Written by Stein-Erik Rutledal
Bond, James Bond. The hard drinking, womanizing, quip dispensing secret agent you all know, and should love, is back. Skyfall, as the new film is titled, has its work cut out for it. Following on the heels of what is the biggest drop in quality and possible the worst entry of the whole series; Quantum of Solace, it has no smaller job to do than re-establish the whole series’ name, once again. Now there might be those of you reading who are thinking; “Hey! Quantum of Solace was not th…” Just stop, do not even finish the thought. You are wrong and this is an argument you cannot win, save me the effort and yourself the pain. Just let it go.
So let us, or me anyway, size up this sequel, this hopeful redemption. So let us see the players and parts that have been lined up for us.
Bond – Daniel Craig is returning for his third outing as Bond. In the seven years since he was announced as the new Bond Craig has become a “love him or hate him” Bond. His critics say he has only one facial expression and whine like a bunch of fourteen year old girls with PMS about him not saying the signature line correctly because they fail to understand a character moment when they see one. On the other hand us poor suckers that enjoy Bond enough to have bothered reading an actual Bond novel will recognize his portrayal as rather faithful. For this one he appears rugged and worn out, sporting a greying beard. It’s a good look, sparks some interest, and seems to fit the arc of Bond in this one. But more on that later. Performance wise it seems to be much of the same cold, calculating Bond we have been seeing from Craig so far, the trailer gives a couple of quips though to show the smirk is not lost in all the bleakness.
The Girl – So Bérénice Marlohe is Sévérine and, uh, she is like French or something. Take note of this and savor this moment because you will not hear this sentence from me again; you now know as much about this as I do. She apparently has a background in French television, which I do not watch. Acting wise I am a question mark here. They gave her two lines in the trailer so there is not a whole lot to work with. The lines she has imply that her character has some sort of relationship to Javier Bardem’s villain, which could be interesting, on the other hand it did not work at all in the last film. The other thing the trailer reveals is that she is bloody gorgeous, so she already meets the most important criteria.
The Villains – Javier Bardem is lined up as the main adversary to the man with the steel liver this time. His character is the platinum blonde Raoul Silva, a man described almost as fear personified and not just that, but fear in a way you have never experienced before. Sounds promising. Add a little of what appears to be a personal vendetta against poor old M and this cross between Anton Chigurh and Max Zorin sounds like Bond’s most worthy opponent for nearly two decades. In the trailer Bardem practically reeks of creepiness and there is not a single glimpse of the man in anything but complete control. Let us just hope he can avoid the Mads Mikkelsen exit, I hate it when great villains are cut short.
Silva’s right hand man appears to be a French mercenary by name of Patrice, described as the silent and violent type and played by Swedish actor Ola Rapace. The Bond franchise has not seen any good sub-villains in years so let us hope the part is sizable enough to leave an impact. He is not featured a lot in the trailer, but I believe he is the man in the tan suit fighting with Bond on top of a train. Those that can recall Bond’s previous fight scene with a henchman on a train should know that the bar is a high one. Let us hope it passes at least near it.
The Allies – This time Bond can surround himself in a sea of allies. Judi Dench is back as M for the seventh time and it looks like her past is coming back to haunt her. Hopefully she stays out of the action though, nobody wants another The World is Not Enough on their hands. Returning is also Rory Kinnear as Chief of Staff Bill Tanner. However the big one this time around is the return of Bond’s steady Quartermaster, codenamed “Q”, as Ben Whishaw steps into the rather big shoes of the late, great Desmond Llewelyn. Can he fill them? And help me finally repress the memories of John Cleese’s “R”? (Seriously? What were the writers thinking?) If the trailer is any indication; Fuck Yes! The fifteen seconds the two of them share in the trailer are alone better (and more of a Bond film) than Quantum of Solace. There are so many reasons why I am completely in love with the return of Q that listing them would probably run longer than the actual film.
Also barking up the right tree is Naomi Harris long rumored to be playing Miss Moneypenny it has since been confirmed that her role is that of Eve, a MI6 field agent. Some fans still theorize that she still might be Moneypenny due to the lack of a revealed surname, but I will leave such speculations for others. And while we are on speculations let me cease the opportunity and segway over to Ralph Fiennes and the character of Gareth Mallory. All that is known about his character is that he is the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which basically means that he is the boss over the MI6. The secrecy surrounding his character has of course fed the speculators and divided the theories in half. Half believe he is being set up to become the next “M” with the whole vendetta against the old “M” plot this one has going, and also because his name starts with an “M”. The other half thinks he will turn out be a traitor because he is Ralph Fiennes and he has the least thrust worthy face of all time. They do have point though; you do not get to be Amon Goeth and Lord Voldemort because you look nice and cozy.
Finally we have acting legend Albert Finney in the role as Kincaid, a character so secretive I cannot tell you anything about him. I do not even know why I put him under “allies” he could turn out to be the head of Quantum/Specter for all I know. He is in it though, and he does have my curiosity.
The Theme Song – In the least surprising reveal of modern secrecy it was announced that British music biggest name of the past year and half, Adele, was going to sing the theme for the new movie. When the song recently leaked it was another stunning lack of surprise as it turned out she was going for the big orchestral theme of the old Bond films. After some unconventional choices of performers that have led to a string of sub-par themes this is clearly the producer’s playing the safe option. (Yes, this “string of sub-par themes” include Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name”, and if you need me to explain why Cornell’s raspy grunge vocals have no place in a Bond film then consider your license to kill suspended, indefinitely.) If I had to compare it to any other Bond theme the similarities with Tom Jones’ Thunderball theme are striking. Both are orchestral pieces that sort of slowly build towards a climax that never is. At the moment I would call it a good theme song, it would not make my top list over themes. Maybe time will change that, but do not bet your life savings on it.
The Story – Bond is returning to Turkey for the first time since From Russia With Love for an opening that is described as a mission gone belly up. The specifics are left out, but the bottom line is Bond is wounded and presumed dead, and the identity of every MI6 agent is leaked on to the inter webs. Damn, these modern times! As a result of this M’s position as the leader of MI6 is doubted and put under questioning. What I can piece together from trailer is that Raoul Silva attacks the MI6 headquarters, killing dozens, to show M just how vulnerable she is. At this point Bond returns from the dead and decides to seek out Silva. This leads Bond to the South China Sea, and possibly also the country China. Here his loyalty to M is put on the test when secrets about her past is revealed. The plot thickens here, with this complexity it is no wonder it has the record breaking running time of 2 hours and 25 minutes.
The Director – Sam Mendes is at the helm for this one, marking the first time an Academy Award winning director is making a Bond film. Now seeing as how we recently saw American Beauty you might question how that would translate into a Bond film. First of that is the wrong movie to look at it from, instead avert your attention to Mendes slightly less well regarded follow up; Road to Perdition. A movie that strikes a great balance between story and action, and that, to utilize a cliché, has a heart. If this, the longest Bond film yet, is going to stay afloat for its running time it needs someone like Mendes at the helm, someone who can put story before action.
The other thing that makes Mendes a really intriguing choice is his history for creating strong, developed female characters. Which the Bond series really could do with, Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist anyone? I did not think so.
Another thing is that Sam Mendes has always been one of those weird directors who want his movies to look good (Marc Forster appeared to disagree), something he tends to solve by hiring some of the greatest cinematographers alive. He used to have a working relationship with Conrad Hall, arguably the greatest cinematographer of all time, and ever since Hall’s passing he has been working with Roger Deakins, Skyfall will not be an exception. Now I consider Deakins to be the greatest living cinematographer and the idea of him shooting a Bond film makes me giggle with joy like a pre-teen girl.
When Mendes was brought on as a director the rumors started swirling about a character driven spy thriller with a minimum amount of action scenes with intentions of Oscar attention, kind of like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Watching the trailer this can luckily be shrugged off as mere rumors as we have giant explosions in the middle of London and a big action scene set on a train, which is promised to contain exactly zero CGI shots, just the way action should be. Still, I know better than to put anything shot by Deakins out of competition before Oscar nomination morning. The theme could even make it through the eye of the needle if the field is weak, and if it is not deemed ineligible due to the leak. However the Oscar discussion is for another time so allow me to shut up and let you enjoy your martinis, quips and exotic babes.