The 50th anniversary of Ian Flemming’s Bond series is finally here. Skyfall: the twenty-third in the James Bond series, produced by Eon Productions, distributed by MGM and Sony Pictures Entertainment, and directed by Sam Mendes throws all previous Bond films to the back of the queue. Skyfall is by far my favourite 007 film.
Although this is Sam Mendes first Bond production, he’s done it again: he has created an exciting, enthralling and overly entertaining film. The Director’s previous films include American Beauty (1999) and Revolutionary Road (2008). It is Daniel Craig’s third time of playing the handsome British MI6 agent but this time joined by the eccentric Javier Bardem as evil computer genius and ex-MI6 agent, Silva. Bardem’s filmography would never have foretold this appearance; he has never played such a character before now but I can imagine the thrill of a character like this would be too tempting to turn down. Most viewers would have seen him in No Country for Old Men or perhaps Eat, Pray, Love. Bardem fashions a slightly exuberant appearance with white-blonde, shoulder length hair and a partially disfigured face, following an incident where his suicide capsule did not initiate which resulted in a gas torture leaving his left cheekbone partially-evaporated and all-but-one of his teeth. Barden and Craig seem to bounce off each others’ energies during the film, whether that is down to the brilliant writing or the couple’s acting techniques, I can’t say but it definitely creates an interesting dynamic between the duo. All the actors do a fantastic job in this testerone-fuelled story but the nation’s badass-Grandma, Dame Judi Dench is especially brilliant as M as she is always.
One of the first differences I noticed was the lack of amorous scenes. There are no particularly strong love scenes throughout this Bond Film, which I personally think is a good thing. Bond is about unrestrained violence and intelligent espionage but lets not make this into a psychological debate, the violence has a cathartic effect on the viewer, it doesn’t make you want to go out and blow up a man on a motorbike in Istanbul. Another thing I thought would be a problem is the product placement throughout the film. As most film buffs know, 007 creators and financiers had great difficult getting the money together to record every scene in it’s glory, and as Bond is the flashiest and most ostentatious production it would be disappointing to have to reduce the quality of the car chases and suspense scenes for the sake of a few pennies. I think the few product placements we see (Heineken, Courvoisier, Sony etc) are a fine price to pay for this outstanding piece of entertainment. The entire production of Skyfall is flawless.
The storyline, as described by IMDB “Skyfall tests Bond’s loyalty to M as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.” A short and sweet summary of what happens but I will go into more detail of the story. Spoilers….
Skyfall begins with Bond chasing a hard-drive which contains all the undercover names of British MI6 agents, which was stolen from an agent’s laptop. Bond shows his caring side when he bursts through the door to reveal several agents which were previously in pursuit of the hard-drive, however there is only one who survived but he is badly injured. Bond calls to M on his earpiece stating he must ‘stop the bleeding’ on his friend’s chest but M… ever the emotional character, sternly tells him to pursue with the mission, later we see that the agent Bond could have saved; died. Bond’s Jeep-chase ends with him stealing a motorbike and chasing the villain to a dead end where he could do nothing but jump off a bridge and onto a moving train, shortly followed by Bond himself. After a fist fight and argument with a JCB digger and a few VW Beetles, James lands firmly on his feet in standard class.
The love interest on this film, Eve, played by Naomi Harris, ends up shooting Bond off of the train whilst he is fighting the villain. Eve questions her ability to shoot on the target of the villain, but M (via the ear piece) tells her to ‘take the bloody shot’. Needless to say, the Villain gets away with the hard drive leaving MI6 agent’s undercover identities ready to be revealed. Bond, now ‘dead’ is actually living in a Caribbean Island where he spends most of his days sleeping and most of his nights drinking and gambling. We see Bond at his most physically unfit and unable to gain determination to do anything other than drink. Whilst on the island’s bar, he sees the news being shown on the TV and it shows that MI6 is under attack after the MI6 building in London was targeted and M’s office blown up, thankfully without M inside. Bond returns to MI6 by sneaking into M’s house and drinking her Courvoisier (a marketing ploy, no doubt). He looks awful yet M just asks him ‘where the bloody hell have you been’ to which he replies ‘enjoying death’. He finds out that his possessions and house has been sold off; he has no where to go and nothing to change in to. He reports for duty the next day where he is being briefed by M’s assistant, Tanner, about recent events but unfortunately cannot keep up with the demands of his fitness requirements. Sweaty and out of breath, Bond heads over to his Psych-analysis whereby he has to play word association. His responses include ‘England: MI6’, ‘Agent: Provocateur’, and finally ending with ‘Skyfall: Done’.
Bond fails all of his tests yet M reveals to Mallory and Bond that he has passed them all… marginally. After ‘passing’ his medical, physical and psychological tests he is sent on his mission, immediately. His mission of course being, stop the man that stole the hard drive. After receiving his ‘high tech… radio’ and special gun from Q (played by geek-chic Ben Whishaw), which is specific to Bonds palm prints, and a fake passport, he is whisked away to Japan where he manages to kill Patrice (the man who stole the hard drive), through what looks like a result of his un-fitness. Patrice had a casino chip in his possession, so of course he decides to cash it in at the very extravagant waterside Casino, this reveals the interest of Sévérine (played byBérénice Marlohe) and her bodyguards, naturally Bond pursues this damsel resulting in an invitation to meet Sévérine on her yacht and in turn be taken to her ‘master’ and before ending the night Bond fights of her bodyguards with the help of a Giant Chinese Komodo Dragon. Naturally Bond met Sévérine on her yacht and sailed to meet Silva, her ‘master’, when his power obsession and MI6 past is revealed. After an awkward bondage scene with Silva trying to comedicly seduce Bond by stroking his legs and saying ‘I bet you didn’t imagine your first time to be like this’ to which Bond replies ‘What makes you think it’s my first time?’. However, after some target practice, Helicopters and Fighter Jets surround Silva’s island because of Bond’s “High tech” radio/GPS device. After being captured, Silva demands to see ‘Mummy’ (aka, M) he explains how in his eyes, MI6 let him down. However, alarms are ringing as it’s later revealed that it was his intention to be captured so he could get to London and buy himself some time. He crashes a London Underground Train into Bond and disguises himself as a Policeman whilst escaping the bustling tube stations. His aim is to get to where M is attending her hearing, and he makes it in time to make a scene and escape just before Bond catches up with him. Bond and M flee the scene in the MI6 car but change into the swish 1960’s Aston Martin DB5 to look ‘inconspicuous’.
Trekking up to Scotland in a car with very little suspension does not impress M, but it is imperative that back at base Q hides their location but not too much that he can’t be found. By this time, Mallory is up-to-date with the plan and despite Q’s worries, is totally accepting. Bond returns to his family home in Scotland called SKYFALL and finds that the game-keeper from when he was a child is still here and explains to M that Bond took his parents’ deaths very hard and spent a lot of time in the Priest’s hole, a vital part of the house for the events to come. Bond proceeds to layer the house with traps and bombs, but this scene is so spectacular it’s difficult to describe in detail. Right at the end once Bond blows up the house and runs to meet M and Kincade (The Gamekeeper) who escaped to the chapel but it seems Silva got there before him. M was fatally injured in the house and the walk to the chapel seems to have made it worse. 007 creeps up on Silva who at this point is aiming a gun at M, then changes to make M kill herself AND Silva with on bullet. But before the shot is taken, Bond shoots Silva dead, unfortunately M dies soon after. Bond returns to London to meet his new boss… Mallory.
Overall Rating: ★★★★★