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Commentary

Expectations for Skyfall

“Skyfall,” or Bond 23, will be released this October in the UK, just a few weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of the release of 1962′s “Dr. No,” aka Bond 1. Bond has much to live up to, given the pressure from recent mainstream franchises like the Bourne and Batman films. And “Skyfall” almost didn’t happen because of financial troubles threatening studio MGM back in 2010.
The crack screenwriting team of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade — who cowrote the last five Bond films and transitioned from one Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to another (Daniel Craig) — are paired with Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (2000′s “Gladiator”). According to Craig, he approached director Sam Mendes at a party in New York and suggested he should direct the next Bond, which he has — bringing with him a varied directing background from “American Beauty” (1999) to “Jarhead” (2005) and “Away We Go” (2009).
This is Craig’s third turn as 007, and he’s successfully moulded James Bond into a modern man of action, moving the character away somewhat from the traditional suave international man of mystery of the Sean Connery or Roger Moore era.

The Plot

This is always the most closely guarded secret of a big film release, particularly for a franchise like Bond. Luckily, the trailers haven’t given too much away, so even the most diehard film fans can be kept guessing. Based on those trailers, though, the rumour mills have been churning out some pretty heavy doom and gloom plot threads. From the general atmosphere, it seems as though both Bond’s loyalties are being tested and MI6 is under attack. One poster for “Skyfall” features an upside down Big Ben. Things seem to be coming apart at the seams, what with Bond drinking heavily in a seedy bar after being shot, M (Judi Dench) lurking behind flag-draped coffins and even part of the MI6 HQ blown up. M herself is a big part of the overriding plot in “Skyfall.” According to Bond’s new nemesis (see below for details), she’s been “a very bad girl” and mentions to Bond about how there were only two of them left. M is also seen getting a telling off from Chief of Intelligence Mallory (Ralph Fiennes, of 2002′s “Red Dragon”) for losing a list of agents’ names; hello, NOC list storyline of 1996′s “Mission: Impossible.”

The Villain

Considering things are coming apart for Bond and MI6, it is probably fitting that his new nemesis could possibly be a former agent, one that has worked side by side with Bond. In the trailer, note the set up of the point of view shot from where Bond is sitting, tied to a chair at one end of a long room. At the other is an elevator which dramatically opens, revealing a blonde Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva. No doubt he plays a pivotal role in the “Skyfall” plot; his background and reasons for his villainous activity are a closely guarded secret. There is a sinister atmosphere surrounding Silva; perhaps Bardem will be channelling some Anton Chigurh, his frightening character from “No Country For Old Men” (2007).

The Girls

We know of two girls in the new Bond film. Bérénice Marlohe’s glamorous Sévérene is the typical Bond girl — an alluring, seductive and dangerous femme fatale thanks to the fact that Silva is her boss. In the trailer, however, she pleads a warning to Bond about him, prompting the idea she might be playing for both sides or has perhaps already fallen for Bond’s charms. Things have never boded well for her character type in the past, as they frequently meet sticky ends. Naomie Harris’ character, the highly trained and capable field agent Eve, plays a much more pivotal role. In one scene in Turkey, she and Bond are working side by side, something rare for him as he usually works alone, when something about their mission goes wrong. She’s also commanded by M to “take the bloody shot,” but at whom? She’s aiming at Bond and the man he’s fighting on top of a moving train. As a possible match for Bond, her character will definitely move the plot forward in “Skyfall” and Harris’s varied film bio will come in handy, having starred in two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and played Ian Dury’s lover in 2010′s “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.”

The Gadgets

With new gadgets, or at least updated ones, comes a new Q to design them and present them to Bond. For the first time in Bond’s extensive history, Q is a young man (even younger than Bond) and played by up-and-coming Brit actor Ben Whishaw. He’s been building experience on the stage in roles like “Hamlet,” but his most notable film role was the lead in Tom Tykwer’s dark and seedy 2006 thriller ”Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.” The character was last seen in “Die Another Day” (2002), played by John Cleese (1997′s “Fierce Creatures”), who was R then became Q during the course of the film. Bond’s new Walther PPK/S is now equipped with owner recognition via palm print (that’s surely going to feature somewhere), much like the guns used by the Judges in “Dredd.” The Aston Martin DB5 is back and no doubt laden with hidden gadgets, both offensive and defensive. Hopefully, with the return of Q and his R&D division, the technology won’t get too futuristic, and perhaps there’ll be some good, old-fashioned quick wit from Q himself.

 

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