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Skyfall

November 4th, 2012 (12:11 am)

It's nearly a week since I saw Skyfall. I've not seen all the Bond films and I still haven't seen the Craig Casino Royale, so the first time I encountered this Bond was Quantum of Solace, an interesting film but bleak. Bond's hamfisted management of Gemma Arterton's character is the only sequence to linger in my mind.

In contrast, Skyfall was much more visually rich and felt more strongly performed too. As a child of the Roger Moore era, I was glad to hear a smattering of awful jokes; but as someone not blind to its failings, I was happy that we did not end on Bond and his female co-star in the throes of passion in an unlikely location. It seems to be a motif in the present era that the candidate for traditional Bond girl meets an unpleasant end not long after her introduction.

The great strength of the film was the cinematography. The Shanghai exteriors dazzled and framed the confrontation between Bond and Patrice in the skyscraper well. It was the night of the Komodo dragon, too, clearly CGI, but this emphasised the heightened unreality of the whole enterprise.

I'm joining those who point out that this was as much if not more the last film of the Judi Dench era than the third Daniel Craig Bond or the fiftieth anniversary film. I thought there were elements of both the Brosnan-era M and the Craig-era M here, and appropriately so; though Kincade's referring to M as 'Emma' transports me briefly into an alternative universe where Diana Rigg played M instead of Judi Dench, and that too brings in an extra layer of meaning given Diana Rigg's role earlier in the franchise. The reorientation of Craig's Bond as an older agent who has seen it all ("What makes you think it's my first time?"), together with the unveiling of Connery's Aston Martin in an archway, restore (or canonise?) the sense, slightly lost recently, of an idealised (for good or ill) agent in an MI6 standing outside time, which puts on the clothes of the current age in order to tell its story.

Retreating to Scotland reminded me a little of the 1967 Casino Royale - though this time without Ursula Andress in a kilt - but more of John Buchan's Richard Hannay, who draws the enemy on to his ancestral ground. After so much emphasis on England in dialogue addressed to or spoken by Bond, revealing that he is Scottish is a reminder of Buchan's England as an ideal best defended by outsiders. Albert Finney's transformation into an Andrew Keir/Andrew Cruickshank-esque veteran Scot was uncanny.

Early on in the film, I'd assumed that Ralph Fiennes's Mallory was to be revealed as some sort of mole, through the double bluff of setting him up as untrustworthy, suggesting he was on side after all, and then revealing that he was Silva's ally or puppetmaster. This did not happen (though something similar yet might) and he is for the moment established as a Bernard Lee-esque M. Whether this set-up - complete with Naomie Harris's Eve Moneypenny settling for a somewhat and antiquated role - will endure beyond what was essentially a nostalgic reference to the early films remains to be seen.

ETA: A comment I've just made at tree_and_leaf's should be appended here: Skyfall is clearly a Highland estate bought cheap in the early twentieth century from a penniless peer by an arms manufacturer who supplied the Royal Flying Corps and renamed it to commemorate his fortune.

Also posted at http://sir-guinglain.dreamwidth.org/555087.html.

Comments

Posted by: Alice Dryden (huskyteer)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
The Spy Who Loved Me

Skyfall is clearly a Highland estate bought cheap in the early twentieth century from a penniless peer by an arms manufacturer who supplied the Royal Flying Corps and renamed it to commemorate his fortune.

Yes. That works!

The tradition of a Good Bond Girl and a Bad Bond Girl, and the Bad Bond Girl dying, goes back a long way. In Goldfinger, Tilly rejects Bond's protection (and, implicitly, heterosexuality) in favour of going off with Pussy Galore, and so she is slain by Oddjob's bowler hat.

Edited at 2012-11-04 03:55 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)

I'm glad you like the idea behind Skyfall.

I think the Bad Bond Girl/Good Bond Girl division is more blurred than it was - and arguably here the Good Bond Girls died too/became secretaries...

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)

Not Pussy Galore, surely!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 12:23 am (UTC)

True, though I was thinking more in terms of Skyfall.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 09:20 pm (UTC)

I know, still, Pussy seemed worth mentioning, as she did neither.
:-)

Posted by: Kargicq (kargicq)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 03:58 pm (UTC)
Media resonances

I loved Skyfall, which we saw yesterday. I thought it blended the Bond elements extremely well, while adding some new touches (like decent cinematography; the shots of Rannoch Moor were staggering). Very self-aware of the nature of the franchise.

I thought there was a lot of Matt Smith's Doctor in the new Q, and a lot of Moriarty in Silva...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Media resonances

Ben Whishaw was a little more restrained than Matt Smith's Doctor has been, I thought!

Other than that, I was pleased to see that one of the aides in the inquiry scenes was played by Elize Du Toit, looking almost exactly the same as she did in Doctor Who in 2007 when she popped up in several episodes as the 'Sinister Woman', agent of the Master and intimidator of the Jones family. Additionally, Ben Whishaw's real-life producer in The Hour is the wife of one of the actors who played inquiry members.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 05:56 pm (UTC)
saltire

I find the more I think about the film, the more little things I find (which is much in its favour and stands in stark contrast with Dark Knight Rises, which, though enjoyable at the time, seems to get worse with thinking too much about)

I am looking forward to seeing it again later today, armed with some behind-the-scenes notes and discussions from the likes of Top gear and the Graham Norton Show.

Re CGI:
The Top Gear special pointed out the Bond producers' dislike of CGI, which explains why it was mercifully sparingly used, but also why it stood out more than it would have in a CGI-heavy film. Presumably, the Komodo dragon was not real for animal protection reasons...
(Where mere humans were at stake, action was actually real, including the rooftop motorcyle chase (without helmets - although it was not the actors riding)).


Edited at 2012-11-04 05:58 pm (UTC)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)

I thought the rooftop motorcycle chase was real, because I thought there was no reason not for it to be!

Enjoy the second viewing - I am still recovering from cold and work.

Posted by: widsidh (widsidh)
Posted at: November 4th, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)

I think someone else suggested it might not have been.
Apparently it was pretty dangerous to do...

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: November 5th, 2012 12:23 am (UTC)

I can imagine - I wonder if the roofs were reinforced? They must at least have been surveyed.