A (very belated) Skyfall review

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Back in November, HMSS intended to put out a “best of” issue that included reviews for Skyfall. For real-life reasons, that didn’t occur. This is one of the reviews intended for that never-produced issue, written shortly after release. After the review, there’s an epilogue.

One of the most satisfying moments of Skyfall makes no sense from a logical standpoint.

Daniel Craig’s James Bond whisks Judi Dench’s M from an assassination attempt by Silva (Javier Bardem), the film’s villain. Bond takes his superior to some sort of storage facility where an Aston Martin DB5 awaits.

That moment gets a big rise from theater audiences (at least the three times I saw it). But is this the same car that Craig-Bond won in a poker game in Casino Royale? Was it subsequently outfitted with the exact same gadgets (at least the machine guns and ejector seat) the car had in Goldfinger?

Ehhh, forgettaboutit. At least, if you do, Skyfall is a fun ride.

The 23rd James Bond movie comes four years after Quantum of Solace, its predecessor. During Quantum’s production, Eon Productions was *way too serious* about why that movie was important. We were told that 2006’s Casino Royale had such a compelling story the filmmakers had no choice except to begin the next 007 movie immediately thereafter. Thus, Quantum began two minutes or two hours (Eon wasn’t consistent on this point) from the end of Casino. Thus, Eon, in effect, asked the audience to compare Quantum to its predecessor. Except that M had totally redecorated her office and Mathis had gone from being interrogated in two minutes/two hours to again being Bond’s ally. Oops.

Skyfall and its director Sam Mendes don’t invite any comparisons to earlier Daniel Craig 007 movies. Bond was a rookie and now he’s older and seemingly washed up? Forgetaboutit. Don’t worry about the past and take Skyfall on its own terms. On that basis, the new Bond movie is satisfying.

Skyfall isn’t perfect. Bond recruits Severine (Berenice Marlohe) to help him meet Silva. To say he lets her down is an understatement. These things happen but it would have helped to have one shot — just ONE SHOT — of Craig-Bond showing some remorse after Severine ends up dead. You know, like Sean Connery’s Bond with Tilly in Goldfinger or his Bond with Paula in Thunderball. Instead, he displays no reaction but has a chest-thumping, moment of gloating when U.K. holicopters show up over Silva’s headquarters. Meanwhile, Severine’s corpse is slumped over while Bond gloats.

The movie has some first-time 007 contributors. Roger Deakins’s photography is a big plus. The director of photography produces a number of striking images (particularly in the Shanghai sequence) but his best work highlights every wrinkle on the face of Dench’s aging M, making clear that the character has seen too much, done too much and is quite tired and exhausted.

Thomas Newman, not know for doing scores to action movies, moves things along. Newman occasionally evokes both John Barry and the Batman triology directed by Christopher Nolan, which featured music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. Newman, though, is a pro and his score reflects that. Once again, the Bond filmmakers felt they couldn’t put the famous 007 gunbarrel logo at the start of the movie. Newman, though, pulls a musical trick that reminds us of the sequence. There was no good reason not to include the logo at the start of the movie but Newman does enough that the lack of the logo isn’t as bad as it could have been.

Bardem as Skyfall’s villain is mostly a plus but, near the end, goes the proverbial Bridge Too Far. In the climatic sequence, where he has his final confrontation with M, it’s as if Bardem wants to tell the audience, “Look! I’m acting!” We get it that Silva is on the edge. But Bardem just goes too far. He’s like Paul Newman in 1974’s The Towering Inferno where the actor wants to assure his fans he’s not just cashing a big paycheck. In the climatic scene, Bardem should have dialed it back a bit.

The end of the movie, with a new M (Ralph Fiennes) and a new Moneypenny sets up the series to continue while evoking the earlier Bond films. We’ll see what the future has in store but Skyfall works well enough. GRADE: B-Plus.

Anything change after watching it on home video? Not that much. A friend who doesn’t like the movie commented how, in the old Bond movies, the titles would have started almost immediately after Bond hit the water near the end of the pre-titles sequence. Instead, we get a couple of minutes of a morose M, Tanner and other MI6 employees. That’s still not enough and we’re taken to an MI6 window and see it has started raining.

“Cue the rain?” the friend said. “Cue the rain?” He had a point but I could overlook it. But, as posted here before, there are other things that are best to overlook to enjoy the movie. If don’t want to overlook such issues, like the Aston Martin DB5, you’re going to rate it lower, in some cases much lower.

Also, there’s no way the DB5 in Skyfall could have been the same car as in Casino Royale. The steering wheel was on the other side and you’d have to rebuild the car to switch the steering wheel from the left side to the right. The Skyfall DB5 is a tribute to Goldfinger, pure and simple.

UPDATE: Called as Aston Martin dealer. At least on a newer model, it’s possible to switch a steering wheel from the right to the left and vice versa. It would cost in excess of $40,000. Didn’t ask if that was specifically possible on a 1964 DB5.

007 things best to overlook while viewing Skyfall

Skyfall's poster image

“Don’t bother me with details, Bert!”

Skyfall is now out on home video on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and will be available soon worldwide after a Bond record-breaking run of $1.1 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

What does that mean? An opportunity for obsessive 007 fans to pause and check out the 23rd James Bond movie in even more detail. Most movies, even classic ones, have elements that are best to overlook.

For example, in 1952’s High Noon, embattled sheriff Gary Cooper spends an hour of screen time begging for people to help him. After his unsuccessful efforts, he then demonstrates he was so capable his time would have been better spent getting ready for the gang swearing revenge. But, if he had done that, there wouldn’t have been much of a movie, would there?

So in that spirit, here are some elements of Skyfall that are perhaps best overlooked while enjoying the hugely successfully 007 film:

001. Bond’s long fall near the end of the pre-credits sequence: Bond (Daniel Craig), shot by agent Eve (Naomie Harris) falls a looooong way from a bridge in Turkey. In fact, it’s at least as long, if not longer, that the fatal fall Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) took off the Golden Gate Bridge in A View To a Kill. On top of that, Bond then goes over a waterfall. Yet, he survives. Then again, it’d be a short movie if he didn’t, wouldn’t it?

002. M’s insubordination: After the main titles, M (Judi Dench), has a meeting with Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who helps oversee MI6 for the British government. Mallory says M is being eased out while having “a great run.” M spouts off that she’s not going to leave until she’s good and ready. In real life, Mallory would respond, “Then, you’re fired.” Then again, it’d be a short movie if that happened, wouldn’t it?

003. Bond’s culpability in Rapace’s killing spree in Shanghai:: Bond follows assassin Patrice (Ola Rapace) in Shanghai. Patrice kills a number of security guards and an art collector before Bond lifts a finger to stop him. Is the blood of those victims on Bond’s hands? That’s not really examined.

004. Bond’s lack of remorse when Severine is killed: Over the years, a number of women who allied themselves with Bond ended up dead. Jill and Tilly in Goldfinger come to mind. However, when they died, Bond registered a reaction. Ditto when fellow agent Paula was captured and took a poison capsule in Thunderball, and when Japanese agent Aki was poisoned by SPECTRE in You Only Live Twice.

Severine (Berenice Marlohe)? No reaction, although Bond gloats to Silva when the villain appears to be captured. One of Severine’s last lines is, “I’m sorry.” That takes on a whole new meaning in the Skyfall context.

005. M’s culpability in Silva’s killing spree in London: Tanner informs M, in the middle of a parliamentary hearing about MI6’s recent performance, that Silva has escaped. Does M let anybody know a terrorist with a group of trained killers is on the way? No. Instead, she reads a poem. That gives Silva and his men enough time to kill about a half-dozen police officers. Whether it’s five, six or seven is immaterial. You could argue that M’s ego resulted in multiple deaths.

006. The Aston Martin DB5: Bond drives M to a garage, where the Goldfinger-Thunderball, gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 awaits. This, in theory, undermines the whole “the series rebooted itself with Casino Royale” thing. Yet, based on our viewing with real theater audiences, this scene was one of the best received in the film. Clearly, audiences were more than willing to overlook the continuity problems introduced.

007. Was Bond’s mission a success or failure? If the mission was to kill (eventually) Silva, Bond’s mission was a success. If it was to protect M, it was a failure. At best, it’s a 50 percent success. M had agreed to be the Judas Goat in Bond’s plan, but did she really think she was going to be killed?

Aston Martin DB5 scheduled to be at Detroit auto show

Daniel Craig and Aston Mart DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

Daniel Craig and Aston Martin DB5 in a Skyfall publicity sill

The Aston Martin DB5, most recently seen in Skyfall, is scheduled to be at the North American International Auto show next month during the event’s media preview. Here’s an excerpt from a press release:

Covisint, a Compuware (Nasdaq:CPWR)
company, is bringing the world-famous 1964 James Bond car, an Aston Martin
DB5, to the 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit,
January 14-18. The iconic vehicle co-starred with Sean Connery in the movie
Goldfinger and appears with Daniel Craig in Skyfall, the highest-grossing Bond
movie ever at $869 million to-date.

The DB5’s in-car phone and futuristic GPS mapping device made James Bond the
world’s first connected driver. The Covisint NAIAS exhibit will showcase the
future of vehicle connectivity, a major communications feature demanded by
consumers in vehicles for 2013 and beyond.

To read the complete press release CLICK HERE. You can CLICK HERE to view the official Web site of the auto show.

UPDATE: The Forbes magazine Web size has THIS ARTICLE about how a double vehicle was created for Skyfall.

Mendes teases Skyfall’s ending (no spoiler)

Skyfall director Sam Mendes, speaking in the latest video blog to promote the 23rd 007 movie, has teased the ending in a non-spoiler sort of way.

The video blog concerns how Skyfall brings back the Aston Martin DB5, a model first seen in 1964’s Goldfinger. Mendes says the following:

“There’s something about the last part of the movie, which is deliberately, very consciously, could have taken place in 1962.” The director also says that Skyfall “is about the old and the new.” Evidently, that’s one reason why the DB5 is being used, rather than a newer vintage Aston Martin. Anyway, you can see for yourself starting around the 0:45 mark.

Thanks for “Skyfall Fan” on Twitter for pointing out.

3 things to note before declaring Skyfall best 007 movie ever

Last week, the entertainment Web site Whatculture! presented 5 Reasons Why Skyfall Might Be the Best James Bond Film Ever. Author Chris Wright opined:

I am confident that this will be the best of the series so far and a hell of a way to celebrate the momentous 50th Anniversary. (emphasis added)

Wright has bought into Barbara Broccoli’s comment how Skyfall may exceed the 22 previous installments of the series made by Eon Productions. What follows that people may want to keep in mind regard Whatculture!’s reasons that Skyfall will be the best:

An A-List cast and crew doesn’t guarantee success: Imagine a movie with at least five former or future Oscar winning actors and a crew that included a director, a composer, a director of photography and an editor who had all won Academy Awards. You’d have The Swarm, Irwin Allen’s 1978 disaster movie that was a critical and box office flop.

The cast included Michael Caine, Olivia de Havilland, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke and Henry Fonda, all of whom had either won Oscars up until then or would receive them in the future. Producer-director Allen had an Oscar on his shelf (for a 1953 documentary), as did director of photography Fred Koenekamp, composer Jerry Goldsmith and editor Harold F. Kress. All of those crew members, including Allen, had other Oscar nominations.

Is this a pretty extreme example? Absolutely. But it’s not unique, either.

Third-time-the-charm rule has a mixed record: Author Wright, cites one of his reasons thusly:

With Skyfall marking Daniel Craig’s third time in the lead role, the history of the series suggests this might be his finest instalment. When Sean Connery and Roger Moore were both starting out in the role it took them both three films to fully settle into the part and make it their own. Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me are both considered to be among the best of the series and it is no coincidence that these are both the third films for each actor.

What about Pierce Brosnan and The World is Not Enough? Brosnan’s third Bond movie did fine at the box office but it wasn’t universally proclaimed his best outing. Nor did the film have the impact of either Goldfinger or The Spy Who Loved Me, the latter giving the series a jump start. Maybe Daniel Craig’s third film will have that kind of impact, but again merely being the actor’s third film isn’t a guarantee.

The Aston Martin DB5?: The 1960s sports car has been driven by Bond in two mega hits (Goldfinger and Thunderball), in two Pierce Brosnan movies (GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies) and Craig’s Casino Royale. In terms of impact, it played a central role pretty much only in Goldfinger, where it was the movie’s centerpiece gadget. You don’t see it after Bond gets to Nassau in Thunderball. In the Brosnan and Craig movies to date it’s more like an homage to the earlier movies. In Casino Royale, Craig/Bond wins the DB5 in a poker game against a secondary villain. Any super-priced luxury car could have substituted had a DB5 not been available.

Despite that, Whatculture! says the DB5 will be a leading reason why Skyfall is No. 1.

Again, this is not a prediction that Skyfall is going to bomb at the box office or be a bad 007 movie. Fans say you can’t say that until the movie is out. Again, predicting Skyfall will be No. 001 among 007 movies is a matter of faith at this point.

007 and Aston Martin: development of a myth

When Prince William and his bride pulled out of Buckingham Palace in an Aston Martin convertible, it didn’t take long for people to make the connection between the royal couple’s ride and 007. The Reuters news service (Ian Fleming’s one-time employer) ran a video it called James Bond moment for royal newlyweds. Meanwhile, some 007 fan Web sites wrote up the connect such as THIS EXAMPLE

No question, Aston Martin is viewed as 007’s ride. Bond driving an Aston Martin is a modern myth, one that thrived for decades. But the original connection was much more modest.

In Fleming’s 1959 novel Goldfinger, Bond drove an Aston Martin DB III from MI 6’s car pool. “Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the D.B. III. Either of the cars would have suited his cover — a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life.”

Richard Maibuam introduced the DB V model in his first draft of the screenplay for the 1964 film. However, he took it out in his second draft in favor of a Bentley, the literary Bond’s preferred personal car, according to film historian Adrian Turner, who reviewed all of the film’s drafts for a 1998 book. The DB V returns in later drafts by Maibaum and Paul Dehn. John Stears, the film’s special effects man, added various extras not in the novel.

Goldfinger, of course, was a big hit and the Aston Martin was one of the movie’s attractions. The DB V returned in Thunderball. Different Aston Martin models could be seen in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever (a visual joke in the background in a shot of Q talking to Bond on the telephone), The Living Daylights, Die Another Day, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

Some authors of Bond continuation novels have tried to equip 007 in different rides. Raymond Benson’s 1997-2002 run included Bond in a Jaguar. Jeffery Deaver’s upcoming Carte Blanche, a reboot of the literary 007, features the agent in a Bentley. There’s a special limited-edition of the new novel that plays up the Bentley connection.

None of that, though, is likely to shake the association between Bond and Aston Martin. The royal wedding on April 29 is just another example:

UPDATE: We’re reminded that the DBV (or DB5, depending on your preference) also appeared in GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, even though the main “Bond cars” were BMWs. In Raymond Benson’s novelizations of the films, we’re told Bond bought the car for his personal use after MI 6 was had decided to sell off the car.

Goldinger and Thuderball DB5 sells for $4.6 million

One of the Aston Martin DB5s from Goldfinger and Thunderball has been auctioned successfully for 2.9 million British pounds, or about $4.6 million. Here’s an excerpt from a press release:

The world-famous James Bond 1964 Aston Martin DB5 movie car driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Thunderball, and factory-fitted with the full complement of operational ‘Q-Branch’ gadgets, was sold at auction in London today by RM Auctions, in association with Sotheby’s, in front of a packed audience for *£2,912,000 ($4,608,500).

“RM has just established the price of fame,” said Rob Myers, Chairman and Founder, RM Auctions. ”We had a fabulous time during the promotion of the sale of 007’s DB5 and we’re really pleased to have been able to assist with finding it a great new home.”

The successful bidder, Harry Yeaggy, an American business man, is only the second ex-factory owner of the Mr. Bond’s ride. The car’s seller, Mr. Jerry Lee, an American radio broadcaster based in Philadelphia, PA, purchased it directly from the Aston Martin Lagonda factory for $12,000 in 1969.

“This is a car that I’ve always wanted, after all it is the most famous car in the world,” said Mr. Yeaggy about the purchase of the Bond DB5. “My plan is to display it in my private car museum in Ohio just as it is.”

Earlier this year, the Automotive Traveller Web site had an article detailing the car’s technical specifications.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 139 other followers