Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Skyfall (2012) | Bond

Actors and Allies

Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) accuses M of being sentimental about Bond at one point. He's not wrong. We've seen this over and over again in all three of the Craig movies so far. And as becomes clearer in Skyfall, M has a habit of becoming deeply connected to certain agents. It happened with Silva and it's happened again with Bond.

And, also like Silva, she's willing to sacrifice Bond for the greater good. It reminds me of her comment to Brosnan's Bond in GoldenEye about having the balls to send him to his death. She totally does and she proves it in Skyfall's cold open. That shakes Bond. His apparent death shakes M, but her willingness to toss him aside for a mission really affects him.

The first time we see Bond after Eve shoots him, he's in the tropics. He's deeply indulging his hedonistic impulses, but none of it is satisfying him. He's distracted and aimless. He can't leave his job in the past. So as soon as he hears about the MI6 bombing, he's back on a plane and headed home. And the first place he shows up is M's house. It's reminiscent of Casino Royale. He's falling back into old, inappropriate habits, because he's not sure where he stands anymore. He accuses her of distrusting him on the train and though she defends it, he's right.

She knows it, too. That's why she puts him back on duty when he's not ready. Silva spins it as a reason for Bond to distrust M, but that's not it. She's trying to prove - to herself as much as to Bond - that she does trust him. That's what her last words are about. Whatever else they've been through together, she trusts Bond.

It's just that trust is fickle. It's not something that's earned and never questioned again. Our trust in each other depends on a lot of different factors, many of which have nothing to do with the trustworthiness of the person in question. Because M had failed to trust Bond, he now has reason to doubt her. Which is why she confesses to him her history with Silva. Trust is such a tricky, fragile thing and it's cool to see it handled that way in these movies. (Though, having said that, I'm totally ready to move on to a new theme.)

Speaking of new, I like Bond's relationships with his new colleagues. This is the first Craig movie to show him interacting with anyone else at MI6 besides M. And though he and Q argue when they first meet, they're smiling by the end of the scene. His relationship with Moneypenny is also cordial and light. I mean, of course he likes her, but he's remarkably patient with her and I don't get the sense that it's just because he wants to sleep with her. They seem like friends. Hard to imagine the Bond of Casino Royale treating her that way.

One final ally to mention is Kincade, the gamekeeper on the Skyfall estate. It's obvious to me that the screenwriters at least hoped that Sean Connery might come back to play him. He's not needed for the plot, so putting an elderly Scot character in the 50th anniversary movie is totally a stunt. The screenplay hasn't been released, so I don't know for sure, but the way Kincade is introduced - a creak of the floorboards, then we see his rifle, and finally his face - it looks like it's building to a reveal that Albert Finney doesn't pay off. It feels like there's supposed to be something bigger going on there. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed. I agree with Sam Mendes' assessment that having Connery in the movie - while fun and cool - would have also been a little sad and a lot distracting.

Best Quip

"What makes you think this is my first time?"

Worst Quip

"Put it all on red. It's the circle of life." Honestly, I don't know what's going on here. It sounds like a Lion King joke, but the reference to roulette right before makes me wonder if that's the circle Bond's talking about. But how is that the circle of life? No idea. Don't like it.


Since we have a Q again, we also finally have some gadgets, though they're relatively low tech. The fanciest is a Walther PPK/S with a palm-print reader so that only Bond can fire it. Besides that, there's just a radio transmitted tracking device.

Of course, the Aston Martin DB5 does show up again and it's tricked out with (at least) an ejector seat and machine guns like the one in Goldfinger.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Iceberg boat (A View to a Kill)
5. The Q Boat (The World Is Not Enough)
6. Aston Martin V8 Vantage (The Living Daylights)
7. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
8. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
9. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
10. X-Ray Specs (The World Is Not Enough)


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

I've heard that Connery was supposed to have a cameo in Die Another Day as well. Supposedly this would confirm the long running fan theory that James Bond is a code name passed from agent to agent.

That's a neat idea but Skyfall pretty much torpedoes any plan there was to make that canon and I think that may have been for the best. The last thing you want to do after Craig has built up so much of this portrayal is to undermine the legitimacy of his character.

Michael May said...

Yours is a much better reason for not wanting to see that fan theory made canon.

I've always argued that the theory doesn't work, but I've just this second figured out how it does. It involves a stunning coincidence that Lazenby and Moore both married women with the same name who died under similar circumstances, but that coincidence is better than the memory implant theory I was working on.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Skyfall seems to put Bond continuity into checkmate. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are firmly established as being at the start of Bond's career and yet Skyfall's mention of age and the reappearance of the Goldfinger Aston Martin makes it seem like this bond carries some history of the other actors. But it seems the studios aren't ready to confirm any fan theories and used the gravestone at the end to spell it out that this guy is the only and definitive James Bond.

Michael May said...

I forgot about the gravestone. Yeah, there's no theory that makes it all work. That's a fool's game.

Monc said...

When I watched "Skyfall," I was reminded of the discussion everyone eventually has with their significant other: if one of us dies, we want the other one to move on with their life, to meet someone else and be happy. "Skyfall" is when this happens to James Bond, and he learns he is actually not cool with that arrangement after all... and this is part of what unhinged Silva, too. We hate the idea that our significant one will eventually have a new favorite.

I think Bond wants to be special, to know that people will grieve when he is gone. It seems to me that the core of "Skyfall" is learning that we can grieve, we can mourn, but then you have to step aside and let someone else fill the void.

Michael May said...

That's a fascinating reading of it. I agree that Bond is upset at the beginning because he feels disposable. Which could make for some complicated emotions when M is the one who dies and is replaced.


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