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DORIAN'S REVIEWS: SKYFALL, the subtle come-back of a James Bond of 'old.'

Updated on April 7, 2013

A Skyfall collage


SKYFALL poster


Dorian’s Review of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond Film

Is it true that Skyfall ‘just’ combines the successes of old by bringing in the new, or is it the other way around? The more things change, the more things are the same, even? Dorian investigates what happens in and around the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall.

Skyfall is a James Bond film in which the hero returns from the dead after having been shot by one of MI-6’ own debutant spies and M’s decision to ‘shoot’ (whatever the means and the consequences.)

M. is being attacked personally; not only by the bad man, who stole the names of infiltrated agents and brings MI-6 into an untenable position, but also by the Government she always so staunchly supported. Notable is the appearance of one Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) who tries to convince her to retire: she is not wont to survive this age of cyber terrorism.

M tries to take a stand against cyber terrorism, but even the new Q, (the ‘very young’ Ben Whishaw,) the utter computer nerd, has to admit that the cyber terrorist they are facing is one step ahead of him.

In this way Skyfall is telling the stories of different people who are ‘failing’:

  • The young Q-nerd, who is not able to step up to the level of the utter cyber-criminal
  • an emotional M. who brings back an 007 who fails all his tests
  • and an aging James Bond who shows tiny cracks after all his years in Her Majesty’s service.

Still, all those ‘failures’ have to fight a camp and dark Raoul da Silva (Javier Barden) who has managed to get utter knowledge of cyber space and -terrorism.

When a damaged James Bond has to admit to da Silva’s genius after the latter has managed to almost kill his opponent with an underground train, his only answer is to fight da Silva on another ground than on the one he reigns supreme: the ‘old’ Bond ground. So here is the return of Bond’s ‘old’ Aston Martin, dynamite and the throwing of a knife.

What did director Sam Mendes do to this James Bond film?

Sam Mendes is not just anybody if it comes to directing films; he was a boy wonder and is acclaimed for winning ‘a clutch of Oscars.’ Still, he was not the obvious choice for a Bond film and he did not turn out to be that way, when he states in a Guardian interview on the question: ‘Looking back, did you have a good idea from the start of what kind of Bond movie you wanted to make?’

Mendes: ‘It’s funny you say that, because yes, I did. When I came on board – which was very early in the day – there was already a treatment (a story outline). And I was very clear straight away that was not what I wanted to do. I took one small element from that treatment, and abandoned everything else.’

Sam Mendes admits the feisty influence of Daniel Craig, who actually ‘brought him into the James Bond scene’ commenting that he would be the only person who would be able to make a great Bond film.

It may be anybody's guess if Daniel Craig was not very happy about the 22nd Bond film Quantum of Solace, in which he also played the main role. Quantum of Solace turned out to be a husk of the first film Craig played Bond in: the remake Casino Royale.

The Casino Royale film was in many ways different from all other 20 Bond films: this Bond turned out not to be a hairpieced 007 who is handsome and joking all the way. On the contrary, Daniel Craig may have crushed many a lady's dreams about a romantic spy who drinks his alcoholic beverage shaken, not stirred and who solves all problems by hopping from one beautiful Bond-girl's bed to another. Casino Royale turned out to be a bit more realistic than that, taking Bond away from his place in memory between Batman and Superman. On the other hand, in this film many of the Bond film's accessories remained, a thing of beauty which did not survive in Quantum of Solace.

On the Guardian’s question: ‘How much freedom did you have to take ‘Skyfall’ where you wanted?’

Mendes: ‘You know what the givens are: three action sequences, girls and glamorous locations. So it’s like being handed the furniture to a house and being told, “Right, now find a house that fits the furniture.” And, if you’re not careful, you make a fucking ugly house. To torture the metaphor, I decided to put all my furniture in storage for six months, and build the house that I wanted to see, and then I tried to work the two together.

‘So, for me the job was: find a story for Bond, and then find a way to marry that with the necessities of the franchise, which is a different thing. One of the great things when you read the Ian Fleming novels is that Bond has a personal journey in all the good ones, the early ones. That’s why “Casino Royale” was so fantastic: he has this journey and it was because it was based on one of the best Fleming novels.’

I (Dorian) think that this answers immediately the question whether ‘Skyfall’ is a resurrection: the old within the new and why 007 gives a glimpse of his background, unwanted by a lot of criticizers who only want Bond in rich Caribbean surroundings, where the sweet Bond girl survives and the bad one dies.Mendes likes his heroes to have a psychological background.

I personally like the background of a slightly elderly Bond, who pants when he runs because he lost his condition to his like for alcoholic beverages, an M. who suddenly shows favoritism for a degrading 007, whilst she let go of the son who was not of use anymore in a quest for the Realm in previous years (which shows she actually is rapidly changing, something everybody sees while she denies it.)

I agree with the critics that Quantum of Solace, the previous 22nd Bond-film was a mere film full of effects and badly filmed situations, that had nothing to do with ‘Bond’ feelings.

I see that Sam Mendes kills off the aging female ‘M’ for a man who stands in life with two strong legs and is liked by James Bond in a collegial sort of way. Gone are ‘M’ s hang-ups with favoritism: we’re back to the future with a new and oh so very old concept (that may not find favor with the feminist-minded spirits of this Globe):

  • M. is a man (again) who knows what he is doing and will not be apt to have personal feelings interfere with the professional side of MI-6,
  • Bond’s damaged personality will be back on track, not denying he still has his dark shades and sides,
  • Q is a young nerd, probably the only one who can deal with cyber space, and who abhorres the old Bond gadgets,
  • The return of miss Moneypenny, the idea of a 'home-base' at MI-6,
  • The return of sex and beautiful young women, that were so lacking in the 22nd Bond-film Quantum of Solace. (Although truth to tell 007 hardly seems to have time in Skyfall for those sexy actions.)

After having seen this 23rd Bond Film, I hope Bond films go on this way as Mendes has 'started', hopefully with Daniel Craig, who according to Roger Moore is the best Bond ever, continuing the old James Bond routine with the new aspects, shown in this film.

Most rates of this film are between 4,5 and 5 stars.

Quote from: :

‘Resurrection is the real name of the latest James Bond film, titled Skyfall.’

Quote from: :

‘Mendes has done what most thought was impossible; he’s successfully revived the financially struggling franchise. He’s not only made a great follow-up to the disappointing Quantum of Solace, but he’s also managed to make one of the better Bond films. Skyfall is slick, action-packed and exactly the James Bond film that we’ve all been waiting for.’

Skyfall (2012)

Director : Sam Mendes | Cast: Daniel Craig (James Bond), Judi Dench (M), Javier Bardem (Raoul Silva), Ralph Fiennes (Mallory), Naomie Harris (Eve), Bérénice Marlohe (Sévérine), Ben Whishaw (Q) 142 minuts.

Sam Mendes, director of SKYFALL



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