Skyfall – James Bond, England’s Dark Knight

JAMES BOND – DANIEL CRAIG (Third Appearance)

Skyfall. James Bond comes back from the dead to the rescue of M, MI6 and England in a visually spectacular, action and surprise packed 23rd outing of James Bond in the 50th Anniversary year of the franchise, 50 years since Sean Connery gave life to the immortal Superspy. Daniel Craig redefines Bond like never before and Javier Bardem smokes up the screen with his scintillating performance. Bond is stripped to the bone of his character in his rawest portrayal so far, dark and unyielding, the Dark Knight who comes to England’s rescue. Be warned, the Bond here is definitely low on tech and high on substance. Saw the movie the first day first show it was released in India, and here is the review.

Directed BySam Mendes Produced byMichael G. WilsonBarbara Broccoli
Screenplay byChristopher Wood Based On: James Bond by Ian Fleming
Theme Song: Adele Music: Thomas Newman
Release date: 26 October 2012 Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes
Bond Series: 23/23 Distributed byMGMColumbia Pictures
Budget: $150 million Gross Revenue: $100 million (Nov 1 2012)
Preceded by: Quantum of Solace (2008) Succeeded by: Bond 24 (TBA)

BOND GIRLS 

NAOMIE HARRIS as EVE – She works along with Bond in the field during the entire pre-title sequence and later on several occasions. She is shown as an agile, tough, no-love-lost but cunning and playful character and a good shot, very much in the scheme of things. She and Bond share many flirty moments. You will notice that I have left out her name, that is a surprise.

BERENICE MARLOHE as SEVERINE – The glamorous, enigmatic and ultra beautiful associate of Silva, who is easily charmed by Bond and agrees to help him. She adds the much wanted charm quotient to the movie.

MI6 and OTHER ASSOCIATES

JUDI DENCH as M – The movie revolves around M and her past. Her age shows pretty well, she is being pushed to retirement by MI6 and her methods are being questioned. She plays a big part throughout the movie showing her emotional Bonding with 007. Bond however, stands steadfast in his loyalty towards her.

BEN WHISLAW as Q – 007 retorts “You must be Joking” when Q introduces himself. Very young but very competent, Q and 007 bond almost immediately.

ALBERT FINNEY as KINCADE – The gamekeeper and watchman at the estate and Bond’s old friend.

RALPH FIENNES as GARETH MALLORY – Chairman of the “Intelligence and Security Committee”. He comes across as a Bureaucrat and believes that agents and operatives are a thing of the past. He wants MI6 to be relegated.

THE ANTAGONISTS AND THEIR ANTAGONISM

JAVIER BARDEM as TIAGO RODRIGUEZ alias RAOUL SILVA – First up, Raoul Silva is the best Bond Villain in the history of the series, bar none, with his unyielding and unforgiving performance. He is dark (though he dresses in white), decidedly evil, cruel, planned, focused and menacing. His presence is omnipresent in the movie from the moment he appears on screen, even when he is not appearing on it. He was as Rodriguez MI6’s Hong Kong station head, but was disowned when he started disobeying orders. Captured and tortured, he survived Cyanide and later became a cyber terrorist.

VILLAIN SCHEME – Revenge. Tiago alias Silva wants to get back at M, MI6 and England for disowning him. He wants to discredit MI6 in the eyes of the public, weakening it and cap it all off by killing M.

MODUS OPERANDI – Steal a computer hard drive containing details of all NATO agents working undercover in the World’s terrorist organizations to expose them and get them killed. Then hack into MI6 and bomb the MI6 HQ. Get to England and kill M. How he would get to England is a suspense.

SKYFALL 007 FACTSHEET

CARS – Silver Birch Aston Martin DB5 (Bond), Range Rover Defender 110 (Bond/Eva), Jaguar XJ L (M), Range Rover Vogue SE, Ranger Rover Evoque, Audi A5 (Patrice), Mercedes-Benz E300 (Bond)

BOND GADGETS – 9 mm Walther PPK with Palm Scan Lock, Miniature distress radio

LOCATIONS – Istanbul Turkey, Rural Turkey, Shanghai China, Macau China, London UK, Scotland.

STATISTICS – “Bond, James Bond” 1, Kills 8, Vodka Martinis 1, Romps 3, Fights 4, Chases 4, Captures 1, Tight Spots 2

STORYLINE (Some Spoilers)

In Turkey, James Bond and Eve are in hot pursuit of a mercenary terrorist operative who stole a hard disk containing a list of all MI6 undercover operatives around the World. After a hot chase Bond falls off the top of a train into a river after Eve misses a shot, and is presumed dead, but he survives and takes the chance to retire. In London, M is summoned by Mallory who suggests she take voluntary retirement and MI6 change the way it functions. ON her way back. MI6 systems are hacked and explosions occurs in the HQ, killing several employees. Bond returns to London and with active help from M rejoins MI6 as 007. Bond had shrapnel in his shoulder from a shot by Patrice, which they use to identify and track him to Shanghai. There, Bond tails him to find who his employer was and what he had done with the Hard Disk. But things get ugly real quick and Patrice dies without revealing anything. Searching his equipment, Bond finds a gambling chip from a Casino in Macau. Following this clue, he reaches Macau and the Casino and is made a payment and meets Severine who promises to help Bond find the villain. Meanwhile, whoever stole the disk had started to make the name of the NATO agents public, getting them killed. Public opinion turns against MI6 and pressure mounts on M. Bond has to act fast to find who had stolen the files, bombed MI6, caused the death of the agents and what the reason was behind all that. But the lives of Bond, M and all of England was to be changed forever, very soon, only by a man who redefined “fear”.

SKYFALL TRIVIA

  • The 23rd movie in the franchise, released 50 years after the first film, Dr. No.
  • “Skyfall” is the shortest single word title of a Bond movie withe 007 characters after GoldenEye. Dr.No is the shortest name.
  • The first Bond movie where Bond and the villain are both Blond.
  • The second Bond movie where the main villain is a rogue MI6 operative.
  • The 6th appearance of the Aston Martin DB5 after Goldfinger, Thunderball, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies and Casino Royale
  • Jaws is Javier Bardem’s favorite Bond villain.
  • Visual effects (CGI) for Skyfall were created in Bangalore and in London
  • The abandoned island which is Silva’s (Bardem) hideout is in realty an abandoned island off the South-West coast of Japan, called the Hashima Island, 15 kilometers off Nagasaki.

SKYFALL SHAKEN AND STIRRED (REVIEW)

Skyfall is brilliant, flawless. Visually ecstatic and technically perfect. All performances are outstanding with special mention to Javier Bardem whose Raoul Silva is without contest, the best Bond villain in the history of the franchise in all the 23 movies and 50 years. Daniel Craig comes across with his best Bond performance to date as well, rock solid as James Bond, emotion cracking around his face only when absolutely required and being at home as the cold blooded assassin at other times. But what works for the movie is the intricate, gripping, sensible but very simple storyline. It steadfstly focuses on Silva and his plan to discredit MI6 and kill M without losing focus or evolve into something else or going astray. 007 films have the additional task of showcasing James Bond above the rest of the movie while maintaining a strong storyline. The simpler the story, the better the creators and the audience can focus on Bond. As the trend of making films is these days like the two preceding it and many other movies of today (the Batman trilogy, the Spiderman reboot), Skyfall is more “lifelike”, “real” and “believable”.

Up front – Skyfall does not feature Q handing him a Bond Car (in the traditional sense) or a cache of gadgets. But he does have in his possession the legendary Aston Martin DB5 Sean Connery’s Bond drove in “Goldfinger“, complete with all its gadgets and he even uses some of those! Anyone expecting Skyfall to be run-of-the-mill Bond with fantastic gadgets and cars is going to be disappointed. Even Bond looks so before Q tells him “If you were expecting an exploding pen, we are not really into all that anymore“. But it looks like he will be given some believable gadgets here on – It sure will add some spice to the movie, and to tell the truth, gadgets are something that is an essential ingredient of a 007 film as long as they don’t go too much over the top. I think they are still stung by the hangover of Die Another Day. But the actions scenes are truly terrific. The pre-titles action sequence (car chase, bike chase, on-top of train fight) and the title song are the best in the series, maybe after Goldfinger. Same goes for the remaining action sequences. Exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat stuff. gunfights, car chases, train stunts – it is all there by the truckloads. Particularly spectacular are are the Shanghai high-rise fight and the Iguana pit fight. The former is spectacularly shot – all those colors!

Though he still is the old daring, committed and throw-caution-to-the-wind agent, James Bond is given feet of clay. He loses his shooting touch, has bad knees and even fails his physical exam. He misses a target – unimaginable in the era of Connery or even Brosnan. But he still is suave and dressed to kill, the Saville Row suits clinging to him like a second skin. Skyfall is also different from other Bond movies in that the villain does not want money, power, war or World domination. He just wants revenge on M, which is intensely personal. The movie hence comes across as a depiction to Bond’s loyalty and commitment towards M, for whom he is ready to put his life on the line, without anyone asking him to. In the end he realizes why he should be doing what he is doing, no matter how despicable it seems to be. Skyfall is very British and is more of a character film revolving around Bond and M, something very personal. Mendes should be credited for the emotional overture not going out of hand though.

SKYFALL – THE LEGACY AND WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT

Ever since the series reboot of James Bond franchise happened in 2006 with Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s Bond has taken off on a remarkably different tangent than from that of his predecessors. The three movies – Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and now Skyfall have tried to project Bond in a different light from the Bond known since forever – a charming, suave, sophisticated British gentleman secret agent who is the perfect alpha male in every aspect, infallible and devoid of any emotion or hangups. But Daniel Craig’s Bond has come down from his throne and has become, simply and overtly put, human. He is no longer that smug, tuxedo-and-Martini warrior who confidently marches on towards his own glorious triumph. He is fallible, grey and disillusioned, unsure of himself, unshaven and shows he has a heart that can be broken. But an analysis of Bonds over the years is the topic for another post.

The darker evolution of the Bond of the new age starts with Casino Royale, which reveals how James Bond became 007. It follows his rough and reckless manner and his frustrations, his relationship with Vesper Lynd and how her betrayal and eventual death emotionally scars him forever. QoS was an addon to this, showing Bond’s tumultuous relationship with M and his confused edgy behaviour. Skyfall brings this full circle as the movie is more about Bond battling his emotions, his choices and his almost motherly relationship with M. Bond decides to confront his demons by ultimately returning to the place where it all started – Skyfall, his ancestral home of birth. Bond makes a point in the end using a hunter rifle, shotgun shells, a knife, some nails and a couple of LPG cylinders to bring down the enemy and his high-tech helicopter gunship. When the dust settles, he walks out as a weeping, bruised and permanently scarred mortal, that aura of smug certainty around him gone. The Bond of the modern age is here.

Among other things, Skyfall brings a proper investigative story to the series, where Bond follows clues and leads from one to another, an “intelligence” movie complete with double crossings and traps. The movie is not just low on gadgets but on high life and luxury too. It is more rough and tumble, knee scrapes and bruises than linen, velvet and chandeliers. One of the main themes that Skyfall explores is the same one that is asked by many these days: “Is James Bond still relevant?” The movie is abuzz with an undertone that in these days of technological warfare and disappearing physical boundaries, secret agents, Poker-spies and field operatives have become old fashioned and outdated, and men like James Bond have become a thing of the past, an opinion shared by many today. During a meeting with a minister, M answers this question saying that in today’s World of unseen enemies who cannot be found on a map, we need men who can keep us safe, how safe do you feel when we don’t even know who the enemy is? As the ultimate unconquerable sex-in-a-tux macho-man Bond was antiquated, yes. But not his methods or premise. That is why James Bond had to be reinvented.

FOOTNOTE – JAMES BOND, THE DARK KNIGHT?

I would consider the first three movies of Craig’s Bond as a Trilogy. The three movies how James Bond evolved into who he is and how the James Bond and the original series came to be. Skyfall like the other two Craig Bonds has many references to James Bond’s past and for the first time in the series shows who his parents were – Andrew Bond, a Scotsman and Monique Delacroix Bond, a Swiss-French (They were MI6 operatives themselves). Something profound I have found is the influence Nolan’s Batman trilogy has on Skyfall, which director Mendes has acknowledged too. Skyfall = Wayne Manor, M/England = Gotham, Bond standing on the rooftop overlooking London = Batman watching over Gotham, Bond’s internal strife = Wayne’s internal strife and so on. M tells Bond that “orphans always make the best recruits” and that Bond was traumatized by his childhood scars which never healed, the cause of all his tribulations. Same as Bruce Wayne. In his own words, his “Pathetic love for country” makes James Bond come back to England in her times of need like a modern day King Arthur, even when he could have led a rocking retired life after being presumed dead, just like Bruce Wayne comes back to Gotham to save the city after being presumed dead in “Batman Begins”. The core of James Bond’s existence is his love for England, which is makes him James Bond, despite being stripped of everything else that used to define him. Same goes for Bruce Wayne, whose love and dedication for Gotham is what drives him and created Batman, who says that he hasn’t sacrificed everything, yet, for the city.

It is not just Bond who comes full circle, but the series too. The end of the movie shows the classic opening scene we have seen in the beginning of all Bond movies in the series till 1989 – Bond meeting M in his office – the paneled, book lined study with the padded door. We are being told that M’s original office is so rather than Dench’s M’s corporate style office because it will offer added security in the aftermath of the attack. The movie also finally shows us the beginning of Miss Moneypenny.

THE VERDICT

Tags
%d bloggers like this: