Mitchel Waite © 2020

Tag : Ian Fleming

Skyfall (Shanghai Bar)

Skyfall [2012]

Skyfall, Bond’s 23rd Eon film and 50th anniversary outing, delivers on all levels. This is a Bond film, but not a Bond film, if you get my meaning? It’s still a part of the stripped back feel of the series since Casino Royale but certain key elements, such as the humour, are brought back very carefully. This is a personal Bond film. Without giving too much away, there’s no plot for world domination. Javier Bardem’s sinister villain Silva is out for MI6 blood; and his bullet has M’s name on it.

Craig’s 007 is washed up and injured to the point of being a has-been in the field. We’re all aware of how much dedication and effort Daniel Craig has put into the role, but Skyfall is his best yet. It’s different and more personal side to the iron exterior the character is known for. Sam Mendes does an excellent job of developing Bond as a character on screen. Bardem excels as the film’s villain with a paralleled sadistic unpredictability of The Joker. He’s secured his place next to Blofeld and Goldfinger in the Bond villain elite, rather than the Gustav Graves’. “Bond girls” (is that an archaic Cold War-era term?) Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe provide both enough glamour and bravura to break the stereotypical Bond girl mould, although I felt Marlohe was underused in her short screen time. Other newcomers such as Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw weigh-in a solid performances as the sceptical Government chief and Quartermaster, respectively. Then there’s M; Judi Dench continues to shine, as the humorous parental love-hate fight between Bond and her continue. There’s not a single bad piece of acting or casting in Skyfall, everyone is on top form. [**SPOILERS**] Even though it was sad to see Judi Dench leave the films, it was great to see Ralph Fiennes join as the new M. Plus with the superb return of Moneypenny, it was a fantastic closing scene to the film.

The real star of the film for me is Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography. Stark contrasts, glowing skylines and rich sets dominate the screen. The core values of producing Dr. No have been restated here in the aim to make the colours of the exotic locations jump off of the screen. It’s back to the pure escapism of a Bond film for the audience. The film looks as cool as Sean Connery does in Goldfinger, and packs the punch the more harder films like Timothy Dalton’s License To Kill. Aside from the opening sequence the action doesn’t really hit the big highs of Casino Royale, this is a much more scruffier type of action with a lot of close-quarter battles. But in the 143 minute run time this was never an issue, there’s plenty to make up for it. I did spend quite a bit of time after the film thinking of all the very subtle references to the 50 year run of the series. They’re not in-your-face obvious like Die Another Day’s Q-branch archives, but nods such as a 1962 (the year Dr. No was released) bottle of Macallan whiskey and the Komodo Dragon encounter (echoing the alligators from Live And Let Die). Something for the die-hard 007 fans without alienating a new audience. The script, by 007 regulars Robert Wade and Neal Purvis along with John Logan, has its mishaps like any film but is central in it’s motivation. You know exactly what the villain’s aiming for and what is at stake for the good guys.

Overall, Skyfall makes you leave the cinema with the same back-to-business feeling Casino Royale did. Bond is back, and he’s still a top of his game.

My Favourite James Bond Film: Casino Royale

The James Bond films are a part of any boy’s life growing up. For me, I grew up in the Pierce Brosnan era and Goldeneye was the first 007 film I watched. It wasn’t until Tomorrow Never Dies, my first cinema experience of the MI6 agent (which I had to sneak in to, as I was underage at 11!), that I started to realise the cultural importance of Bond. Every screening is full to the brim of every age group, and for those 2 hours it feels like Great Britain is united for an event. I can always remember vividly where I was when I saw each film at the cinema. These aren’t just movies; they’re a British institution.

Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan…..and Craig. Notice anything out of place? Daniel Craig was publicly and unfairly criticised by some as the “blonde Bond”, and I was initially surprised at his casting, but not dismissive before actually seeing a finished article. Sitting in Canterbury Odeon on opening night with some uni friends in November 2006, my expectations were completely shattered and built back up higher than I could have ever imagined. Shivers pulsated down my spinal chord at key moments such as the return of the opening barrel sequence; everything was done perfectly and the whole cinema knew this was an excellent film. Daniel Craig put so much work into psyche of Bond to play it true to Ian Fleming’s character of the novels, whilst simultaneously adding in some contemporary elements of his own. He physically looked like he could kill, and he wasn’t known by every hotel owner wherever he went across the globe (defeating the whole idea of a spy, surely?). Whereas Brosnan had that perfect mix of Connery and Moore, he made this character his own and proved his haters wrong with a glorious smile back at them. It was for this which I find most inspiring about him. There was a hell of a lot of nasty words circulating on a simple Google search, but he gave Bond more depth and swagger than the previous (official) 5 combined. That, is impressive.

Casino Royale is a fantastic film in its own right. Martin Campbell delivered some of the best action of the series (that parkour crane chase still amazes) and a solid story line with deeper look into the character of Bond. He’s a blunt instrument and is not as invincible as you’ve previously seen. With this and Goldeneye under Campbell’s belt that’s not bad going. The colour literally leaps off the screen from every location; be it Monaco, the Caribbean or Italy. The idea driving the film was to reset the franchise, almost like Christopher Nolan did with Batman, and free the filmmakers from the CGI-heavy debacle that Lee Tamahori unfortunately created for Die Another Day. A contemporary, grittier and more vulnerable Bond that can be hurt. Q Branch and the gadgets have been sidelined to focus on character rather than special effects, and I have to say they’re not really missed in this film. The references to the aspects we all know and love about 007 over it’s (then) 44 year run, such as his “affection” for a vodka Martini (“Do I look like I give a damn?”) and his first encounter with Felix Leiter, all help us understand Bond more without detracting from the actual story. People who know the series in and out will get them, while people fresh to it will not feel alienated. It was exciting to try and guess what elements the producers would keep in or adapt.

Bond and Vesper’s turbulent relationship is a highlight of the film. It makes this character who has previously only had 1-film meaningless “flings” with countless women, and given him more depth and purpose. He’s initially a closed book and a cold-hearted assassin, but he lets Vesper in and pays a hefty emotional price. Time for just one more thing before the closing titles; the immortal line, “The name’s Bond…James Bond.” It was almost an overly extroverted-american-patriotic-punch-in-the-air moment in the cinema that sent shivers down my spine. After the 2 hour roller-coaster, it was now time to breath.

Before, it was From Russia With Love, but now Casino Royale stands as my favourite Bond film and Daniel Craig as my favourite incarnation of 007. However, that could all well change with the upcoming release of Skyfall!

What’s yours?

007 Skyfall

Skyfall: Teaser Trailer

The teaser for 007’s new outing, Skyfall, is finally here! After being in a slight touch of development hell with the financial restructuring woes of MGM after Quantum of Solace (not as a result of the film, mind you, it made $586m worldwide), it has had that time to polish off a fine-sounding script and brought together a top-notch team. Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) steps behind the camera with his collaborative cinematographer, Roger Deakins. Joining the regulars of Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are Naomie Harris (Miami Vice, Pirates of the Caribbean), Bérénice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus) and also Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) on villain duties.

The teaser, as always, is brief but gives an insight into the film’s look. Without giving too much away before you take a look, Roger Deakin’s cinematography of Shanghai looks amazing bathed in the neon of the city’s skyline. It certainly has the key elements of a great Bond film, but it’s slightly frustrating as this trailer (which it sets out to do) just leaves you wanting more. Roll on October 26th.

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