A look at some 007 #MeToo moments

#MeToo went viral last year as the result of workplace sexual harassment and assault, a lot of it media related such as now-disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

With the 25th James Bond film (slowly) in development, there has been speculation about how Bond will be affected by the Me Too movement. We won’t know for some time.

However, certain scenes from previous Bond films were cited in THIS ARTICLE from The Scotsman.

“Almost as soon as Harvey Weinstein’s dressing-gown fell open, and the first gruesome revelations of sexual coercion and assault in Hollywood spilled out, a debate was sparked about the future of Bond,” wrote Aidan Smith of The Scotsman.

With that in mind, here are some Bond movie scenes that get cited in #MeToo conversation.

“Dink, say goodbye to Felix.”

“Man Talk” (Goldfinger, 1964)

After the main titles of Goldfinger, the CIA’s Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) makes contact with Bond (Sean Connery).

Bond is with Dink (Margaret Nolan, who also participated in the main titles as the “Golden Girl” of the title song).

Bond sends Dink on her way saying he has to engage in some “man talk” with Felix. As she walks away, Bond slaps her on her buttocks, accompanied by an Oscar-winning sound effect.

Not something you could do in the 21st century.

“You don’t mean…”

“I’d Lose My Job” (Thunderball, 1965)

Bond (Connery again) is almost killed after Count Lippe sets a device intended to stretch the spine on full speed and the agent is helpless to do anything about it.

Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters), a nurse who had strapped Bond into the machine in the first place, returns early and saves the agent’s life.

As he’s recovering, Bond says somebody will regret this day. He’s referring to Count Lippe but there’s no way for Patricia to know that.

She urges Bond to stay silent or else she could lose her job.

Bond immediately seizes upon the situation. “I suppose my silence could have a price…”

“You don’t mean…”

“Oh, yes…”

According to the stage directions of the script:

The steam rises higher and higher making is even more difficult to see anything at all.

This is probably just as well.

As the saying goes, it is what it is. After having sex with Patricia, Bond gets even with Count Lippe. However, the villain doesn’t meet his demise until it is administered by another SPECTRE operative who figures into our next example.

Interplay between Bond and Fiona in Thunderball.

“Would You Please Give Me Something to Put On?” (Thunderball)

SPECTRE executioner Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) uses her sex appeal as part of her work for the criminal organization.

For example, posing as the “social secretary” for a NATO pilot, she arranges for him to be killed so a SPECTRE double can take his place. This enables SPECTRE to steal two atomic bombs.

Later, Fiona has encountered Bond but finally decides he needs to be eliminated.

She’s naked in a bathtub when Bond enters. “Would you please give me something to put on?” Fiona says. Bond hands her a pair of sandals and sits in a chair.

Not much later, they have sex. After they get dressed, SPECTRE thugs enter the hotel room. Eventually, Bond escapes. Fiona catches up, but she’s killed when one of the thugs tries to shoot Bond.

This is stretching things a bit in terms of #MeToo. Fiona knew exactly what she was doing and sex was part of her M.O. Also, Luciana Paluzzi had played a very similar character in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fiona absolutely was a strong, independent character. She just came up short going against Bond.

“I like you better without your Beretta.”

Bond and Severine in Skyfall (2012)

This example is one of the most controversial, certainly among recent 007 films.

Severine (Bérénice Marlohehad been forced into the sex trade at a young age. Bond (Daniel Craig) deduces this from a small tatoo of hers.

She tells Bond her bodyguards will try to kill him as soon as she departs. But in case she survives, she tells Bond the name of the yacht she’ll be on, where to find it and that it will be casting off in an hour.

Severine waits in her cabin, with a bottle of champagne on ice. The yacht casts off. But when she decides to take a shower, Bond is there as naked as she is.

However, for Severine, things go downhill from there. Silva (Javier Bardem) has her roughed up. Later, there’s a William Tell bit where Bond and Silva try to shoot a glass of Scotch off her head. Silva doesn’t bother to really try and just shoots her to death.

Bond fights his way out this and helicopters descend to capture Silva.

Why this is controversial: I’ve seen some fans on 007 message boards compare Bond’s encounter with Severine in the shower to rape. But the shot of Severine with the bottle of champagne on ice suggests she was wanting Bond to get to the yacht.

On the other hand, Bond shows no remorse whatsoever that Severine was killed. After he gets the upper hand, Bond gloats to Silva. But he doesn’t acknowledge Severine’s ultimate sacrifice.

By comparison, both Thunderball (with the death of MI6 agent Paula) and You Only Live Twice (with the death of Japanese agent Aki) depict Bond acknowledging the deaths of the women, which is emphasized by John Barry’s music.

Skyfall’s 5th anniversary: Brief return to Bondmania

Skyfall’s poster image

Five years ago, the James Bond film franchise reached a level — unadjusted, adjusted for inflation, or whatever measure you’d like — not achieved since the height of Bondmania in the 1960s.

That was Skyfall, the 50th anniversary 007 film. It was the first (and so far only) Bond film to reach and exceed the global $1 billion box office level.

Even taking into account ticket price inflation, the 2012 007 adventure is No. 3 in the U.S. in terms of number of tickets purchased. On that basis (or “bums in seats” as the British would say), Skyfall is  No. 3 in the U.S. market for Bond films, behind only Thunderball and Goldfinger.

Bringing the 23rd James Bond film to cinemas, however, was a more difficult undertaking than usual.

Beginnings

Initially, Eon Productions hired three writers: The team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade as well as prestige film writer Peter Morgan. Morgan had been twice nominated for an Academy Award.

As it turned out, Morgan had deep doubts about the viability of the James Bond character, something he didn’t go public with until a 2010 interview. “I’m not sure it’s possible to do it,” Morgan said in 2010, after he had departed the project.

Still, Morgan’s main idea — the death of Judi Dench’s M — would be retained, even though the scribe received no screen credit.

But there was a bigger challenge. While the film was being developed, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the 007 franchise’s home studio, went into bankruptcy.

Delay

Eon Productions, on April 19, 2010, said Bond 23, as the yet-untitled film was known, had been indefinitely delayed.

MGM emerged from bankruptcy in December 2010. There was a cost, however. MGM, which had already shrunk from its glory days, was even smaller. It had no distribution operation of its own.

Skyfall teaser poster

Behind the scenes, things were happening. Eon was bringing director Sam Mendes on board. Initially, he was a “consultant” (for contract reasons). Eventually, Mendes got his preferred writer, John Logan, to rework the scripting that Purvis and Wade had performed.

Mendes also was granted his choice of composer, Thomas Newman. David Arnold’s streak of scoring five 007 films in a row was over. Roger Deakins, nominated for multiple Oscars and who had worked with Mendes before, came aboard as director of photography.

Revival

In January 2011, a short announcement was issued that Bond 23 was back on.

Mendes officially was now the director. Over the next several months, the casting of Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Berenice Marlohe leaked out, with Eon not confirming anything until a November 2011 press conference.

Even then, some specific character details remained unconfirmed. For example, Eon wouldn’t confirm that Whishaw was the new Q until July 2012, well after the actor had completed his work on the film.

Publicity surge

Regardless, Skyfall benefited from much hype. Being the 50th anniversary Bond film got the movie additional publicity.

What’s more, London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics. A major part of the opening ceremonies was a Danny Boyle-directed sequence featuring Daniel Craig’s Bond and Queen Elizabeth supposedly parachuting to the festivities.

Mendes, a director of the auteur school, also imported his style into the movie itself. Various segments were intended to provide dramatic moments to the principal actors.

Among them: A shaky Craig/Bond seeking redemption; a theatrical entrance for Javier Bardem’s villain; a dramatic reading of a poem for Judi Dench’s M, who is under fire by U.K. politicians.

Behind the curtain

Not everything holds up to scrutiny if you think much about it.

–Bond deserted the service, apparently upset about being shot by fellow operative Naomie Harris, while MI6 doesn’t seem to mind that at all. This was based loosely on the You Only Live Twice novel, where Bond went missing because he had amnesia. That doesn’t appear to be the case in Skyfall.

–Bond has the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 in storage, all gadgets still operational. Purvis and Wade originally wrote it as the left-hand drive DB5 that Bond won in Casino Royale in a high-stakes poker game. But Mendes insisted it be the Goldfinger car.

–M blathers on. She’s fully aware — because Rory Kinnear’s Tanner told her — that Bardem’s Silva has escaped.  But that’s secondary to the poem, which gives Silva and his thugs time to arrive and shoot up the place.

Unqualified success

None of this mattered much with movie audiences.

Every time the Spy Commander saw the movie at a theater, the audience reacted positively when the DB5 was revealed.

Some British fans rave to this day how wonderful the M poem scene is. Yet, when you break the sequence down, the doomed MI6 chief got numerous people killed by Bardem’s thugs by keeping them around instead of letting them disperse.

For all the trouble, for all the script issues, Skyfall was an unqualified hit. The movie’s release was the biggest Bond event since Thunderball’s release in 1965.

Oscar wins

Skyfall also broke a long Oscars losing streak for the 007 film series. The movie won two Oscars (for best song and sound editing). Both Newman and Deakins had been nominated but didn’t win.

Barbara Broccoli

Normally, a studio or a production company would want to strike while the iron was hot.

Not so in this case. Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli, in 2012 interviews, made clear she would not be hurried into the next 007 film adventure. There would be no quick attempt to follow up on Skyfall’s success.

At the same time, Mendes indicated he didn’t want to direct another Bond film. He relented and his hiring for the next Bond movie was announced in July 2013.

It’s possible a bit of hubris set in. You can imagine people saying something like this: “If this movie did $1 billion at the box office, the next 007 film will surely do $1.5 billion!” Or whatever. That’s human nature after all.

Instead, the next Bond outing would run into a new set of problems. Nevertheless, that should not distract from what Skyfall achieved (even for fans who didn’t enjoy the movie as much as others) five years ago.

More HMSS reviews of Skyfall Part III

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image

Third in a series of Skyfall reviews written for a never-published issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant

By Ed Werner

Be careful in what you wish for.

Back in the dark ages of Bond in the seventies, HMSS co-founder Paul Baack and I hoped for and wondered what a truly character driven Bond film would be like. We really wanted the producers to get into Bond’s history, background, feelings and what made him tick. It only took 23 films for that to happen.

Now that it’s been done, I hope they don’t do it again anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong, I loved delving into more of his personal life, but I think maybe there was just a little too much emotional trauma going on here for a Bond movie. I felt spent after watching it, something in this series that has never happened to me before.

I think many people go to a Bond film for the escapism, to get lost for two hours and come away entertained. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from Skyfall, I tried to stay off the grid and under the radar for this one. I wanted to go into it with no preconceived notions — but I wasn’t ready for this.

This film is a grand experiment on the part of producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and I applaud the risks they took in bringing this very personal side of the character to us. However, this is also a Bond film that’s very different from all that has come before and will be debated by Bond aficionados for many years to come. Is this film the official end of the “reboot” and now will 007 go back to saving the world from Armageddon on a regular basis? One can only wait and see.

Some random thoughts:

The film itself is beautifully photographed, I haven’t seen this kind of consistently beautiful camera work in a Bond film since You Only Live Twice. The Shanghai scenes were breathtaking, from the interior shots in the building under construction where we see Bond take out a sniper, to the casino, the camera angles and the color palette are incredible. In the later part of the film, Scotland has rarely looked more grand and foreboding. The interiors elsewhere in the film were all beautifully polished wood as opposed to the Ken Adam type brushed stainless steel that has gotten a little long in the tooth. Just take a look at M’s office near the end of the movie and compare it to the metal and glass that had been the norm since Brosnan took over the helm back in ’95.

The acting was mostly first-rate this time around. Judi Dench shows once again why she is a treasure in British cinema. This time around, M’s and Bond’s relationship is much deeper than has ever been explored before and a lesser actor would have made the climax much less memorable.

The new young Q works well with this Bond, although Desmond Llewelyn’s shoes are almost impossible to fill. Still, when you think how important technology is in almost all facets of life these days, business as well as intelligence, and who is the most well versed in this field, it makes sense that Q is the age he is.

The introduction of Eve, and who she actually is, totally broadsided me. I never saw that coming. At first, Naomie Harris reminded me of maybe a more capable Rosie Carver from Live and Let Die. However, after her first few moments of screen time, I realized that this actress and character were a force to be reckoned and much more important than Rosie. At last, we have finally been shown the genesis of one of Bond’s most memorable relationships!

Javier Bardem, who plays the baddun, Silva, reminds one of the best villains of the earlier Bond films. No superhuman strength, no webs growing between the fingers, not wimpy. Just very evil, a little off his rocker and hell-bent for revenge — but not against Bond. He never goes off on a raging rant, just keeps his cool and intelligently reeks havoc. He has no desire to go all Blofeld on us with visions of world domination and the character works marvelously because of it as well as Bardem’s sublime acting.

Daniel Craig has given us a new critical standard for the character of Bond, going to places none of the other Bond actors has had the opportunity to explore. He may not exactly look, speak, dress or move like the James Bond some of us have in the back of our minds. But he gives a very credible read to the character and is probably the most important choice of actor to play the part since the 1960s.

The only character that I thought was mis-cast and poorly written, was that of Severine, the “sacrificial lamb” of the movie. Although the more I think about it, there is one much more important character that could be put into that category. But you will need see the movie to make that determination yourself. Berenice Marlohe who plays Severine, doesn’t really lend herself to sympathy because you don’t really care for or about her.

The action sequences were well thought out, well photographed and easy to follow. You could actually keep track of what was happening and who was doing what to whom. Totally unlike the action fiasco in Quantum of Solace with its hyper editing and shaky cam. You’d have thought that the powers that be would have learned from the CGI debacle in the second half of Die Another Day that the flavor of the month in cinematography doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to the world of Bond. Thankfully, the producers have gone on record saying that a 3-D Bond is definitely not in our future.

The story itself is something I think Fleming could have dreamed up had he lived longer and written a few more Bond novels. It’s really a timeless story that could have felt just at home in the ’60s as it does some 50 years later. The four-year hiatus definitely benefited the story. It’s well thought out. The pacing is right on. Let’s hope that EON can continue to pull off this kind of film..

This may not be the absolute best Bond film released to date, but it is one of the most important.

(C) 2013 Ed Werner

More (belated) HMSS reviews of Skyfall part I

Skyfall's poster image

Skyfall’s poster image


First in a series of reviews intended for a never-published issue of Her Majesty’s Secret Servant.

By Peredur Glyn Davies

Skyfall is the worst Bond film in a long time.

The standard pattern of the Bond film plots, characters and narrative arcs that have sustained Eon’s 007 franchise for 50 years has been largely eschewed by director Sam Mendes and scriptwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, in favour of a film that goes places and does things that anyone familiar with classic Bond films will find unusual and even alien.

Just look at it. The gunbarrel sequence is in the wrong place. Bond is actively refused an exploding gadget by Q –and this Q is barely out of short trousers. The main Bond girl is a septuagenarian. The final act, which should involve Bond infiltrating the villain’s lair, is the exact opposite of that.

The climactic sequence takes place, not in a tropical locale, but in a wintery Scotland (even the funeral sequence in The World is not Enough was more glitzy). James Bond (Daniel Craig) in Skyfall is, rather than the superhuman quipmeister audiences are accustomed to, a frail, dejected shell of his former cinematic self, a man who can hardly do pull-ups and misses a stationary paper target five yards away. For goodness’ sake, he can’t even be bothered to shave.

What kind of a Bond film is that?

I could go on — and will. Scarcely recognisable, here, are the stock characters we are all familiar with: the expository boss, the comic relief gadget-master, the doomed beauty with a cute name, the burly henchman with no dialogue, the main villain who wants to blow up the world (and it doesn’t really matter why he does).

All right, Mendes has made some effort to include something close to them, but he too often goes wide of the mark and, instead of the two-dimensional characters that we are used to in a Bond film, characters who fulfil a role and help propel the film to its classic denouement with Bond and Girl 3 aboard a stranded boat in the middle of the sea (it is usually a stranded boat in the middle of the sea), Mendes and the writers give us a bevy of characters who actually develop and change over the course of the film. Our opinion of them changes and matures during the course of our time with them, and they end up as characters we actually care about.

What kind of a Bond film is that?

Take Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). He is surely meant to be the Admiral Godfrey character — the stuffy bureaucrat who stands in Bond’s way and who will get his red-faced comeuppance when Bond proves he can save the day just fine without any help from Whitehall, thank you very much. But Mallory, in relatively little screen time, subverts our expectations, makes us realise that he is not just some suit but a savvy war veteran with a compassionate heart and, I’d warrant, damnably clear grey eyes. When he takes his seat behind the mahogany desk at the end, it actually makes sense—we understand why he is there.

Or look at Severine (Berenice Marlohe). The sacrificial lamb character — Jill from Goldfinger, Aki from You Only Live Twice, Plenty from Diamonds Are Forever, Solange from Casino Royale — who is supposed to turn up, shag Bond, and pay the piper so that we the audience know how very naughty the villain is, that he would engineer the death of even his beautiful concubine if she stood between him and his villainous scheme.

But Severine, in her brief scenes, reflects an inner torment and depth of character that makes us understand why she behaves the way she does. Of course, Severine meets the end that her type always do, and perhaps it was not warranted here, given Bond’s promise to her to save her—but remember that our man Bond is a cold bastard and that what he does is get the job done, regardless of the price.

And then there’s good old Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), whom we first meet, not behind her desk á la Maxwell, Bliss or (Samantha) Bond, but out in the field being efficient and lethal, wielding guns and driving cars as if women can somehow be Bond’s equal in this universe.

They even call her Eve to pull the wool most cruelly over the audience’s eyes. When she finally takes her expected place in our little jigsaw in the final scene, I suppose we do now know why she’s there, why she prefers to work behind the scenes rather than in front of them, and why she and Bond have the flirtatious relationship that we know they do. By the final scene, all our players are in their appropriate positions, the green light above the oak door flickers on and we know we are back in familiar 007 territory. But it takes a hell of a time to get there.

And what kind of a Bond film is that?

As noted, M’s Judi Dench screen time is greatly increased in Skyfall over previous iterations (even more so than in The World is not Enough), so that her role becomes more than just the exposition that viewers expect. She certainly holds the leading female role over Eve or Severine. So instead of Bond and his lady sharing body warmth in a remote chalet in front of a roaring fire, we find Bond and M skulking in a dusty Scottish manor with the threat of doom hanging over their heads. There is little romance in this film.

What’s all that about, Mendes? Bond is shown to respect and perhaps even (after a fashion) love his boss, and we are shown how this urge to protect her leads him to risk everything in an almost hopeless gambit of luring his enemy to him.

Ah yes, the enemy. Silva (Javier Bardem) is certainly camp enough for a classic Bond villain, but again he almost ruins the Bondness of the film by making us sympathise with his point of view.

Silva is indeed Bond from a parallel universe, a Bond that might have been, an agent gone wrong through the fault of others. His deformity — he has been hideously scarred by hydrogen cyanide which he administered himself — makes him appropriately vile for the rogue’s gallery, but rather than monopolising on this deformity, Mendes and the writers don’t use it as the sole character prop for the villain, which is what one might often expect.

Instead, we are allowed to focus on what makes this man tick, and are given the chance to consider why he would do the things he does. Mr. Silva is truly a criminal genius. He almost makes succeeds in making Bond look foolish: he is ahead of him almost throughout the film, revealing that Bond too can fail. Do we want a James Bond who can fail? Bond in Skyfall’s latter half is frantic, desperately trying to stop a dozen threats happening at once, and the coolness and calmness that we expect of the world’s greatest secret agent is hardly there. He even needs help from Mallory and Moneypenny in shooting baddies during an attempt on M’s life!

A fleshed-out villain? A genuine relationship between 007 and M? A Bond whom we think might actually not succeed this time?

What kind of a Bond film is this? It is a long time since we have seen a James Bond film that subverts the expectations of what one presumes a James Bond film should be. Really, only in a film like From Russia with Love do we see a movie where Mr. Bond can be his own character and where we cannot predict where the next scene or sequence will take us. Of course, that film was made before the template was truly set out. That 1963 film was made before the expectations of what makes a Bond film were seared onto an international consciousness, before the scriptwriters felt shackled by convention.

Hundreds of wannabe 007s have splayed over cinema screens since Bob Simmons (doubling for Sean Connery’s Bond) first turned and fired into a bleeding gunbarrel in 1962. Some of the wannabes even outbonded Bond, and perhaps, in doing so, the template that Eon constructed has become stale, the expectations of audiences have been being met rather than shaken and stirred, the endless repetitions satisfactory only in a clinical, functional way.

Perhaps it really was time to take Bond out of Bond, and make, not a Bond film, but a film with James Bond in it. Start at the core, trim the excess.

Ian Fleming gave the world a character and the world played around with it. Strip away the expensive suits, the ludicrous cocktails, the funny gadgets and the wisecracks, and you can then start afresh. You can start from the beginning with James Bond and remake his world.

“Into the past,” Bond says to M, and, as they leave behind them the trappings of the 21st Century world and head north for the misty fells of Bond’s homeland. So too the filmmakers can leave behind the gilt-edged excesses of 50 years and wipe the slate clean. Build a new template by challenging the old one. Maybe if you did that you would end up with a film like Skyfall.

So, yes, I would call Skyfall the worst of all the Bond films.

But, on the other hand, would I call it the best film in the canon?

Yes, I would. With pleasure. GRADE: A+

(C) 2013, Peredur Glyn Davies

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?

Skyfall’s Oscar campaign and its quirks

Daniel Craig, among those being suggested for consideration in Skyfall Oscar ads.

Skyfall’s Oscar campaign puts forth Daniel Craig “for your consideration” to Oscar voters.


Sony Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer definitely are pressing to secure Oscar nominations for Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond movie. The studios are buying ads on entertainment news sites such as Deadline Hollywood, with rotating banner ads listing possible Oscar-worthy performers and crew “for your consideration.”

Perhaps the most detailed list in the Skyfall Oscar campaign is a list of suggested nominees on THE FILM’S OFFICIAL WEB SITE. It urges that Skyfall be considered for:

Best Picture (Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli; producers receive the Best Picture Oscar)

Best Director (Sam Mendes)

Best Adapted Screenplay (emphasis added, which we’ll discuss in a moment, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan)

Best Actor (Daniel Craig); Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Albert Finney); Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench, Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris)

Various crew categories including cinematography (Roger Deakins), editing (Stuart Baird), original score (Thomas Newman) and song (Adele and Paul Epworth).

A few questions:

Adapted screenplay? Adapted from what? The on-screen credit reads, “Written by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and John Logan.” Generally, you use “written by” for an original screenplay, i.e. one not based on an existing novel, play, short story, etc.

It’s pretty well known that the writing crew took parts of Ian Fleming’s You Only Live Twice and The Man With the Golden Gun novels as a starting point, in particular Twice’s Chapter 21, an obituary of Bond written by M. But the movie’s credits don’t acknowledge this. It’s “Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007” in the main titles, but there’s no mention of other Fleming source material, unlike 2006’s Casino Royale, which mentioned Fleming twice, including the Casino Royale novel.

In the “old days,” the titles said “Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love,” or Goldfinger, Thunderball, etc. which implied it was based on a Fleming story. That was true even when chunks were thrown out, such as 1967’s You Only Live Twice or 1979’s Moonraker. This would be followed by a “Screenplay by” credit, which often implies adapting other source material.

“Screenplay by” can also be used for an original story that has been rewritten substantially such as “Screenplay by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Bruce Feirstein, Story by Neal Purvis & Robert Wade,” as in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough. Purvis and Wade did the original screenplay, with Feirstein doing the final rewrite. (Dana Stevens also did drafts in-between but didn’t get a credit.)

Something similar happened with Skyfall: Purvis and Wade wrote the early drafts, then Logan was brought in to rewrite. But Skyfall’s writing credit is relatively streamlined compared with TWINE’s.

UPDATE: We went to the Web site of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the SPECIAL RULES FOR THE WRITING AWARDS but that wasn’t much help. It reads:

1.An award shall be given for the best achievement in each of two categories:

Adapted Screenplay

Original Screenplay

2.A Reminder List of all pictures eligible in each category shall be made available along with nominations ballots to all members of the Writers Branch, who shall vote in the order of their preference for not more than five productions in each category.
3.The five productions in each category receiving the highest number of votes shall become the nominations for final voting for the Writing awards.
4.Final voting for the Writing awards shall be restricted to active and life Academy members.

One possibility: even though Skyfall has an original story, the character of James Bond is adapted from another medium, so therefore Skyfall’s script is considered “adapted” by the academy.

UPDATE II: The writer’s branch of the academy is also known for being prickly about what’s eligible for an original screenplay award, sometimes ruling what seem like original scripts are adapted. CLICK HERE to view a story in The Wrap Web site about a 2010 example.

Berenice Marlohe or Berenice Lim Marlohe? The Oscar push again highlights the oddity of how the actress was billed one way in ads and another in the movie’s titles.

One editor or two? As we’ve noted before, Stuart Baird was listed as sole editor in Skyfall ads, but in the main titles it listed Baird and Kate Baird as editors, with Kate Baird’s name in smaller letters. Also (which we only caught on a subsequent viewing), Kate Baird is also listed as first assistant editor in the end titles.