Monday, September 28, 2015

Skyfall (2012) | Story



Plot Summary

Later in Bond's career, trust issues again arise with M when an agent from her past predicts a tragic end to Bond's future.

Influences

After the close connection between Casino Royale and Quantum of SolaceSkyfall was surprisingly unrelated to those films. There's some thematic carryover with continuing trust issues, but the Quantum organization makes no appearance, nor do any other plot threads from those two movies.

Skyfall was released on the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, though, and draws most of its inspiration from the overall series. Like Die Another Day (the 40th anniversary film), there are a lot of things in Skyfall that possibly reference earlier movies. Some - like the Aston Martin DB5 - are very clear, but others are less certain. When Q jokes about not giving Bond an exploding pen, is that just an allusion to outlandish gadgets in general, or is it a specific reference to GoldenEye? What about Bond's hopping on a Komodo dragon's back to escape a pit? Convenient step-stool or purposeful quotation of Live and Let Die?

Moment That's Most Like Fleming



Bond's being an orphan from Scotland is right out of Fleming (although Fleming didn't make Bond from Scotland until after Sean Connery had played him). Other than that though, Skyfall isn't a very Fleming-like movie. In fact, its goal is to move the Daniel Craig movies away from Fleming and back towards Eon Productions.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming



Sometimes I've used this section to talk about negative aspects of the movie. "Ugh! Fleming never would have done that!" An example from Skyfall would be Bond's digging out some bullet shrapnel that's so unique It Could Only Have Been Used By One Person. It's a tired trope and Daniel Craig's Bond deserves better.

But there's often nothing wrong with a movie's being un-Fleming. They're their own thing and that's good. I was super excited when the end of Skyfall promised a return to the traditional movie Bond in the next one. As much as I've enjoyed the Craig movies, I'm also eager for the nostalgia of returning to the "old ways."

That's another big theme in Skyfall and it's not especially Fleming-esque. The literary Bond never struggled with whether or not he needed to keep up with the times. He always knew that one day his time would be up and that he'd become irrelevant. If that happened before he died, he'd simply be put out to pasture like so many agents before him. In contrast, Skyfall not only has people questioning Bond's age and ability to do his job, but questioning MI6 itself and whether or not it's still relevant in the modern world.

I'm not totally on board the questioning of Bond, because there's too big a leap from the starter spy of Casino/Quantum to the aging agent of Skyfall. But I do like the commentary on the whole concept of a spy organization and M's defense of it. It's not the most interesting theme of the movie to me - that would be the wrap-up to the Bond/M relationship and their trust issues - but I'm glad it's in there.

Cold Open



This is a good one because not only is it action packed with some excellent stunts, but it also sets up the major relationship for the rest of the movie to resolve. Bond shows up at a murder scene, looking for a hard drive and with M in his ear via microphone. It's weird for her to be there and I don't like it. I'm used to Bond having autonomy on his missions. But that's the point. This isn't some kind of new status quo for missions; M is just super invested in this one. She's pushing Bond to move on and try to recover the hard drive, even resenting the time he takes to stabilize a critically wounded agent. Her impatience becomes even more of a problem very shortly.

Back in the street, Bond's picked up by a girl in a car (shades of Quantum of Solace, where Camille did the same thing after a similar scene in a hotel room). We'll call her Eve for now, though her name isn't mentioned until the end of the movie when we learn that her last name is Moneypenny. The car chase turns into a motorcycle chase with M's still screaming to both Bond and Eve about the importance of recovering the drive and the list that's on it. (I'm tempted to be uncharitable about the NOC list plot's already being used in the first Mission: Impossible movie, but it's more than just a MacGuffin in Skyfall, so I'm cutting the script some slack.)

The pursuit moves to a train with Eve still pursuing in her car. Naomi Harris is doing great work as Eve, showing that she's frightened and clearly out of her depth, but absolutely determined to succeed. M's constant demands for reports are getting really annoying at this point, but there's still a reason for this. As the fight continues, M quits talking to Bond, partly because he's fighting, but mostly because the film is increasingly putting us in Eve's point of view. She's the one whom M is pressuring to keep up, so that when we get to the climax of the cold open, the success or failure of the mission really seems to be up to Eve.

If we step back from it though, of course that's ridiculous. That's Bond on the train. He's going to beat that enemy agent and take back the list. The fact that he and the bad guy are about to disappear into a tunnel has nothing to do with it. The only thing the tunnel affects is Eve's involvement in the chase and M's control over the situation.

And that's the big problem. M orders Eve to "take the bloody shot." It's not really that she trusts Eve over Bond; it's that she only trusts herself and her own ability to manage the mission from London. When Eve hits Bond by mistake, M loses the list because she didn't trust Bond to get it back.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. GoldenEye
2. Casino Royale
3. The Spy Who Loved Me
4. Moonraker
5. Thunderball
6. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
7. A View to a Kill
8. Goldfinger
9. The Man with the Golden Gun
10. The Living Daylights

Movie Series Continuity



Like I said above, a lot of time seems to have passed since Quantum of Solace. Bond is considered a veteran now and is perhaps aging out of his job. M says he's been playing the game "long enough" to know the rules. And then there's the tricked-out Aston Martin. Is that something that Bond received on a previous mission like Goldfinger? Or is it supposed to be the same vehicle he won in Casino Royale? If it's the one from Casino, he's moved the steering wheel to the right-hand seat. M doesn't seem surprised to see it, so it's another element that implies a great passage of time.

M was established in previous films to be married with kids, but mentions that her husband has passed away some time before Skyfall. We also learn of course that she was stationed in Hong Kong at some point before receiving her current assignment.

[UPDATE: I questioned in another post if this M is supposed to be the same woman as the one who gave Brosnan's Bond his orders. I think Skyfall makes it pretty clear that she's not. Silva tells Bond that he was stationed in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1997. And M confesses that she turned Silva over to the Chinese government as she was transitioning out of Hong Kong, so she had to have been there in '97 as well. That means that if Craig's M lived in Brosnan's world, she would have been stationed in Hong Kong at least during the events of Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and probably of GoldenEye (1995) as well. There's no way Judi Dench is playing the exact same character in both the Brosnan and Craig eras.]

As a result of the bombing, MI6 decides that its headquarters are too public and moves to a less conspicuous location. First they go into bunkers that Churchill used in World War II, but by the end they seem to have moved again. The new M's office is above ground, at least.

Tanner is back, still played by Rory Kinnear. He mentions Q-Branch early in the movie, setting up the appearance of the new Q. Ben Whishaw's version has a different relationship with Bond than previous versions, but there's still a nod toward the old conflict when he tells Bond, "Good luck out there in the field. And please return the equipment in one piece."

Bond tells Eve at one point not to touch her ear when she's talking into her microphone. That's a pet peeve of his as revealed in Casino Royale.

And speaking of Eve Moneypenny, I couldn't help noticing that there's a hat rack in her office at the end. There's no hat toss, but she does call attention to it by hanging her coat there. Keeping my fingers crossed for SPECTRE.
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