2012 was the 50th anniversary of Dr.No, and despite doubts for a time after “Quantum of Solace” (mainly due to company issues and not really reflecting the quality and box office of the movie itself, despite it’s mixed reception), a new Bond film was due to arrive as a celebration, like Die Another Day ten years prior. That film would be “Skyfall”.
Like Casino and to a lesser extent Quantum, Skyfall is a film that continues to build Bond’s world closer to the one we’re familiar with from the earlier films. This film in particular introduces Moneypenny, Q, and to a lesser extent a male M-but they’re also very different from their predecessors.
Skyfall opens with a sort of ‘pseudo-gunbarrel’ with Bond standing in a hallway (like Quantum of Solace, the actual gunbarrel is at the end of the movie). Turns out he’s in Istanbul (A place also visited in From Russia With Love), and somebody has just stolen a hard drive containing information about undercover agents, severely wounding a fellow agent in the process. Here we see some tension between Bond and M over radio, as Bond wants to help the man out, but M is more concerned about the mission to recover the hard drive.
Outside, he meets fellow agent Eve (Naomi Harris) and they get into a chase with the villains; and right away, things are better than in Quantum of Solace; the action is easy to follow and exciting, the film has some much better cinematography (The work of legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins), and there’s actually a bit of humor between the two agents.
This soon turns into a motorcycle chase that’s just as impressive and has some neat stuntwork, as Bond goes after the henchman Patrice.
And then a stunning fight on a train, in which Bond uses a excavator to open up part of the train to pursue Patrice (and then rolls ups his cuffs, in a similar joke to how Brosnan always straightened his tie). He also gets shot in the shoulder, which will become an important plot point later on.
Finally, they’re fighting *on* the train. While Bond’s had many, many fights in a train (and will have yet another in 2015’s Spectre), he’s really only fought on a train once before, in Octopussy, but this is far more kinetic and exciting than that.
Knowing what’s at stake, M makes a judgement call, for Moneypenny to take a shot at Patrice. However, due to the two fighting, and the train moving, she doesn’t have a clear line of sight…
and ends up hitting Bond instead, who falls to the lake below. Oops.
Back in London, there’s a literal “skyfall” of rain as M learns that Bond is down. There’s a lot of symbolism in this Bond; and I think it balances the line between an action film and a dramatic one far better than “Quantum” did.
Bond is washed away, and then we enter the title sequence, with Adele’s tune capturing a more traditional Bond sound, complete with Bond theme incorporated into the song. The theme of this one is pretty much death (Tombstones, blood, skulls) and the Skyfall house itself. The usual girls and guns also appear. The villain of the film-Silva-also makes an appearance as a shadow of Bond (“Shadows” also being a sort of theme of the movie) and also there’s a quick and alarming shot of him being tortured. It also features Chinese dragons, a nod to the middle of the film’s setting.
The film opens with Bond presumably dead, and M writing his obituary. This in itself shares some similarities with both the novel and film versions of You Only Live Twice. In the original novel, Bond is presumed dead after his final confrontation with Blofeld leaves him amnesiac and missing; in the film version, the death is simply a fake out, a cover so Bond can operate more independently.
Of course in both cases Bond is still alive, having somehow recovered from the gunshot, fall and nearly drowning. However, he’s not exactly in the best of shape. Like in “Die Another Day” he’s out of action, and sporting a beard. However, while he was a prisoner in the earlier film, here he’s sort of ‘enjoying death’ with hard drinking and womanizing, as well as some risk-taking by taking a shot while a scorpion climbs on his hand (Scorpions were involved in “Die Another Day”‘s torture as well; but here Bond’s trying *not* to get stung). He’s also grown a scruffy beard and seems to have given up the fancy clothes, pretty much reverting to his early Casino Royale self.He’s kind of upset that M let Eve ‘take the shot’ and just wants to retire.
However, back in London, things aren’t going great for M. She’s pretty much being fired for botching the mission, and helping her pick her replacement is Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). However on the way back, she receives a chilling message on her laptop, and the MI6 building’s center explodes! Granted, this also happened in “The World Is Not Enough” although not quite as violently, and this film does have a few similarities to that, but I’ll get into that later.
Turns out the gas mains were ignited by a computer hack. Bond, seeing it thanks to a cameo from Wolf Blitzer on CNN (Sort of bringing to mind the Goldeneye qoute “We prefer not to get our bad news from CNN” ) decides to return to MI6.
Sneaking into M’s apartment (Something he did before in “Casino Royale”), he wants to get back on the job. Craig’s scruffy, bloodshot look here is interesting, and he’s able to sell the sort of scruffy, unkempt look better than Brosnan did in Die Another Day.
Next, Bond tries to get back into the swing of things, and we meet the new Q….