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Skyfall Review

"It takes a certain kind of woman to wear a backless dress with a Baretta 70 strapped to her thigh" - James Bond, 007



This is a tough one - I’ve been proved both right AND wrong in the same film. How’s THAT even possible? Either one or the other - right?

It all goes back to the casting of Daniel Craig as James Bond for Casino Royale in 2006.

I was perfectly happy with Pierce Brosnan’s 007 thank you very much. He’d brought new life to series and was somehow ignominiously dumped and discarded after four successful outings in the role. I felt he had several more films to go before the end of his run and was pretty comfortable with that. Apparently the producers thought otherwise and cast Daniel Craig. I hated that notion.

As someone who has followed the Bond movies since I saw You Only Live Twice at the cinema back in 1968, I loathed the very thought of someone who looked like a nightclub bouncer as the worlds most suave gentleman agent. I even signed the online Craig Not Bond petition.

Even worse - the series was to get a back to basics total reboot.

Thus bubbled to the surface a feeling of betrayal that all those films were not null and void. A feeling that wouldn’t be surpassed in geeky outrage until J.J.Abrams rebooted Star Trek, but would actually be eclipsed by the DC 52 nonsense. (Don’t get me started on THAT one)

I think that what worried me even more is that Bond wasn’t Bond any more. Casino Royale, as it turned out, wasn’t a bad film. It’s a great action movie in fact, but it’s not a Bond film, damnit. More like a James Bourne if you catch my drift.

Quantum of Solace two years later still didn’t convince me that this was good idea. I was well and truly out of my comfort zone with the Bond films for the first time in my life.

Now here’s something that I’ve noticed over the years, as Bond has been recast from Connery onwards. This is what I call my Bond Rule of 3, and it goes like this.

Simply put, it takes three films for an actor to fully settle in to the role of James Bond and for the audience to fully accept him.

Proof?

Connery started with Dr.No which had some fantastic sci-fi elements like remotely sabotaging rocket launches, then came From Russia, With Love which was a fully down to Earth Cold War spy thriller. Both great films, no doubt nor argument. Third time out it was Goldfinger - and that established the style of the Bond films, setting them apart from the normal cloak and dagger movies and establishing the sixties spy genre.

Moore had the Blofeld & SPECTRE-free Voodoo and drugs oriented Live and Let Die as his debut, the understated Man With The Golden Gun as a follow-on and then blew us out of the water with The Spy Who Loved Me.

Brosnan started out with a reboot of sorts, new M in Judi Dench, new offices, new Moneypenny and it had been a while since a Bond film so there was trepidation all around in Goldeneye, and his second time out it was again the more restrained Tomorrow Never Dies where Bond investigates a corrupt media mogul. When he hit the screens in The World Is Not Enough, he WAS Bond, just like his predecessors.

It’s a shame Timothy Dalton was never given the opportunity for a third folm.

So - Skyfall. Would my theory hold true for Craig? Would this gain him my acceptance, whether grudging or not, as James Bond?

The trailer certainly caught my attention, it seemed the old Bond swagger was back, and the little touches like adjusting his cuffs after a death defying jump into a wrecked railway carriage were just immaculately perfect. Even the title song by Adele had a touch of Shirley Bassey about it. Things were looking good.

Well, I’ve seen Skyfall this morning and am happy to say that my theory has once again been proven to be completely correct. The script is right on target and Craig now seems fully comfortable in the role he has grown in to.

Scripts in Bond films have, traditionally been secondary. The best Bond movies keep to a formula which was thrown out for the "vulnerable Bond" of Casino Royale (maybe not as much in Quantum of Solace where no single camera shot or angle is held for more than 7 or 8 seconds). But in Skyfall, there are elements of classic Bond very much on display as he investigates a case of cyber terrorism with MI6 as the victim.

As M says, and it makes perfect sense, the enemy doesn’t actually have a face or a country any more. It’s a dangerous world and the enemy isn’t as easily spotted as back in the SPECTRE days when their main operatives like Blofeld and Largo wore a distinctive ring. Neither do the super villains have incredible spaceship launching facilities inside dormant Japanese volcanoes or somewhere in the Amazon basin.

Happily, for traditionalists like me, Q has now been introduced, and he’s a techno-geek. Far ahead of Bond on computers and technology, and barely out of college. Bond doesn’t really take him seriously but as tradition dictates, it’s Q who’ll pull a rabbit out of a hat to get Bond out of trouble, even if, as Q says, they don’t go in for exploding pens any more.

In short, this film balances the probable, the plausible and fantasy, and for the first time, I’m anxious to see the next one. I’m back in the fold. For details why, peek in the spoiler zone below, where I discuss some stuff that if you haven’t seen the movie - you might want to look away and check back after you’ve seen it.

Welcome back 007 - Licence Renewed.

 

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Things I really loved about this movie are the fact that Bond is on a mission right at the beginning with a female operative whom he doesn’t actually get to seduce. The reveal of the operative’s identity was something that I just didn’t see coming and when it was said...... Damn, I had a grin from one side of my head to the other. 

I loved the use of the Aston Martin DB5, original BMT216A plates and all. Original gadgetry being used, as well as the interplay between Bond & M as he flicks the gear lever top to expose the red button to M’s terse "Eject me if you like. See if I care". The fact that this is apparently Bond’s own car (which he won in Casino Royale,) that M seems not to know about, yet is aware of the ejector seat doesn’t make an ounce of difference to me. It’s a great in-joke and link to the films of the past.

M - really, they did that? I never saw that coming. 

And the final scene, with the MI6 offices we’ve seen since Brosnan’s debut now gone with virtually the same office for M that was used by the late Bernard Lee in Connery and Moore’s day with the two doors and small passageway in between has really brought be back into the films. The fact that the film ended with the classic view down a gun barrel with the Monty Norman theme swelling in the background - we’re home.

In fact, pretty much as Avengers did with the Thor movie, Skyfall has actually made Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace make full and proper sense. I can see they were building Bond up from being a mere "grunt" grooming him in fact to being the superspy we all know and love. I now need to revisit those two movies and watch them in light of now knowing where they’re headed.
 




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