Thursday, 1 November 2012

Skyfall - The scoop and digest


50 years on from the release of Dr. No and to coincide with this milestone, the 23rd Bond film is released.

Over this half century, we have seen Bond exploit women, gadgets, gamble, dispatch countless baddies and wriggle out of scrapes that no other could.

Throughout the years, we've seen Bond portrayed by the likes of Sean Connery, Timothy Dalton, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, George Lazenby and currently, Daniel Craig.

Each made the personality of Ian Fleming’s super spy unique and while everybody has their favourite 007, Connery remains mine.

Craig is no slouch mind and up there with the best.

You also have iconic villains and famous themes.

From Shirely Bassey to Paul McCartney, many and most have composed and/or sang a signature song for each and of course, Skyfall is no different.

For this latest instalment, Q and Moneypenny are reintroduced and more importantly, after the near travesty that was Quantum of Solace, Bond is back and bad ass.

Plot details and/or spoilers will be shaken, not stirred.

Those for and against MI6 include:

Daniel Craig – James Bond
Javier Bardem – Silva
Judi Dench – M
Naoime Harris - Eve
Ralph Fiennes – Mallory
Berenice Marlohe – Severine
Albert Finney – Kincade
Ben Whishaw – Q
Ola Rapace – Patrice

We see Bond instantly introduced on his latest mission from M to retrieve a laptop’s hard drive which has particular significance.

He finds the laptop but the storage device is naturally missing and also a fellow agent dead.

Teaming up with operative Eve, they give chase to target a professional hitman (later revealed as Patrice) who might just be in possession of a certain hard drive.

I mean c’mon Bond, he’s only nicked it because he wants to beef up his PS3 storage capacity…

After a chase in a 4 x 4 fails, he chooses to follow on a motorbike and eventually the action switches to a rooftop.

We then change to rail travel and after running out of ammo and even shot; Bond uses a digger as a novel way to enter and continues his pursuit.

During a fight in the open air, M orders Eve to “Take the bloody shot.”

Eventually she does but hits Bond instead, this allows the target to escape and Bond to take a dip miles down.

It’s a predictably a fantastic beginning.

Cue the inevitable new title sequence accompanied by theme from Adele.

Both are okay, but cannot touch previous efforts.

Back in good old Blighty, M is beginning Bond’s obituary.  We are introduced to big cheese Mallory whose position allows him the power to regulate MI6 affairs and urges her to retire because of the stolen hard drive.

The hard drive contains information of all NATO agents embedded in terrorist organisations on a global scale.

M and her assistant is witness to MI6 headquarters suffering an explosive situation after their computer is hacked.

Meanwhile, Bond is alive and well enjoying alcohol, women and the privileges of ‘death’.  He hears of the explosion and decides to head home.

M tells him that he can return to work but he has to pass psychological, marksman and fitness tests again.

The new look MI6 headquarters is rebuilt and now located in bunkers created by Churchill during the Second World War.

During the various tests, he removes shrapnel and orders it to be sent away for analysis.

Bond thinks M is a 'bitch' you know.

M is reminded that as various agents are killed, the message of “Think on your sins” gives her food for thought.

After ‘passing’ the necessary tests, the shrapnel leads him to Shanghai.

Before tripping off, he meets his new quartermaster and/or Q in an art gallery who provides him passport, Walther PPK and a small radio.

Bond scoffs at such equipment and Q parodies previous Bonds by saying something like “What did you expect, an exploding pen?”

So we are now in the dazzling lights of Shanghai and Bond is hot on the trail of Patrice who enters a skyscraper, shoots a security guard and proceeds in an elevator to carry out a hit. 

Nippy on his feet, Bond gives chase and literally hangs on.

In reflective surroundings, the hit is successful but he wasn't expecting Bond...

He searches the gun case where he finds a casino chip from Macau.

Now in the island near Hong Kong, we see a casino with Komodo Dragons, Eve in attendance and multiple sets of suspicious eyes.

He cashes in the chip as the cashier wrongly assumes that he carried out the assassination and he’s rewarded with a briefcase valued at about 4M €, with compliments of the house in the form of more chips.

Well you've gotta keep the punters coming back...

The lady from the hit introduces herself to Bond as Severine and as he’s not short of a few bob, they go for a drink.

A subtle reference to his preferred way of a drink being served is issued to the waitress with him simply stating ‘perfect’.

She warns him that her bodyguards will kill him and unmoved, he raises a glass to them.

Well you can afford such arrogance when you’re James Bond.

The bodyguards attempt to carry out her threat but he dispatches them via an expensive case.  He does come into bother with a brick shithouse and they appear in the very dangerous surroundings of the dragon pit.

This fight is comical as he's more bothered about something on four legs.

After one fling too many, Bond is robbed of his Walther and apparently helpless.  What a shame the heavy isn't aware of the gun’s palm recognition.  That’s his last act as a reptile takes him away for a tasty meal.

Bond escapes via a charging komodo but is met by a gun.  Eve saves him and for her troubles, tells her to put 4M € on red...

Our man James locates Severine and engages in a wee bit of rumpy pumpy.

Before been held hostage by the yacht’s crew, he turns on the radio.

Arriving on a fairly desperate looking and deserted island, he and she are separated and we are finally introduced to the villain of the piece.

Mr Silva reveals himself to be a former MI6 agent.  He breaks the news that Bond didn't pass the tests and that M allowed him to be subject to torture from the Chinese.

After some unwanted touchy feely from Silva, he’s taken outside.

Severine has been beaten, tied up and awaiting execution.

Silva balances a short glass of whisky on her head and forces Bond to show if he’s still got it takes in the marksman department.

He fails so it’s Silva’s turn and his approach has a different result...

Bond promptly takes care of goons and hired help arrives in the form of air support due to Bond using his radio toy.

Silva has been put in a Hannibal Lecter glass prison and chats with M.

She is unsettled by their conversation and he shows us the result of cyanide been inserted into ones teeth.  He removes the makeshift gum shield supporting his mush and meets for unpleasant viewing.

It’s the best effect in the entire film.

As she retreats, he demands that she calls him by his real name which is ignored.

Getting the old ‘out with it’ stare by Bond, she reveals his real name is Tiago Rodriguez.

She explains that he was a brilliant agent but when he was overcome by greed, he went outside his brief and when the shit hit the fan, she handed him over.

Bitch or not, she made ‘another’ judgment.

Silva is her past and like a well drilled poltergeist, he’s back to haunt her.

Q and co are hard at breaking Silva’s code and despite Bond’s intervention of successfully cracking it; they inadvertently disable their security systems.

A swift jog back to Silva reveals he didn't hesitate to escape.

With the help of Q, Bond chases Silva (now in police clobber) through the London Underground.  He locates him escaping up a ladder but Silva detonates a bomb which inconveniently invites a derailed train.

Silva arrives where M is addressing MPs and the place becomes a lead festival.  Silva takes aim at M but fortunately for her, Mallory is at hand to be her bullet proof vest.

After which, Bond takes the battleaxe to a garage lock-up and whoah, a fully functional Aston Martin.

Q is told to leave a trail of breadcrumbs that only Silva could follow, destination is set for Scotland.

Bond’s estate of Skyfall becomes the film’s grand finale.

The dilapidated and childhood residence is still occupied by crusty gamekeeper Kincade.

It’s not the ammunition hold it once was as everything was sold at auction but the only firearm remaining is Bond senior’s hunting rifle.

Kincade also shows the area where Bond hid after his parents died.  Anyway, this is used in case of emergency as it’ll get you out.

They set about recreating booby trapping the cottage with any item they can muster.

The first wave of Silva’s goons arrives and they are taken care of via general means, booby traps and via Aston Martin machine guns but it doesn't all go swimmingly as M is shot.

A chopper meaning more business than a lumberjack is seen in the distance and does contain the artful dodger.

Bond is pinned down by heavy gunfire and the grenade happy throwing Silva.

To prevent a certain military funeral, he improvises by rigging up a dynamite fuse to a pair of gas canisters and escapes via that emergency exit.

Kaboom!

This heated exchange destroys the chopper and every danger apart from two goons and Silva himself.

Kincade and M are trudging over to a chapel some distance away.  After noticing their torch light, he’s after them like a hungry dog to a hare.

Bond is also on a different type of hunt and takes out the first and then arrives on a frozen lake, babysat with the final goon pointing a gun.

After Bond forces them to take a refreshing dip, Silva continues his pursuit.

An aquatic grapple and struggle later, Bond manages to get him in a leg lock and snaps his neck like a chicken.

Silva does get to the chapel first and though unseen, tortures M by presumably probing her bullet wound.

He begs her to enter a suicide pact and thus ending their misery and pain.

Bond projectile stabs him in the back and after some resistance, he slumps and dies.

The wound proves fatal for M and she dies in Bond’s arms.

Back in London, Eve gives Bond what M left him in her will.  It’s that annoying bulldog ornament that he openly hates.

Bond recalls that he and Eve were never formally introduced and she informs Bond what we already knew that she is Moneypenny.

He is invited in by Mallory (who has become the new M) and he accepts his next assignment brief.

The famous gun barrel sequence is showcased with the proud statement of 50 years and James Bond will Return.

Wow, let me fall of my chair and alert the press.

This has everything – fantastic effects, explosive action, impressive originality, superb stunts, excitement, set pieces, sexiness, decent plot and a first-rate villain.

It’s certainly smooth, suave and sophisticated.

Also, despite its running time of near on 2h 30m, it’s never boring.

Craig handles the action, Dench is her usual cheerful self and Harris has clearly come a long way since 28 Days Later.

Fiennes and Finney are competent enough in contrasting roles and others display the necessary vim to not look too out of place.

However, it’s the Spaniard Bardem who shoplifts this show and makes an excellent villain.

He giggles, displaying intelligent eccentricity, is unnervingly weird and clearly loopy.

Most of all, he’s a proper actor and most will know him for his portrayal of killer Chigurgh in the Coen brothers’ admirable No Country for Old Men.

The script is mostly impressive with wit and sarcasm, with the best lines coming from Bardem.

As a general criticism, I think Bond escapes nearly as quick as he gets captured.  I know he has to escape but more effort was needed.

There are also a few other things that I didn't like and ironically, it’s mostly towards the end.

It’s more obvious than Bond wearing a dicky bow but when you first catch glimpse of the dragons in Macau, you just knew they were going to play a part and their part should have been left on the cutting room floor.

It would have been a much better idea for the initial glimpse of them to be your last.

Even the CGI isn't entirely convincing.

The pseudo Home Alone recreation is frankly less welcome than a bailiff

Of this script, Kincade takes out a goon and says “Welcome to Scotland!”

That is wholly unnecessary and appallingly tacky.  What was the point in such cheese, a perverse reference to Will Smith’s “Welcome to Earth!” from Independence Day?

Finally, I didn't really like how Silva died.  It’s just seemed a bit anti-climatic and although a scrap wouldn't have been right, I just think he deserved a better send off.

Well that’s the rant, but I’m still not changing my mind as Director Sam Mendes ensures this is the finest Bond for as long as I can remember.

If you don’t go and see it on the big screen, you’ll regret it more than missing an important Ebay auction.

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