I saw the new James Bond movie Skyfall last night and as a longtime Bond fan here are some of my first thoughts. I’ll try to avoid big spoilers but there may be a few so be careful if you’ve not seen the movie yet.
To be honest I had some concerns about the movie. The first teaser trailer was excellent, showing Daniel Craig’s Bond playing a word association game while he’s watched by Judi Dench’s M and the new Ralph Fiennes character. It gave me a definite vibe of the Fleming novel The Man With the Golden Gun where Bond returns from apparent death and is viewed with suspicion before being readmitted to MI6.
Then the second trailer arrived and I got a little worried on three counts. First a major plot point is revealed with Bond being shot by a fellow agent and apparently killed. Second there was a McGuffen about a stolen hard drive and the identities of agents being put on the Internet. Well, that’s been done in Spooks already. The third concern was about Javier Bardem’s villain Silva being jarringly camp.
I hoped that the spoiler about Bond being shot and plummeting from the train would appear early in the movie, and it was indeed the culmination of the pre-credits sequence, following a motorbike chase through Istanbul and the demolition of a train carriage.
As Bond falls through the water we segue into the credits and I have to say I though they were very inventive, showing imagery that would feature in the rest of the movie. I don’t have strong feeling about the Adele song but I like it OK and it’s miles better than the Jack White atrocity that graced the last movie.
After the credits the twin subjects of Bond’s ‘death’ and the missing hard drive are both of concern to M who is being pointed to the exit door by new character Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes.
It becomes apparent that whoever has the hard drive is taunting M. After an attack on MI6 headquarters bond returns from the dead, wounded and out of shape. Cue the word association scene from the teaser trailer.
‘Day,’ says the psychologist.
‘Wasted,’ replies Bond.
We get the impression that this Bond has been in the job for a while and that he has had numerous missions between Quantum ofSolace and this movie.
Eventually Bond is allowed back on active service and his first mission will be to track down the guy he was chasing in Istanbul. Bond meets the new Q, played nicely by Ben Whishaw, in the National Gallery while gazing at Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire. Q gives Bond a new Walther and Goldfinger-style emergency beacon, but otherwise the new Q-Branch seems to eschew gadgets.
Eventually Bond meets the villain, computer hacker Silva, who is indeed camp, but very creepy with it. But what’s his plot? World domination? Well, no, because effectly he already has it with his ability to rig elections and control spy satellites. No, all he wants is revenge on M.
I won’t go into details but there is a touch of the Joker in The Dark Knight in how Silva has planned a few steps ahead. I will note that the character has one of the most original deformities of a Bond villain yet. Fleming tended to give his villains a deformity, which is probably not pc these days. I think he would be pleased with this one.
Despite the modern high tech background of hackers and hard drives the movie is surprisingly low tech. Indeed as the story progresses it gradually sheds technology. The action sequences are very back to basics and would not look out of place in the earliest movies of the series. Also the action scenes felt part of the story and not merely inserted at different points for no apparent reason, something previous entries in the series have been guilty of.
One hand-to-hand fight at the top of a skyscraper in Shanghai is visually stunning with Bond and his opponent appearing as silhouettes. Another effective sequence has Bond pursuing Silva through the London underground, a sequence that would not feel out of place in a 1960s or 70s spy thriller.
The movie also give us an insight into he character of Bond and specifically the death of his parents when he was a boy as outlined by Fleming in the books. I think the movies have shied away from this to date.
There is no traditional Bond girl in this movie, although the fate of one female character may surprise those who have shied away from rumours. The other female lead looks to be one of the most interesting girls in the series but her screen time is sadly cut short, no doubt very deliberately as this is not a normal Bond movie.
Eventually the movie draws to is climax with bond and M retreating to Scotland in a certain DB5, knowing that Silva will come for his showdown. Up to that point I had liked the move ok, but felt slight uncomfortable with it. Then as the final act was being played out I finally understood what the movie was about, what story the makers were trying to tell, a smaller more personal story about Bond and M. I think the second trailer is to blame for giving me the impression that the action would be of the scale of trains being crunched and figures falling of high bridges.
I don’t love the movie yet, but I do like it. I have the feeling that it will grow on me.
I do feel the need to mention some very shoddy cgi on work on three helicopters. You’ll know the scene when you see it.
Also It’s nice that the nods to previous movies in the series are subtly done. There are lots to look out for. Back for the 40th Anniversary in Die Another Day subtlety was not the word to use with Bond walking into a room and paying with Rosa Klebb’s shoe.