007 Returns in “Skyfall”

by E. "Doc" Smith on November 9, 2012

“Skyfall” is the twenty-third spy film in the James Bond series, featuring Daniel Craig in his third outing as James Bond, 007, following “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace, and is directed by Sam Mendes. The latest Bond villain is played by Javier Bardem; (Bardem was particularly murderous and scary in the film “No Country for Old Men”), as the evil Raoul Silva. With Skyfall, Craig passes actors George Lazenby (“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”), and Timothy Dalton (“The Living Daylights” & “License to Kill”), and joins Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, as the only actors to portray 007 three or more times. Skyfall premiered in the UK last month, and it was the first James Bond film to be screened in IMAX venues, although it was not filmed with IMAX cameras.The film’s release also coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the Bond films which began in 1962 with Connery in “Dr. No”.

In this latest film, Bond investigates an attack on MI6 and his superior, “M”, played by Dame Judi Dench. The film also sees the return of two recurring characters after an absence of two films: Q, played by Ben Whishaw, (well known to British fans as one of the stars of the BBC drama, “The Hours”), and Miss Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris. Skyfall is the last film of the series for Dench, a role which she had reprised in the previous six films. The new M is subsequently replaced by the character, Gareth Mallory, played by veteran actor Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes had played John Steed to Uma Thurman’s Emma Peel in “The Avengers” remake. Ironically, the villain in that film was played by none other than Sean Connery, the first 007!

Mendes was approached to direct the film after the release of Quantum of Solace in 2008, however production was suspended when MGM encountered financial troubles, and did not resume until December 2010. During that time, Mendes remained attached to the project as a consultant. The original screenwriter, Peter Morgan, left the project during the suspension. When production resumed, a final version of the script, incorporated Morgan’s ideas. Filming began in November 2011, and primarily took place in the UK, China and Turkey.

Skyfall has plenty of action, stunts, a beautiful girl or two and a few gadgets, as all the Bond films do. The title song, sung by Adele and composed by Thomas Neuman is also quite good. Craig still brings his rugged, yet bittersweet 007 to the franchise, and by now, he has put his own stamp on Bond. The Craig films are also something of a reboot of the 007 mythology, as Skyfall also tells the story of Bond’s origin; the death of his parents and his roots in Scotland, (with a lovable Albert Finney as Bond’s childhood mentor); the introduction of “Eve Moneypenny”; and ends where Dr. No is about to begin. Bardem isn’t the best Bond villain we have seen on film, there have been worse, however he does have a few, absolutely creepy moments and some crazy one-liners.

Bond fans will note that Mendes and the writers pay homage to several Bond films in Skyfall; the classic Aston Martin DB6; and plot lines not unlike “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “You Only Live Twice”, and even “Goldeneye”. Technology has become the new villain “in the shadows”, a trend that began in the earlier Brosnan films. A bit slow in the middle, Skyfall will no doubt appeal to the die-hard Bond fans. As for Dench, she will no doubt be remembered for making the Bond character appear more sympathetic, less chauvinistic and misogynistic.

As with nearly all Bond films, the end credits proclaim that “007 will return”. in the meantime, I’ll simply quote Dench and say… “Do come back alive 007…”

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