As the clocks go back and the dark nights draw in, it is time to reflect on a year that has signalled the start of a brighter future for Britain.
What better place to start than the most recent installment of the James Bond series? Daniel Craig's effortless performance as Bond has almost certainly reinvented the great British franchise. We are initially drawn to a Bond who is battered and bruised, lost and seeking redemption. A Bond who feels pain, who cries, who even shockingly feels the full force of an opposing bullet. We see a national treasure at his lowest point and, as an audience, we experience his return to greatness.
Leaving the cinema, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. A sense of achievement. Not because our blue-eyed Bond had foiled the evil schemes of a peroxide partisan but because the film captured a true sense of contemporary British identity. I was half expecting to see General Monty dressed in a black Odeon polo shirt, ushering the crowds out of the cinema and thanking us, not for paying to see the film, but for simply being British.
It seems this patriotic feeling has been bubbling underneath the surface of British society for a while now. In the pages of history, the first decade of the new millennium (or the 'noughties', as it is unbearably referred to) will be overshadowed by the global financial crisis, the disastrous invasion of Iraq, the end of Western Primacy, the euro crisis, global warming, terrorism, the coldest winter in history, the wettest month in history, the wettest and coldest most miserable month since records began.
But recently, something has changed.
Since 2010, even British fashion has witnessed a sharp resurgence. We are no longer talking about New York or Paris or Milan. The words on everybody's lips are London, Savile Row, Spitalfields. We are no longer embarrassed by our eclectic double-breasted suits and leather-soled brogues (ironically Bond opted for a Tom Ford but we shan't dwell on that). We have embraced our heritage. It is no surprise that Barbour - another British brand that featured in Skyfall - has experienced a huge increase in profits over the past two years. And it's not because everyone has bought a shot-gun and a flat cap and wants to go game shooting, although I'm sure some have. It is because in tough times we often look inwards. In an increasingly globalised world people seek a renewed sense of British identity.
2012 will be remembered as a year when Britain became British again. In Skyfall, Bond, M and the iconic DB5's journey through the meandering, foggy roads of the Scottish Highlands serves as a compelling metaphor for British society. For years we have been on a seemingly never ending road of social misery and economic depression. The collapse of Northern Rock and the London riots were flashpoints on a path engulfed by the mist of despair. But as we now emerge from the fog we, like Bond standing before his childhood home, are confronted by our past, our heritage; what brings us to this point.
This year has been a turning point for Britain.
As Craig so sullenly states in the film, we have experienced "resurrection". 2012 has seen victory for Wiggins in the Tour de France, Murray in the US Open and Team GB in the Olympics. Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and the nation became transfixed with the culinary masterpiece that was the Great British Bake-Off.
Skyfall gave a nod both to its past and its future, and hopefully the momentum of this film can be carried forward to the next. Mendes has skilfully captured a cultural moment in time and it marks a great British ending to a rather Great British year.
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