Note: The following post contains spoilers.

The 007 saga has always been known for its escapist approach to story-telling. Traditional Bond stands for “Queen and Country,” but we could hardly consider him a character with real depth. As such, imagine my surprise at leaving the theater a few weeks ago feeling…. reflective. In sharp contrast to the typical Bond bravado and cockiness, Skyfall felt like a film in the middle of an existential crisis – a film looking for a still center in a turning world.

Of course, in a certain sense this is precisely what Skyfall was. If you’ve seen the film, you surely noticed the deep and overriding tension between “the old” and “the new;” indeed, Bond himself is presented as a man approaching a mid-life crisis and trying to come to grips with his own aging body. Retirement looks eminently reasonable, and not only for Bond, but also for M and the entire concept of  MI6, whose function in a post-Cold War, information-laden era is deeply questioned.

But there is more at stake in the storyline than simply an agent’s career – and actually even more than the role of military intelligence in a cyber age – because when the film is examining Bond’s particular shelf-life, it’s really examining its own shelf-life and continued relevance. Indeed, for someone with a background in the series it was difficult to overlook how deeply self-conscious and nostalgic the film was at times. In the fast-paced world of Jason Bourne, had we perhaps outgrown James Bond? I wondered.

The film handles all three of these storylines (Bond’s retirement, MI6’s continued relevance, and the series’ shelf-life) by triumphantly and flagrantly declaring that “sometimes the old ways are best.” Though the actors and even missions have surely changed, we see the same formula simply applied to new circumstances. Ultimately, the film claims that, though the entire world may seem to change, at the bottom we can find some enduring, timeless core – some set of principles that can be re-applied even as new circumstances and venues arise. In today’s high-turnover world, it can often feel as if everything is negotiable and nothing is built to stand the test of time, but as M (quoting Tennyson) suggests in the film, “Though much is taken, much abides.”