson quote by M is the key to the whole film (incase you missed the relevance of the Fighting Temarare by Turner earlier on). Throughout the film tradition is constantly threatened by modernity - and each time a tempered version of tradition comes up trumps. There are countless examples... Bond is shot not by the mistake of someone on the ground, but because of the high tech communication. MI6 new building is destroyed and they're safer in ancient WW2 tunnels. Silva is a tech genius, but Bond (and M) is repeatedly called out of touch or old. And of course, the final sequence can be seen as one giant metaphor - the high tech invaders storming Bond's castle with all their equipment and Bond has ancient rifles and a knife. And how does he finally beat Silva - by the most simple weapon he has. There is so much of this throughout the film I can't remember it off the top of my head. The whole film is about the interaction of tradition and modernity.
The reading I take from the film is as Tennyson says: time will give you a beating, but hold onto your history and traditions and they will steel you against anything that comes at you. That's exactly what James Bond does.
I'd love to hear how Americans react to the themes of tradition in the film. Particularly around the relevance of the Tennyson quote from Ulysses spoken by M:
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.
If putting that Tennyson speech into the mouth of one of our greatest living actors in the middle of our biggest cultural exports isn't a statement about Britain, I don't know what is.
I can't see any of those sentiments or political position of Skyfall being made by many American filmmakers.
Chris Hunneysett commented
Sir, the Tennyson is the essential to our understanding of the film but for these complementary reasons:
The film is absolutely about selling Britain and Mendes underlines how Bond is the best of Britain by drawing a parallel, or possibly an umbilical cord through time between this most modern hero and our most ancient, King Arthur.
It was Tennyson in his 'Idylls of the King' codified the Arthurian legend and Mendes is in effect continuing the tale of Arthur when he returns, when England needs him most.
The pre-title sequence is the Malory's (does that name ring a bell from the movie?) Le Morte d'Arthur, the story of how Arthur is betrayed by a woman, mortally wounded in action and disappears presumed dead in the lake.
During the titles Bond undergoes a symbolic Christian rebirth.
Time passes and when Britain needs Arthur/Bond again and so he returns as legend foretells.
The threat is once again Mordred (Silva) about whom legend is distinctly ambiguous of the familial relationship between he and Arthur.
Thus we have lots of references to M as their joint (metaphorical) mother, (both men are orphans, Arthur also had a fostered upbringing), Severine, the woman they share is also an orphan. Further, Bond is revealed to have a birth mother with a Spanish maiden name, suggesting a further ahem, bond with Silva.
The Merlin figure is of course Q.
I don't believe a director as erudite as Mendes would include these details/imagery/language by coincidence, it would almost impossible to do so by accident. The purpose is to anchor Bond firmly in the tradition of British heroic sacrifice (Tennyson also of course wrote The Charge Of The Light Brigade) and so elevate him from the mundane into the legendary.
These elements incorporated in the subtext will be registered in the audience's mind whether they realise it or not, they will be familiar with the basic elements of Arthurian legend but not necessarily identify them as such in Skyfall but the film will benefit from the cultural echoes regardless.
Yes this is what Joseph Campbell was writing about in The Hero With a Thousand Faces (and far better than I) but what Mendes does is employ the theory to wed Bond to Arthur for Bond's benefit, the movie's benefit and for the audience's benefit.
Thanks for listening.
Taken from Roger Ebert's Journal