“Skyfall” is the 23rd film in the EON ‘James Bond series’, released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the franchise which began with “Dr No” back in 1962 with Sean Connery in the iconic role.
The reboot of the franchise with “Casino Royale” was celebrated as a huge success in bringing Bond up to date, and this was followed by the much maligned “Quantum of Solace” which was a direct continuation of the previous story.
With “Skyfall”, all reference to the protagonist from the first two Craig films is dropped which I found a little disappointing, as a large shadowy criminal organisation orchestrating problems for governments on a global scale was a concept I found really interesting.
Instead, what we have is ex-MI6 agent Raoul Silva, played with a brilliant mix of camp extrovert and psychopath by the wonderful Javier Bardem, evoking memories of classic Bond villain Blofeld. Silva pursues a personal vendetta against his former boss, M, played once again by Dame Judi Dench in a series of elaborate and implausible plot points, but thoroughly entertaining all the same.
From a motorcycle chase across the roof of the Grand Bazaar in Turkey and a chase through and on top of a train to a shootout in the remote Highlands of Scotland, the film moves the franchise forward while still acknowledging the past.
But these nods to the past are what I found confusing. When George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery in the role, the producers considered a number of options to explain Bond’s change of appearance. One was that Bond needed plastic surgery to disguise his appearance and another was that the name ‘James Bond’ was given to any agent with the 007 number as part of his cover. This idea explains the line Lazenby makes to camera at the end of the opening sequence of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, where he states ‘This never happened to the other fella’ in reference to Connery. This is the only time to date that the “fourth wall” (where a character speaks to the audience) has been broken in a Bond film.
From Casino Royale onwards, I had assumed that the previous films should be discounted as totally unrelated to the reboot, as it began with Bond being given his Licence to Kill and avoided any reference to ‘Q’, ‘Miss Moneypenny’, gadgets etc. In fact the only link to the original series was Judi Dench’s ‘M’. However, in “Skyfall”, we see the reintroduction of ‘Q’ in the form of Ben Whishaw who as well as arming Bond with a couple of gadgets, makes reference to an ‘exploding pen’ which apparently Q Branch “don’t make anymore”.
Later in the film, we also see the classic Aston Martin used by Connery’s Bond in “Goldfinger”, complete with gadgets such as ejector seat and machine guns.
So this made me think that perhaps while “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace” should be considered the first and second movies chronologically, do the other films sit in between? The Bond in “Skyfall” does seem much older that the one in “Quantum of Solace” and the insinuation is that a lot of time has elapsed in between the second and third movies. This chronology seemed to make sense until another character was introduced whom Bond would already have known if the original films were to be considered part of the continuity.
Some of these references to Bond’s past movie exploits may have something to do with the 50th anniversary celebrations, as was the “James Bond will return” text and gun barrel clip which preceded the closing titles.
However, continuity conundrums aside, “Skyfall” will appeal to fans of the classic Bond series as well as the reboot.
Daniel Craig continues to impress as Ian Fleming’s superspy and it was refreshing to finally explore some of his back story, including his Scottish background which was written by Fleming after being impressed with Connery’s interpretation of the character despite his initial reservations about “Scottish Sean Connery playing English James Bond”.
Naomi Harris is stunning as fellow agent “Eve”, Ben Whishaw breathes new life into “Q” and Ralph Feinnes’ “Mallory” develops in a multi-layered character throughout the film. The only disappointment for me was Bérénice Marlohe whose ‘Sévérine’ I found very one dimensional and a little wooden.
One character I wanted to see much more from and will hopefully reappear in future movies is Albert Finney’s “Kincade” who acts as something of a father figure to the orphaned Bond.
As usual, the film takes us on a global journey, showcasing numerous exotic locations, a hallmark of Fleming’s novels which were taken from personal experience during his time as a travel writer.
With all Bond films, and many others in the action genre, the story is farfetched and unbelievable, but wonderful escapism all the same. Sony’s product placement is hardly subtle but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the movie.
The finale felt a little bit more like ‘Home Alone’ at times but did provide a high octane finale to the movie and a fitting celebration of one of the most successful movie franchises in history.