Friday, August 9, 2013

50 Years of 007 - Skyfall

Cody thinks the 50th anniversary film was worth the wait.

Around the time of Quantum of Solace's release in 2008, Bond series producer Michael G. Wilson said in interviews that fans could probably expect a bit of a longer wait before the next film came out. Instead of the traditional two year gap, they were looking to give everyone involved a little extra downtime and go for three years between films, like there was between the third and fourth entries in the Pierce Brosnan era, 1999's The World Is Not Enough and 2002's Die Another Day. Due to unforeseen problems, the wait ended up being a year longer than Wilson intended, and there were times when articles in the media suggested that the Bond series may have finally died.

Things were on track for a 2011 release for the twenty-third film in the series. In June 2009, it was announced that TWINE-DAD-Casino Royale '06-QoS writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade would share the scripting duties with Peter Morgan. Like Purvis and Wade's CR and QoS co-writer Paul Haggis, Morgan was an Academy Award nominated screenwriter, his nominations coming for The Queen and Frost/Nixon. It was only a few days into 2010 when word came that Sam Mendes was in talks to direct Bond 23. A high-profile director who had gotten his start directing stage plays, Mendes had made some great films, and had even won the Best Director Oscar for his feature debut American Beauty (which also won Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, and Best Picture), but he was an unexpected choice because nothing he had made before pointed toward Bond. That was worrying to some, but to me the quality he had brought to his films made him a very intriguing choice.

His 007 involvement came as a surprise to Mendes as well, and it first came up as a spur-of-the-moment question from James Bond himself Daniel Craig over drinks at a party. They were previously acquainted, Craig was in Mendes's second movie, 2002's Road to Perdition (my personal favorite of the pre-Bond Mendes filmography), so when the question of who was in the running to direct Bond 23 came up, Craig asked Mendes, "Why don't you do it?" Mendes had long been interested in doing something bigger in scope than his previous works, something people wouldn't expect from him. Along those lines, he had been working on an adaptation of the Garth Ennis comic book Preacher, but that project had fallen apart. Mendes was a longtime Bond fan, this was something big and different for him. Could be perfect. After a meeting with producers Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, he became officially attached to Bond 23.

Some news articles jumped the gun and predicted that the film could start shooting in the summer of 2010, but there was trouble brewing. The studio 007 calls home, MGM, was facing bankruptcy, there were possibilities that the company could be sold, merged, or auctioned off piece-by-piece. The situation was so shaky that Mendes was at first signed on not as director but as consultant, because if he was hired as director it would've triggered a first payment.

In April of 2010, Wilson and Broccoli announced that development had been indefinitely suspended on Bond 23 "due to the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of MGM". As the MGM situation dragged on, with forbearance deadlines passing and bids being rejected, Bond fans had flashbacks to the early '90s, comparing the two film Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig eras and the MGM bankruptcy to the legal issues that bogged the series down and caused a six year gap between Licence to Kill and GoldenEye.

In the end, MGM went through a Chapter 11 reorganization plan and emerged from bankruptcy on December 20, 2010. On January 11, 2011 came the announcement that Bond 23 was set for release on November 9, 2012, with Sam Mendes directing. Mendes could've walked away from the project during the downtime, projects like The Hunger Games and Oz the Great and Powerful had been floated his way, but he had decided to stick it out with Bond. The shutdown had lasted for around nine months and delayed the movie's release by a year, but things weren't completely at a standstill during the period of "development suspension". Mendes and the writers had continued working on the script throughout those nine months. Peter Morgan had only done some work on a treatment and left the project when the shutdown happened, so in his place Purvis and Wade were joined by John Logan, who received Academy Award nominations for Gladiator, The Aviator, and Hugo.

The crew Mendes assembled included both Bond veterans and some new blood. For his second unit director and editor, Mendes brought back Casino Royale's Alexander Witt and Stuart Baird, along with his assistant editor Kate Baird. Composer Thomas Newman had worked on all but one of Mendes's previous films, so he was brought on to do the music rather than David Arnold, who had done the music for every Bond film since 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. Most exciting to me was the hiring of one of the best cinematographers working today, regular Coen brothers collaborator and the director of photography on two of Mendes's movies, Roger Deakins. It was Deakins who made the call that gave Skyfall the honor of becoming the first Bond entry to be shot in digital HD rather than on film.

After a variation on the traditional gun barrel opening shot had been moved to the head of the title sequence on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace had ended with the gun barrel, Mendes always intended to put the gun barrel back at the beginning for his film. But then he found that it didn't work right when put back-to-back with the opening shot of the film proper, which shows a shadowy, out-of-focus figure walking down a hallway toward the camera. The person comes into focus as he steps into a shaft of light that shines across his face. It's James Bond. He lifts a gun into frame and continues on down the hall. This "walk and pull a gun" action felt repetitive when it was paired with the gun barrel opening, so the gun barrel was again moved out of place.

We've caught up with Bond in the middle of a mission in Istanbul, Turkey, although M and her Chief of Staff Bill Tanner (Judi Dench and Rory Kinnear reprising their roles) are monitoring his every move from MI6 Headquarters in London and M is in direct contact with Bond, conversing with him through an earpiece. The fact that M can be watching over Bond in such a way can be disconcerting if you imagine that this might become a fixture of the series, but it's a very important element of the following sequence.

Bond discovers that several fellow MI6 agents have been killed by someone who has removed the hard drive from a laptop that was in their possession. One agent, a man named Ronson, is still alive, but gravely wounded. Bond attempts to help him stop the bleeding from his gunshot wound, but M orders him to move on, retrieving the hard drive is more important than helping Ronson. Bond reluctantly continues on his mission, knowing that the medical evacuation squad he's told will reach Ronson in five minutes will be "too bloody late".

With the help of a female field agent named Eve (Naomie Harris, who I was glad to see become a Bond girl because she was awesome in 28 Days Later), Bond begins his pursuit of the killer and hard drive thief, who is a man we'll come to know is named Patrice (played by Ola Rapace), and Sam Mendes begins to prove to his naysayers that he can indeed handle action.

The pursuit begins with a car chase. Not a very exciting one in my eyes, the cars seem to be moving a bit slow for this sort of thing, but the streets are tight and there are pedestrians around. In any case, it proves that Mendes is not going to take the Quantum of Solace route of crazy amounts of angles and rapid fire editing. Instead, he chose to have the action shot in a very "classical style", usually covered with just one or two cameras that had been locked off to be as still as possible. There's very little handheld, the opposite from the way most action movies are shot these days.

The car chase portion ends with a crash into a outdoor market, at which there's a brief shootout before Patrice and Bond both manage to steal motorcycles and head off across the city, Eve doing her best to follow their progress in her Land Rover.

During pre-production, there were rumors that the ensuing chase was going to be filmed in China and they'd be using an action sequence that was originally planned for Licence to Kill which had Bond in a motorcycle chase along the Great Wall of China. Obviously that didn't happen, instead we get a motorcycle chase along the rooftops of Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. A rather impressive replacement.

Eventually, Patrice ditches his motorcycle in favor of jumping onto the roof of a train passing below a roadway. Needing to get some extra distance to ensure that he'll reach the train himself, Bond displays some of the reckless insanity that Craig's version of the character pulls off so well and speeds straight into the wall of the bridge, launching himself and his flipping motorcycle through the air... It's rough, but he makes his landing.

As the pursuit takes Bond out of M's surveillance range, Eve, also talking to M through an earpiece, drives alongside the train and has trouble describing to her boss what's going on with Bond. Things become especially hard to describe when Patrice uncouples the section of the train Bond is on from the rest of the train. Refusing to be left behind, Bond uses a piece of machinery that's part of the load the train is hauling - an excavator - and slams its digger bucket into the roof of the nearest carriage. While Bond operates the excavator, Patrice sprays it with bullets from his gun until it clicks empty and he has to toss it aside. Fragments from one of the bullets hit Bond in the right shoulder.

As the excavator's bucket gradually tears along the train carriage's roof, Bond runs up the boom and jumps into the carriage through the hole in the roof just as the bucket rips the back wall off and is left behind on the tracks. Standing straight from his landing, Bond checks the cuff of his jacket - a purely Bondian moment that is reminiscent of Pierce Brosnan straightening his tie during action scenes in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough.

The train rolls on into the Turkish countryside, and as it nears a bridge Eve stops her car on a higher vantage point and gets into a sniper position. Looking through her rifle scope at Bond and the bad guy as they continue to fight, it's nearly impossible for her to get a clear shot at the right target. The train will pass into a tunnel after it crosses the bridge, at which point Eve will lose Bond and the man they're after. She reports to M that she doesn't have a clear shot, she's aiming at Bond. But this hard drive is very important. If there's even a slight chance that Eve's bullet might hit the right man, she has to take it. Bond overhears as M orders Eve, "Take the bloody shot!" And she does.

And her bullet hits Bond. Even though this moment was spoiled in the trailers and TV spots, many people in the audiences I saw the movie with during its theatrical run were still audibly shocked by the sight of Bond getting shot, the impact knocking him off the roof of the train, over the side of the bridge, sending him plummeting hundreds of feet (it would be around a 322 foot drop from the bridge this was filmed on, the Varda Viaduct) into a river below.

The train enters the tunnel. The villain gets away with the hard drive. Eve is shocked by what has just happened. She has to report the disturbing news to M and Tanner: "Agent down."

Bond's body is swept along by the current, taken over a waterfall. He appears to be dead, and as he sinks into the depths, the second longest pre-title sequence in the series (TWINE's has it beat by a minute and a half) comes to its end and the title sequence begins.

Designed by Daniel Kleinmann, who joined the series with GoldenEye and has designed the title sequence for every Bond movie since then except for Quantum of Solace, this sequence is essentially Bond's experience of being near death, descending into the underworld and seeing images that are sort of a scrambled precognition of things that are going to happen in the rest of the film. Playing over all of this is the fantastic theme song performed by Adele.

When the title sequence ends, some time has passed for the characters but Bond remains missing, presumed dead. M writes his obituary himself, typed while sitting at her desk, which she has decorated with a British bulldog figurine.

There's a new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and M is called in for a meeting with the man, Gareth Mallory, played by Ralph Fiennes. During their meeting, we find out why the hard drive in the opening sequence was so important: on it is a list containing the identities of nearly every NATO agent embedded in terrorist organizations across the globe. A list that wasn't supposed to have existed. The hard drive has been missing for three months now, and the Prime Minister is worried. As a result of this situation, M is being forced out of her job. She's not being fired, the politicians don't want to use that word, Mallory is to oversee the transition period leading to M's "voluntary retirement" in two months. Understandably, she does not react well to this news. She does not feel that her job is done.

M and Tanner are being driven back to MI6 HQ when Tanner gets a call from Q Branch notifying him that someone is trying to decrypt the stolen hard drive. On a laptop, Tanner watches as the encryption signal is traced to the UK... London... the MI6 building, behind their firewall... M's personal computer. Then the laptop is hacked; a pop up plays a short video mocking M, then the image burns away, leaving only a text message on the screen: THINK ON YOUR SINS. A police roadblock stops the vehicle before it can reach MI6, an inconvenience that turns out to be a lifesaver, giving M a close-but-safe view of an explosion going off in the building and blowing her office apart.

Meanwhile, Bond proves to be alive but not all that well, hanging out in a small beachside community and shacking up with a woman who is played by Greek actress Tonia Sotiropoulou and credited as Bond's Lover. After having sex with his lover and drinking beer in bed, Bond - looking rough and sporting a couple days of stubble, he clearly hasn't been taken care of himself to his normal degree - pops some pain pills and heads out to a bar. There he spends the night getting plastered, playing a drinking game that involves keeping a scorpion on his hand while taking a shot as spectators bet on whether or not it will sting him.

Michael G. Wilson's son Gregg Wilson entered the family business as a development executive on Die Another Day, then worked his way up to assistant editor on Casino Royale and assistant producer on Quantum of Solace. His title on Skyfall is associate producer, and with this one he even makes a cameo, just like his father does in some capacity on every movie. Gregg Wilson is one of the people standing around Bond at the bar.

The next day, Bond sits in the bar alone, preparing to drink another day away, but his plans are interrupted when he notices a CNN news story on the bar TV. The MI6 building has been bombed, Wolf Blitzer reports. At least six dead, many more injured.

Back in London, M vows to find who was responsible for the bombing while she pays her respects beside eight flag-draped coffins. Michael G. Wilson makes his cameo in this scene, he can be glimpsed briefly through a doorway, standing in the background.

M is driven home that night in the pouring rain. There was rain earlier in the film, when she was notified that Eve had accidentally shot Bond, and the inclusion of this type of weather in Skyfall makes the Craig era three for three when it comes to having rain in the movies. Before Casino Royale, the only Bond film to have rain in it was On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The home M returns to is not the flat she was living in when we saw her home in Casino Royale, and probably not her home glimpsed in Quantum of Solace. The exterior of this home is in fact the building in which famed composer John Barry, who provided the music for most of the Bond movies up to The Living Daylights, used to live.

When M enters her home, much like in Casino Royale, she finds that Bond has broken in and is waiting for her. This time around he's just lurking in the shadows and downing more alcohol. She greets him by asking, "Where the hell have you been?", perhaps not entirely shocked that he was able to survive his ordeal. He replies, "Enjoying death," before making his return official, "007 reporting for duty."

Over the conversation that ensues, Bond makes it clear that he is not happy with M's "take the bloody shot" judgment call, but she firmly believes she made the right decision. If the shot had hit the right target, she would've stopped the lives of the agents whose names are listed on the hard drive from being endangered. The safety of the many outweighed the safety of Bond. Bond thinks she should've trusted him to finish the job, he suggests that she's lost her nerve, but she does not waver. Also confirmed: the med evac team did not reach Ronson in time to save him.

Despite his misgivings, Bond has returned to help M and MI6 because he knows they need him. "Well, I'm here."

Other comments made during their talk make it clear that Skyfall is set quite a while after the events of Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, which happened at the start of Bond's 00 career. Now, it's suggested that he might have been at the job for too long and posits that he and M are both played out. She tells him, "Speak for yourself." Mendes wanted Craig to be able to play his own age in this entry, which at the time of filming was 43 to 44, just one year shy of what Bond's creator Ian Fleming wrote was the mandatory retirement age for 00s. He's no longer a young beginner, he's now a seasoned pro. One could almost imagine that Craig's Bond has now lived through versions of the previous cinematic missions from Dr. No through Die Another Day. (Not that it's canon, but Craig's likeness was used for James Bond in the 007 Legends video game, in which he goes on versions of the Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, Licence to Kill, and Skyfall missions.)

Since Bond has been missing, presumed dead, for three months now, his flat has been sold (standard procedure for deceased agents with no next of kin), his possessions put into storage, and he'll have to pass physical and psychological examinations before being allowed back on active duty.

With "New Digs", one of Thomas Newman's standout pieces, playing on the soundtrack, Tanner leads Bond through brick underground tunnels, once part of Winston Churchill's wartime bunker, to the fallback MI6 headquarters. Tanner brings Bond up to date on the situation and everything he missed - he tells him about Mallory, that the hacking which set off the explosion at MI6 (caused by a remotely triggered gas leak) shouldn't have been possible and its source can't be traced. The hacker now has all of M's codes and will soon be able to decrypt the list of agents. Suspicion is that whoever is doing this is tied to M's past, perhaps when she was "running things" in Hong Kong.

Bond is put through his tests in the underground bunker, having to run on a treadmill, do sit-ups, do chin-ups, while his vitals are monitored and assessors supervise. Bond puts on a brave face when the others are around, but as soon as he's left alone in a room, he collapses to the floor, exhausted. It's a shocking moment to see Bond in such a weakened state brought on just from exercise. The next scene shows his test in a shooting range, and he doesn't fare much better with a gun; the shoulder he was wounded in by Patrice's bullet hurts, his hand shakes, his shots hit all over the target. Then, it's time for a psych evaluation from Doctor Hall, done in an interrogation room with M and Mallory watching through a two-way mirror. Hall begins by engaging Bond in some word association. Bond clearly thinks this is all utterly ridiculous.

Hall and Bond quickly go through exchanges like "Day" = "Wasted", "Heart" = "Target", and "M" = "Bitch", but when Hall puts forth the word "Skyfall", Bond is thrown off. Hall repeats the word, "Skyfall." Bond says "Done", gets up and walks out.

Still in pain from his wounded shoulder, Bond goes to a restroom area to take care of something that's bothering him. Using a mirror and a pocketknife, he performs a bit of self-surgery to remove the fragments of Patrice's bullet from his shoulder wound... It never is made quite clear in the film exactly where the wound from Eve's shot is on Bond's body, it's only the shoulder wound from Patrice that's still causing him problems. Bond takes the bullet fragments to Tanner to be analyzed, the results to be "for her eyes only".

The next day, an office worker notifies him that M is waiting to see him. This office worker is Eve, who has been temporarily suspended from field work for "killing 007". Bond has no hard feelings toward her, her shot only damaged "four ribs and some of the less vital organs", and she's apparently not upset that he allowed her and everyone else to spend three months thinking he was dead, so they engage in some flirtatious banter as she walks him toward M's new office. Eve intends to get back out in the field after she has assisted Mallory through the M transition, though Bond advises her that field work isn't for everyone.

The British bulldog that sat on M's office in the former MI6 HQ survived the explosion and now sits on her desk in her new, underground office, a fact which Bond pokes fun at. Bond and Mallory are introduced to each other for the first time, then M informs Bond that, although we saw him struggling through his tests and even walk out on his psych evaluation, he has passed the tests, just barely, and is back on active service. Despite this, Mallory expresses doubt that Bond is still capable of carrying out his duties - he's been seriously injured, he's not a young man anymore, if he's lost a step he should admit it before it's too late. Mallory even accuses M of reinstating him solely for sentimental reasons... but when it comes down to it, Mallory has no say in which agents M chooses for a job. Still, this exchange gives us the idea that Bond may have trouble with Mallory after M has been "retired".

Mallory exits with a parting warning for Bond - "Don't cock it up." - then Bond's mission gets underway. The shrapnel he dug out of his shoulder proved to be very helpful, as the bullet was a military grade depleted uranium shell. Expensive and hard to get, these bullets are only used by a select few. One of those few is Patrice, who Bond recognizes in an image on Tanner's computer. The name "Patrice" is the only information they have on this assassin-for-hire, he has no known residence or country of origin, but intel provided by MI6's remaining friends in the CIA (a sly reference to Felix Leiter?) is that he'll be in Shanghai in two days.

M tells Bond to go to Shanghai, wait for Patrice there, then find out who he works for, who has the hard drive, and then terminate him "for Ronson". Before Bond leaves for Shanghai, he's to meet with the "new Quartermaster", implying that Bond has history with previous Quartermasters, even though we didn't see Craig's Bond interact with any Qs in CR or QoS. Another line that could be used to argue that he has now lived through versions of the Connery through Brosnan films by the time of Skyfall. After Bond leaves her office, M admits to Tanner that Bond did not pass his tests.

Since the new Quartermaster doesn't have a workspace set up in "the new MI6" just yet, Bond goes to meet him at the National Gallery. Bond has taken a seat in front of JMW Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838" when a hipster-looking young man with a shaggy mop of hair sits down close beside him and starts talking about how the painting makes him feel melancholy, the image of the old warship being hauled away for scrap. "The inevitability of time". Thinking the young man is just an overly sociable random, Bond shrugs him off with the comment that all he sees in the painting is "a bloody big ship". Bond is about to get away from this guy when the youthful looking fellow informs him, "I'm your new Quartermaster." Bond replies with a line that calls back to the famous Bond-Q exchange in Goldfinger, "You must be joking."

The traditional, humorously antagonistic interaction between Bond and his Quartermaster is quickly re-established, with a fresh twist - this time around, they trade barbs about their respective ages and the competence or efficiency that may or may not come along with them, how long distance tech work can be more effective than field work these days, etc., though the Quartermaster does admit that "every now and then a trigger has to be pulled". This block of banter ends with Bond officially accepting the younger man (played by Ben Whishaw) as his new "Q". They shake hands, and then Q hands over the documents 007 will need to get into Shanghai. After that, he hands over a case containing a couple gadgets.

The gadgets in this film are very simple and down-to-earth: a Walther PPK that has been coded to Bond's palm print so only he can fire it, and a tiny radio transmitter that emits a distress signal when activated. Bond is not overly impressed, "Not exactly Christmas, is it?" Q quips, "Were you expecting an exploding pen?", a nod to a gadget used in GoldenEye... Suggesting Craig's Bond might have experience using an exploding pen. Might he have gone on a version of the GoldenEye mission between films? (Not that it's canon, but Craig's likeness was used for James Bond in an updated version of the GoldenEye video game.) With a request that Bond return his equipment in one piece, Q exits, and Bond heads off for Shanghai.

Roger Deakins' cinematography throughout the film is masterful and pure eye candy, but the section of Skyfall that's set in China in particular is absolutely gorgeous. This was largely achieved through the fact that the Chinese locations were faked - the main unit never went to China, Alexander Witt and his second unit crew only went there for a couple days to gather some authentic footage. Everything else was created on sets at Pinewood in England, where Mendes and Deakins had total control over how they could be presented on the screen.

The trickery begins with a stunning aerial shot of Shanghai at night, during which we find Bond continuing to try to get back in shape by swimming in a beautifully lit pool beneath a glass dome on the roof of a skyscraper. The city of Shanghai is visible through the glass walls around the room... but the city backdrop was put in digitally, this swimming pool is actually in London, if the real view hadn't been replaced with Shanghai we'd be seeing the River Thames outside one of the walls.

Post-swim, Bond is hanging out in a bar when he gets notified via cell phone that Patrice will soon be arriving at the city airport. Another great Thomas Newman track kicks in on the soundtrack as Bond - disguised as a chauffeur - waits for Patrice as he deboards, follows him out of the airport, then tails Patrice's cab as he's driven along the neon-lit highways of Shanghai.

Patrice is let out at a high-rise office building, which appears to have emptied out for the night... But there is a front desk security guard, who Bond witnesses Patrice kill with a silenced pistol. Bond follows the assassin into the building, passing the body of a second murdered security guard before catching sight of Patrice at a bank of elevators, where he boards one of the glass-doored lifts. Bond watches from a safe distance, then springs into action as the elevator begins to go up its open shaft. He uses the post with the call buttons on it to boost himself over the safety doors at the bottom of the shaft just in time to be able to grab onto a metal bar on the bottom of the elevator. Patrice is none the wiser that the lift has another rider, and Bond is taken a couple hundred feet up into the air while holding the bar... But his right arm is still not at full strength. This ride hurts. At one point, he has to let go of the bar with his right arm to shake it and then get a better grip, so for a moment he's dangling by one arm above certain death.

Bond pushes through and makes it to the end of the ride. Patrice gets off the elevator the intended way, then Bond has to climb up the shaft to slide open a door beside the one the elevator is stopped at.

On this floor is a large, empty office space made up of glass-walled cubicles. There are no lights on, the only illumination comes from the shifting images on a neon sign on the adjacent building. Patrice is at a window on the far side of the cubicles, preparing to shoot someone with a sniper rifle through a hole he cuts in the window, as Bond steadily approaches him. Because of the lighting situation, Patrice is unable to see Bond through the neon reflections on all the glass. It's a spectacular looking sequence.

Patrice's target is a man who's in a building across the way, sat in a chair with his back to the window. The man is being shown a painting by a couple thug types and a beautiful woman. In Dr. No, the titular villain had Francisco Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington in his lair, a painting that had really been stolen from the National Gallery the year before the film's release. Here, the painting being shown to Patrice's intended victim is Modigliani's Woman with a Fan, which was stolen from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2010. The man doesn't get to look at the stolen painting for very long before Patrice fires a shot into the back of his head.

After he has completed the hit, Patrice becomes aware of Bond's presence. With the backdrop of the neon sign across the way, the two men engage in a brutal fistfight in silhouette. Mendes figured that the audience had already seen enough of Bond and Patrice fighting in the pre-title sequence, so he had to make this rematch standout in a stylistic manner. And he did. Unfortunately for Bond, their fight ends with Patrice going out a broken window and falling to his death before Bond can get any answers out of him.

While recovering from what just happened, Bond gets a good look at the woman who was in the room with Patrice's target. Berenice Marlohe as Severine. There was a scene shot but deleted where we'd have seen Severine handing a suitcase to Patrice as they passed each other on escalators in the airport, but I think this moment works much better as our first introduction to her character. Bond and Severine stare at each other for a long beat, then the neon sign momentarily casts him in shadow, giving him the opportunity to disappear from her view.

Going through the items in Patrice's suitcase, mostly things he used in the assassination, Bond finds a chip from a casino in Macau. A good enough lead to send him on another leg of the mission.

Back in her London home, M is looking through pictures of her history in Hong Kong when a pop up with a similar design to the hacker messages seen before the MI6 explosion fills her screen. The pop up tells M to click a link to claim a prize, and when she clicks it she's taken to a video posted on YouTube. Titled "MI6 Agents", the video reveals the faces and real names of five MI6 agents currently undercover in terrorist organizations. The stolen hard drive has been decoded, the villain has all the information within. The video ends with a promise that the covers of five more agents will be blown each week. And then the line "THINK ON YOUR SINS" appears on the screen.

It isn't until after he has booked a very nice room at a fancy Macau establishment that Bond decides it's finally time to shave off the stubble he's been sporting for around 30 minutes of the movie, ever since he turned up alive and playing scorpion games. His shave is interrupted by a knock on the door, and he finds that Eve, who's looking quite lovely, has come to Macau to personally deliver the news about the decrypted hard drive and blown covers.

When Eve takes note of the fact that Bond uses an old fashioned cutthroat razor to shave with - "Sometimes the old ways are the best" - he offers her the chance to shave him. Putting his life in her hands again. As she does the shaving, Bond tries to find out why she's really there. M already briefed him on the hard drive and video. Eve's official directive was to help Bond in any way she can. He takes that to mean she's spying for Mallory. She tries to convince him that Mallory isn't as bad as he thinks, but Bond dismisses him as a bureaucrat, despite being fully aware of Mallory's history as a Lieutenant Colonel in the SAS who served in Northern Ireland and spent three months at the hands of the IRA.

Bond attempts to unbutton Eve's blouse, but she stops him so she can complete the shave. With one last swipe of the razor and a toweling off of the remaining shaving cream, the shave is finished. With Eve commenting that Bond now looks the part of "Old dog, new tricks", we cut away to the next scene... There is some ambiguity in the end of this scene, different viewers interpret it in different ways. Some believe that Bond and Eve sleep with each other in the time before the next scene begins. Some don't. According to Sam Mendes, Bond and Eve do not sleep with each other. That's how I always read it. When she stops him from unbuttoning her blouse, that's the shutdown of the seduction, and I always thought that as soon as the shave was finished, they'd have to be on their way to the next scene.

Said next scene finds Bond, freshly shaved and decked out in a tuxedo, arriving via boat at the gorgeously lit Floating Dragon Casino. After entering the building, visitors must cross a bridge over a pit containing a komodo dragon to get to the game room. Eve, wearing a glamorous dress, is already in the casino as Bond walks in. To bystanders, they won't appear to be together, but they're actually in constant contact through earpieces. The first time Eve says something to Bond from a distance, she puts a hand to the ear the communicator is in and Bond has to scold her, "Don't touch your ear." It's the same thing he had to tell his fellow agent Carter in an early scene of Casino Royale.

Bond and Eve continue their flirtatious banter as they walk around the casino in their own directions, casing the joint. Bond cashes in Patrice's chip, and in exchange he gets a handful of complimentary chips and a case containing four million euros. He also notices that Severine is in the casino and she gets notified when he cashes the chip.

Severine approaches Bond, and after a brief chat about the bold entrances and unexpected twists that came in Shanghai, they introduce themselves to each other - "Bond. James Bond." - and decide to talk more over drinks. As they head for the bar, Bond breaks communication with Eve and ditches his earpiece.

After a martini is shaken up for Bond, his chat with Severine can proceed. It begins with Severine confirming that Bond is the man she saw kill Patrice. What exactly was going on in Shanghai is never made clear within the film itself, but I've heard the explanation that was deleted was that the villain Severine works for makes some of his money by selling stolen paintings, then having buyers killed before they can take the paintings from his possession. When Severine asks Bond why he killed Patrice, he replies, "I want to meet your employer." That clearly unnerves Severine; her long, thin fingers shake slightly as she takes a drag off her long, thin cigarette. She exhales the smoke like a dragon lady, then tries to cut their conversation short. This is a talk she's too afraid to have... but Bond stops her from walking away. He has perfectly read the truth of her situation - the thugs that are always around her aren't bodyguards, they're there to keep her in check. The tattoo on her wrist means she spent her adolescence in the Macau sex trade, then perhaps her employer took her out of it. Perhaps she was once in love with him, long ago, but she's not anymore. He knows she's afraid of her employer, and she assures Bond that the man is beyond anything he has experience with. But as their talk goes on, Bond slowly manages to convince Severine that he just might be able to kill the man who's keeping her as his own, if she can take him to him. Berenice Marlohe delivers a fantastic performance in this scene, with the shaking fingers, shifty eyes, the way she sort of loses control of her mouth when she smiles, uncomfortable laughs, changes in her voice. It is clear that Severine is deathly afraid but trying to bury the fear as much as possible. Marlohe is a relatively tall woman, but with a frame so small she appears very delicate. It's easy to understand why Bond would feel compelled to help her out of a situation that's breaking her. She's definitely a "bird with a wing down", and Bond has always been drawn to such characters.

Severine agrees to take Bond to her employer and arranges to meet him on a boat called the Chimera in an hour. He only has to overcome one obstacle before then: when she leaves the casino, her guards intend to kill him. She leaves Bond with a good luck, then he turns to look at the thugs, raises his martini glass to them, and finishes his drink before going on his way.

The thugs attack Bond before he can even exit the casino, and the fight takes them over the edge of the walkway bridge and into the komodo dragon pit. As the fight continues, Bond is more concerned, to a humorous degree, about where the komodo dragon is than he is about the man who's attempting to beat him up. The coded Walther PPK is nearly put to use to shoot Bond, but it works as it's intended: it doesn't fire in the hands of anyone else. Bond was right to be worried about the komodo dragon, as it decides to attack his adversary and drag him off into the shadows of the pit. That's when another, previously unseen komodo dragon comes running from the other side of the pit, and in a moment reminiscent of Bond's escape from the alligator/crocodile farm in Live and Let Die, he steps on the dragon's back to boost himself back up onto the walkway. With all of the thugs either killed or incapacitated by himself, Eve, or the komodo dragons, Bond leaves the case of money behind with his fellow agent and confidently strides out of the casino.

Severine has a bottle of champagne waiting to be shared with Bond in her room aboard the Chimera, but when another of her handlers notifies her that it's time to cast off, Bond still hasn't arrived. Disappointed and surely assuming that Bond wasn't able to survive his encounter with her guards, Severine takes a shower as the Chimera sets off across the sea. During her shower, a naked Bond joins her... And I have to admit, it does make me slightly uncomfortable to see him see him sexually pursue this woman so quickly and in such a forward way, being sure that she'll gladly welcome his presence in her shower, after he was just talking about her youth spent in the sex trade. But she doesn't appear to mind.

Things aren't going nearly as well back in London. Three of the agents whose identities were exposed by the YouTube video have been killed, and the murder of one of them has become a huge news event because video of his execution by terrorists has leaked out and is being featured on the world news. This, of course, is causing a huge controversy in the UK about the capabilities of its intelligence services. The Prime Minister has ordered an inquiry into MI6 and M will have to appear at it to give her side of the story. M and Mallory disagree over how MI6 should operate in modern day, Mallory argues that they are accountable to the public and can't operate in the shadows anymore because there are no more shadows, everything's out in the open. M assures him that there are still shadows in their business, Bond is of the shadows, and whoever is attacking them is from the same place, because the mysterious villain is one of their own.

The last word spoken in the M/Mallory scene is "shadows", from which Mendes and his editors cut to the brightest shot in the entire film, a shot of the Chimera at sea in the morning, the sun reflecting off the water. It's a clever turnaround on expectations, you'd think the shot that comes after "shadows" would be a dark one.

The villain of the film has set up quite extravagant base for himself, even if he has let it fall into disrepair. He has taken control of an entire abandoned island. The island here is inspired by a real place, Japan's Hashima Island, which was a coal mining facility until being abandoned in 1974, leaving its concrete buildings standing empty for nearly forty years now. But while Hashima Island became a ghost island simply because the mining operation closed down, there's a more nefarious backstory to the island the Chimera is now approaching - with his hacking skills, the villain was able to convince the island's inhabitants that there was a leak at their chemical plant, forcing the entire place to be evacuated almost over night. "He wanted the island, so he took it."

The crew of the Chimera reveal themselves to also be Bond and Severine's captors as the boat reaches the island. The two are bound and walked at gunpoint through the island's rubble strewn streets between its crumbling buildings, then taken off in two different directions.

Bond is sat on a chair in a lobby of a building that has been filled with several computer servers, furnished only with some chairs at a couple tables with desktop monitors on them. As Bond waits and watches, an elevator descends into the lobby. The doors open, and 71 minutes into the film its villain is revealed. Javier Bardem as a man called Raoul Silva. Stepping off the elevator, Silva begins talking to Bond. His first lines: "Hello, James. Welcome. Do you like the island?" So begins a monologue that Silva delivers while walking across the lobby toward Bond, a story about a childhood visit to an island owned by his grandmother, during which they found that the island was infested with rats. So Silva learned from his grandmother how to clear an island of rats using a baited trap. This monologue is a great moment in Bond history, particularly for the way it's presented - it plays out in one continuous take, the camera staying back on Bond's side of the lobby as Silva approaches. As the perfectly timed monologue finishes nearly two minutes later, Silva has reached Bond and is now in closeup, featured in all his unnatural-looking blue-eyed, blonde-haired, false-teethed glory (looking unnatural because, of course, Bardem isn't really blue-eyed and blonde-haired). It's very memorable, so much so that I had this entire monologue memorized before the movie had even left theatres.

Bardem really chews up the scenery in this film as Silva, making his character at times so amusingly flamboyant that he's delightful to watch, but he's also got an intense darkness right under the surface. Like Mendes, Bardem first became involved with this picture when Craig brought the idea up to him at a social event, spur of the moment. Things worked out wonderfully in both cases.

The suspicions about the villain are confirmed during his talk with Bond here, he was an MI6 agent who worked under M in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1997... and something went very wrong between them. Silva tries to convince Bond (who he says isn't half the agent he was) that M is really the villain here, she's a liar and a betrayer. To prove his point, he reveals to Bond that she lied about him passing his tests. In fact, he failed every one of them, and Silva has access to the scores. Bond was told he got a 70 on his markmanship evaluation. He really got a 40. Medical evaluation, fail. Physical evaluation, failed. Psychological evaluation: "alcohol and substance addiction indicated. Pathological rejection of authority based on unresolved childhood trauma. Subject is not approved for field duty and immediate suspension from service advised." Silva sees this a betrayal, M sent Bond into the field knowing he wasn't up to the task and would likely die. As he puts it, "Mommy was very bad."

In a moment that got a lot of attention in the press, Silva also tries to unnerve Bond, who still has his hands tied behind his back, by getting rather touchy feely with him. Bond just brushes off his freshness with a quip.

Silva still considers himself a secret agent of sorts, he just chooses his own missions now, working for the highest bidder. Everything he does, he can accomplish through computers. Destabilize a multi-national by manipulating stocks, interrupt transmissions from a spy satellite over Kabul, rig an election in Uganda, set off a gas explosion in London, he's done it all. Just point and click. And he is clearly not happy when Bond, not impressed, puts down his activities by saying, "Well, everybody needs a hobby." After that, Silva decides it's time to show Bond something.

His hands now free, Bond is taken outside by Silva and his henchmen. The French song "Boum!" by Charles Trenet plays over a P.A. system as Silva leads Bond by the ruins that the island's buildings have become. He discusses how the people who left the island had to decide very quickly what was important enough to take with them. The sight of what was left behind reminds him to focus only on the essentials, there's nothing superfluous in his life. When a thing is redundant, it is eliminated... And something which has now outlived its usefulness to Silva is Severine.

Having been smacked around and tied up with rope, Severine is now stood up against a fallen statue. Silva pours two shots of fifty-year-old McClelland Scotch whisky, giving one to Bond, which Bond quickly downs, and taking the other to Severine. Making her stand straight and still, Silva balances the shot glass on top of her head. "Time to redeem your marksmanship scores," he tells Bond. Bond is handed an old dueling pistol and, with Silva's henchmen aiming their guns at him, forced to attempt the William Tell-ish feat of shooting the shot glass off of Severine's head.

In my experiences seeing Skyfall theatrically, this scene was one in which it was especially clear that playing up Bond's vulnerabilities in this film was effective in getting audience members more invested in the story and in Bond as a character. We saw Bond doing poorly in the shooting range earlier, Silva has told him he only scored a 40 on that test, and as soon as he says "Time to redeem your markmanship scores", there was always an audible reaction from my fellow viewers in the auditoriums. In one instance, I even heard a woman say, "Oh, shit."

Bond's hand shakes as he reluctantly takes aim. He's so hesitant that Silva mocks him with exasperation, "Did you really die that day? Is there any of the old 007 left?" Bond fires, missing Severine and the shot glass. So Silva takes a shot with his own dueling pistol, purposely and nonchalantly shooting Severine in the torso, killing her. As her body slumps forward, the shot glass falls to the ground. Silva sees this as a victory, he did shoot the glass off her head after all. He turns to Bond, "I win. What do you say to that?"

A lot of viewers have taken offense to Bond's reply, finding it to be shockingly callous and cruel. I think they're reading it the wrong way, Bond is not really as uncaring as his words imply. He answers Silva by saying, "That's a waste of good Scotch." But the look on his face, the deep breath he takes before delivering that line, I think they properly convey that he is actually angered and disgusted by what Silva has just done. But he's not going to rage and scream about it. He feigns indifference... and then he strikes, knocking the gun of the nearest henchman aside, throwing his dueling pistol into the face of another, disarming the close henchman and quickly proving that his marksmanship isn't as bad as it just appeared to be. Silva's henchmen are all taken down within seconds, and then Bond turns the gun on the boss man himself, who raises his hands in surrender...

Bond had set off the radio distress signal while he was still on the Chimera, and now that he has turned the tables on Silva three helicopters sent by MI6 arrive at the island as the "James Bond Theme" swells on the soundtrack.

Silva is taken into custody and brought back to the new, underground MI6 HQ, where he's imprisoned in a small cell with transparent walls. With Bond, Tanner, and a security guard looking on, M comes in to talk with Silva, who seems quite glad to see her... but upset that she has no remorse over what happened to him in their past. He goes into detail - the Chinese authorities locked him up and subjected him to torture in attempt to get him to reveal MI6 secrets. For five months, he endured, even though his captors made him "suffer, and suffer... and suffer". When he realized that it was M herself who had betrayed him to the Chinese, he saw only one way out - every agent is issued a cyanide capsule, and Silva tried to take his. Instead of killing him, the hydrogen cyanide ate away at his insides, increasing his agony while "life clung to me like a disease". He came to believe that the reason he remained alive was so he could look into M's eyes one last time. Not acknowledging his story, M informs Silva that he will be transferred to Belmarsh Prison, where he will remain until he's deemed fit to stand trial. Silva doesn't seem pleased that M refers to him as "Mister Silva", demanding that she call him by his real name. It could be assumed that, like the agents exposed in the YouTube video, he was working under a false identity during his time in Hong Kong, and he has stuck with that name, Raoul Silva, during his criminal dealings that have followed. M refuses to say his real name, instead stating that his real name is on the memorial wall of the MI6 building he attacked, but she will have it struck off.

Before M can leave the room, Silva decides to show her just what the hydrogen cyanide did to him. He removes his top denture, which includes a metal brace that extends up into his cheek. Without his dentures in, half of his face droops downward. The cyanide ate away at his mouth, corroding most of his teeth and his left cheekbone. "Look upon your work, mother." Not only has his experience in Hong Kong left him seriously deranged, but it's also given him a unique disfigurement, something that Bond villains so often have.

Judging by the look Bond gives Silva as he follows M out of the room, he's still not impressed with this guy or his story. Whether or not Craig's Bond has yet lived through a version of the events of Die Another Day, we still know that it's in the character to withstand torturous imprisonment for at least 18 months without breaking, and taking the cyanide way out is not for him. In fact, he said in DAD that he threw his cyanide capsule away.

Meanwhile, M looks totally repulsed as she's exiting the room. She doesn't have to explain herself to Bond, but she does as they walk away. Silva's real name is Tiago Rodriguez. He was a brilliant agent, but he started operating beyond his brief and hacking the Chinese. The '97 handover of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the UK to China was coming up and the Chinese were on to Silva, so she gave him up to them. She got six agents in return and a peaceful transition. Seems reasonable enough. Silva feels he was betrayed, but it was truly his own actions that got him into trouble.

While M goes off to appear before a Board of Inquiry, Bond joins Q in the Q Branch computer lab, where Q has been checking out Silva's personal laptop. Silva has put failsafes in place that will wipe the laptop's memory if certain files are accessed, but Q is confident that he can get past them... Then he makes the mistake of plugging the laptop into MI6's system. This allows everyone in the lab to work on decoding the files, but goes on to cause a lot of trouble when the most encrypted file on the laptop is opened. Bond helps crack the code on that one when he notices the word "Granborough" mixed up within it. Granborough is the name of a long-closed tube station in the London underground. When Q enters the word as a password, the file opens up to reveal a map of subterranean London. And then every door in MI6 headquarters opens up as well. Including the door to Silva's cell.

Bond runs to Silva's cell to find that the guards have been killed and Silva has escaped through a hatch in the floor. Following the escaped baddie through that hatch leads Bond down a set of stairs, through a service door, and right into the tube subway tunnels. So begins an extended chase sequence through the tube that writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade originally thought up when working on Die Another Day, which featured Bond meeting with M and Q in long-closed sections of the tube. Bond is in contact with Q throughout this chase with an earpiece, and the Quartermaster is able to track his signal throughout the subway so he can watch his progress on a monitor. Q also has access to footage from the tube's security cameras, so he can also help Bond attempt to spot Silva as he moves through the crowds of people filling the tube at rush hour.

The banter between Bond and Q, Bond's interactions with people in the tube, and some of their reactions to the sight of him running around like a maniac add a nice dose of humor to this sequence that I enjoy. The older couple who see Bond jumping onto a moving train and note "He's keen to get home" are a cute touch.

The chase ends with Bond catching up with Silva just as the villain is climbing a ladder to the surface. Silva pretends to surrender for a moment, then again proves that he is still many steps ahead of Bond and MI6 by setting off an explosion that blows a hole in the ceiling of the room he and Bond are in. At first it seems to have been a pointless act, but then an out of service tube train being driven on a track above comes crashing through the hole in the ceiling, smashing through the room. Bond has to dive for cover while Silva makes his escape. The crashing train might have been CG in a lot of movies, but in the classic Bond tradition of grand practical stunts and effects, this scene was accomplished by really sending a train smashing through the set.

Throughout the chase, there are cutaways to M's experience at the Board of Inquiry, during which there is talk of the future of national security and M's stewardship of MI6. A Member of Parliament by the name of Clair Dowar is especially down on M, holding her singlehandedly responsible for the dead operatives that have resulted from the recent, monumental security breaches. Among those also sitting on the board with Dowar is Mallory. We've heard good word on him from Eve previously, and at the Inquiry we see a hint that he might not be such a bad guy after all when he suggests that Dowar give M her chance to speak.

M tries to convince the board that there is still a need for MI6 agents, 00s, and the type of espionage that they seem to believe is outdated because the world is still a dangerous place and the source of threats more unclear than ever. The nation's enemies are no longer countries, they're individuals working in the shadows. For MI6 to find and stop these individuals, M says, with a look toward Mallory, they "must do battle in the shadows". To decide whether or not MI6 is still relevant, M says, the members of the board must ask themselves, "How safe do you feel?"

The chase through the underground took Bond and Silva in the direction of the building the Board of Inquiry is being held in, and that's where Silva is headed. While he's got henchmen dressed as police officers helping him out, enabling him to change into a police uniform himself mid-chase and then giving him a ride in a police car, Bond is on his own and on foot. Certain where Silva is going, Bond tries to get there before it's too late.

M finishes her address to the board by quoting an excerpt from poem she became familiar with through her late husband (so the husband we glimpsed in Casino Royale and heard in Quantum of Solace has unfortunately passed way between films), "Ulysses" by Lord Alfred Tennyson:
"We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

The audio of M reciting this plays over Bond running down the streets of London toward just the latest act of heroism he'll have to attempt to pull off in his career. The fantastic mix of audio, image, and situation elevates this moment to the level of epic. It connects with me emotionally, it gives me goosebumps, it feels like a great celebration of both Bond's long history and the fact that the character is still going fifty years after he first appeared on movie screens.

Also intercut with M's reading and Bond's run are shots of Silva arriving at the building, shooting his way through the security check, and barging into the room where the inquiry is in progress, just as the poem excerpt ends. Silva and his men shoot the police officers in the room, he shoots another man who gets between him and M, but when he has his gun pointed directly at M, he hesitates for a second, just looking at her... That hesitation gives Mallory time to pull her aside, and when Silva pulls the trigger his shot hits Mallory in the left shoulder.

Bond arrives and joins the police in the ongoing shootout with Silva and his men, and his aid and distractions enable Eve and Mallory to join in the gunfight as well, providing cover for M. Hidden by the spray from busted fire extinguishers, Tanner, Eve, and Mallory are able to get M and the members of parliament out of the room while Silva is forced to retreat.

Tanner gets M loaded into a getaway car, and as soon as he closes the door behind her, the car takes off, leaving him behind. Bond is in the driver's seat.

Bond has a plan, which M agrees to go along with. They're going to leave London and isolate themselves so there will be no more lives lost as collateral damage in Silva's vendetta against her. To get ahead of Silva, Bond says they need to go "Back in time", getting away from technology that he can use to track them and/or manipulate their surroundings. Before they get too far, they have to ditch the company car they're in, since it has a tracker installed. They stop to switch over to Bond's personal car. Every time I saw Skyfall theatrically, there were audible reactions when Bond opens the door of a storage unit and turns on the lights to reveal, parked inside, his silver-grey 1964 Aston Martin DB5. Gasps, claps, "Wow!"s.

Bond enlists Q to create an electronic trail of false "breadcrumbs" for Silva to follow. These will lead him toward their destination for a final confrontation, but it's not the route that Bond and M are taking. Tanner is drinking a beer and watching Q put this trail together in the computer lab when Mallory, his left arm in a sling, comes walking in. Q and Tanner clearly expect Mallory to give them trouble, but instead he shows full support for the idea and even gives them a suggestion of which route to send Silva on. This must all be kept secret from the Prime Minister, of course.

Bond takes M to the home where he spent at least part of his childhood, a large stone house in the Scottish Highlands. When Doctor Hall said the word "Skyfall" to Bond during the word association scene, it meant nothing to the audience but obviously meant a lot to Bond, enough for him to walk out of the evaluation. When the Aston Martin pulls into the driveway of the Scottish property, a sign beside the driveway answers the question that earlier scene brought up - this place Bond has brought M to is Skyfall Lodge.

Bond and M enter Skyfall and have hardly spent any time looking around the long-empty home before they're met by an old man who steps out of the shadows holding a shotgun. This is Albert Finney as Kincade, who has been the property's gamekeeper since Bond was a child. When Bond introduces M to Kincade, the old man mishears her name as "Emma", and when Bond tells him their reason for being here - "Some men are coming to kill us, we're going to kill them first" - Kincade accepts this without question and jumps right into helping them get prepared for Silva's arrival.

Across a large pond from the house there is a small chapel on the property, beside which are some graves... Including the graves of James Bond's own parents, Andrew and Monique Delacroix Bond. The Ian Fleming-established fact that Bond was orphaned as a child was brought up in Casino Royale, and it's brought up again here. When the news first came out that Bond would be going back to childhood home in this film, there was some worry that the film would put too much focus on his childhood and parents. Luckily, that is not the case. Bond doesn't want to talk about it, when M tries to talk to him about the death of his parents, he only says, "You know the whole story." Which she would, she's certainly familiar with his files. It isn't even stated in this film how his parents died (a rocking climbing accident, according to Fleming and a line in GoldenEye), but Kincade does in one scene give M a bit more insight into how Bond handled the event when it happened: Kincade was the one who told Bond his parents had died, and upon hearing the news Bond went into the Skyfall priest's hole, a secret door in the home that serves as the entrance to an underground tunnel running beneath the moor. He hid in there for two days, and when he came out "he wasn't a boy anymore." That's as much as the film deals with Bond's childhood and parents. Thank Eon that they've never had the unnecessary idea of tying the death of his parents into a villain's backstory or something. They died in an accident, end of story.

Bond lost his real parents at a young age, but he does have surrogate parents of sorts with him during this climactic setpiece. Judi Dench's M has always been a mother figure to Daniel Craig's Bond in addition to being his boss, an angle which is really driven home in Skyfall through Silva's insistence of referring to her as "mommy" or "mother". And despite the fact that he's never been seen or heard of before the last quarter of this movie, Kincade is quickly established as a surrogate father to Bond.

Skyfall Lodge and Kincade are not strictly "of Fleming", but my fellow Bond fans on the forums did dig up a couple references in the Bond literature that could be taken as setting precedence for these aspects of the film. In John Pearson's James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007, there's a passage in which Bond is said to speak about "the stone house in the Highlands which was still the center of the family". Sounds like Skyfall Lodge to me. Kincade is a bit further off from his literary counterpart, as a fan compared him to Austrian climbing instructor Hannes Oberhauser, who was mentioned in the Octopussy short story and of whom Bond said, "He was something of a father to me at a time when I happened to need one."

Bond came to Skyfall expecting to have his father's old gun collection to use to defend themselves. Instead, he finds that the collection was sold off (as was the property) during his "death", and the guns have already been shipped to their new owner in Idaho or some such place. The only gun of Andrew Bond's that Kincade saved was his hunting rifle. So now they're faced with fending off Silva and his men with nothing but the hunting rifle, Kincade's shotgun, the Walther with a few clips, maybe some dynamite from a nearby quarry, the boobytraps they set up... and a knife. As Kincade says, "Sometimes the old ways are the best."

After preparing as much as possible for Silva's arrival, all Bond and his friends can do is stand and wait. During the calm before the storm, Bond and M find a moment to chat and clear things up between them. Though M has previously said that "Regret is unprofessional", she's obviously second guessing herself and feeling some regrets now. She drops the only F bomb in the Bond series to date: "I fucked this up, didn't I?" With his response, Bond backs her up on the decisions she's made and lets her off the hook for getting him shot, forgiving her without directly saying so: "No. You did your job." That's followed up with some levity, as Bond reveals that he read the obituary she wrote of him and found it appalling, though the bit that called him "an exemplar of British fortitude" was alright.

And then the first wave of Silva's men arrive, parking at the end of the drive and walking toward the house, assault rifles in hand. This is another instance where making Bond vulnerable in this movie seemed to work toward getting viewers more invested in the story. Knowing that Bond has two elderly people as backup and only a meager amount of weapons and some old fashioned ingenuity to defend himself with, my fellow audience members would often express shock at the sight of so many heavily armed killers marching on Skyfall.

That shock is soon followed up with a crowdpleasing moment that appeals directly to the Bond fanboy/fangirl within every viewer: as the hit team reaches the front of the home, Bond is revealed to be sitting inside his Aston Martin, which is parked behind the men. With a flip of a switch, machine gun barrels pop out under the car's headlights and Bond opens fire on the baddies. This Aston Martin is equipped with the same gadgets as the same make and model of Aston Martin had when Sean Connery received it in Goldfinger. It even has the passenger ejector seat, which Bond teased M with at the beginning of their drive to Scotland. Bond won a silver-grey 1964 Aston Martin in a card game in Casino Royale '06, and when Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were writing the script for Skyfall, they at first wrote as if the car in this film was the exact same one Bond won earlier in the Craig era, since CR '06 was a reboot of sorts to the franchise and exists within a continuity of its own that only fans are concerned with reconciling with the Connery through Brosnan eras. So within the logic of a rebooted continuity, this Aston Martin should have its steering wheel on the left side, and it shouldn't have gadgets. Purvis and Wade wrote that the only weapons in the Aston Martin were ones that Bond had brought along in the trunk. It was Sam Mendes who decided to toss reboot logic out the window and give Bond in Skyfall the exact car he received in Goldfinger, gadgets and all. I thank him for that, because the ejector seat joke is fun, it's great to see Bond shooting down villains with the car's machine guns, and it's a wonderful nod to the past and one of the most beloved entries in the series. Fifty years on, continuity logic is irrelevant.

The henchmen who do manage to make it into the house are taken out by shotgun shells blasting through boobytrapped floorboards, IED lightbulbs that send nails, screws, and broken glass flying through them, and the guns of Kincade and Bond. M tries to defend herself with Bond's Walther, but is a self-proclaimed "lousy shot" and Bond has to save her from a sticky situation... One shot from a baddie does manage to wing M in the side, but she hides this from Bond.

When the threat has been neutralized, Silva is nowhere among the fallen villains. After mere seconds of peace, the second wave of the attack rolls in with Silva at the lead, making a showy entrance by flying in on a helicopter with The Animals' 1964 cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" blasting through a loudspeaker... and then a gunman starts blasting away at the house with the helicopter's mounted machine gun, sending bullets ripping through the stone walls.

Skyfall Lodge is completely destroyed over the course of the ensuing firefight, sending M, Kincade, and eventually Bond running for cover in the priest's hole tunnel. The destruction of the house is no big loss to Bond, who says he always hated the place, and in reality it was a set constructed solely for the filming of the movie. More heartbreaking is the destruction of the Aston Martin. Bond is clearly pissed off by the sight of his classic car getting blown to pieces. Thankfully, a 1964 Aston Martin was not really sacrificed for this production, the vehicle that explodes was actually a 1:3 scale model impressively created with a 3D printer.

After much gunfire, gunfire, explosions, and even a fight between Bond and a henchman that occurs beneath the frozen surface of the property's pond, the final confrontation of the film really plays out between M and Silva in the little old chapel. Silva comes face-to-face with the woman he's been obsessed with for many years, the woman he wants to kill, but again he can't bring himself to actually harm her. He can see only one way out of this now, and suggests that M perform the sort of "one bullet, two kills" act that Bond nearly thought he had to do for himself and Camille during the climax of Quantum of Solace... Of course, Bond arrives just in time to save M from Silva's madness.

Some have expressed disappointment that Bond and Silva don't actually engage in a physical battle. They wanted to see a knockdown, drag out fight between these two highly skilled MI6 agents. But myself, I never saw Silva as much of a physical threat, despite Javier Bardem being a rather large man. He was a gifted agent, but not of the same type as Bond. He's a techie, he accomplishes things by sitting at a computer, pointing and clicking. He's not a brawler, and even admits that he has found all this action exhausting.

After seeing Skyfall, many immediately proclaimed Raoul Silva to be the greatest villain in Bond history. That's truly a testament to how awesome and captivating Bardem is in the role, because when you really examine it, Silva doesn't do all that much onscreen. Bardem does get to shine brightly with the dialogue he delivers on the abandoned island and when he's in the glass cell, he makes a great and lasting impression with those scenes, and he does well showing Silva's emotional insanity while in the chapel with M. The rest of his scenes just involve him running through the tube and taking a destructive stroll around the Skyfall property. So I don't think Silva is Bond's greatest villain overall, but Javier Bardem does deliver an amazing performance.

Bond saves M from Silva, but he can't save her life. Soon after the main villain is dispatched, M collapses herself, bleeding to death from the wound she kept hidden from Bond. As Bond cradles his boss and mother figure in his arms, she deems him the one thing she got right in her MI6 career. Then she passes away. It's a very emotional moment that marks Judi Dench's exit from the Bond franchise after seven movies and seventeen years. She was M for the same amount of time original M Bernard Lee was, she just appeared in four less movies than he did.

Peter Morgan, who worked on a treatment for Bond 23 before dropping out during the production delay, stated in an interview that even though he hadn't worked on the screenplay, he believed Skyfall was still using the "big hook" of his story idea. This claim did not sit well with Sam Mendes, who considered it to be disgraceful credit grabbing. Nothing of Peter Morgan's was in the finished film, all the credit for the screenplay is rightfully given to Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan. According to Mendes, the only similarity between Skyfall and Morgan's work is the fact that both featured the death of Judi Dench's M. Which wasn't even a Morgan original, because Purvis and Wade have said that they almost killed off Dench's M in Quantum of Solace, they just couldn't get it to work properly within that story.

Some time after the events at Skyfall Lodge, Bond stands on the roof of a building in London, looking out over the city. Eve soon joins him, carrying a small black box. During a brief chat, it comes out that Eve has declined the chance to return to active service, admitting that field work isn't for her. And then she holds the box out to Bond. M's will was read, and the box contains what she left to him: the British bulldog from her office desk. It's basically a message from her, telling him to keep fighting.

Thanks to spy pics taken of the filming of the black box scene, I know that it was filmed on December 5th, 2011. Which just happened to be my twenty-eighth birthday. An auction of the black box prop held after the film was released revealed that M's real name is written on a label on the box, though it's not visible on the screen. The name on the label: Olivia Mansfield. This information confirms that the M Dench played in the Brosnan era was meant to be a different character from the M she played in the Craig era, as the real name of Brosnan's M, at least according to continuation novel authors John Gardner and Raymond Benson, was Barbara Mawdsley.

Eve leads Bond into the building, where she returns to her desk in a room outside the office of the new M. Being a secretary is now her chosen occupation. Standing on either side of her desk, Eve and Bond have the one exchange in the film that I'm not a fan of. It got a chuckle from audiences, but it's very clunky and unnatural, the information given in it could've been revealed in a smoother way. "You know, we've never formally been introduced," Bond says. She replies, "Oh. Well, my name's Eve. Eve Moneypenny." The Craig era finally has its Miss Moneypenny, but it's hard for me to believe that Bond and Moneypenny worked together in both Turkey and Macau without Bond ever having heard her last name before.

After Bond and Moneypenny exchange some flirtatious lines about having "one or two close shaves" during their future working together, Tanner exits M's office and tells Bond, "He'll see you now."

Bond enters the office beyond Moneypenny's, closing the padded leather door, a door just like Bernard Lee's M had, behind him, and meets with his new M. Gareth Mallory. Mallory has a folder for Bond that contains the top secret information on what could be his next mission. Mallory asks, "Are you ready to get back to work?"

"With pleasure, M. With pleasure."

Cut to black. White dots move across the screen from left to right, then becoming a gun barrel that tracks James Bond as he walks past. Mid-screen, Bond turns, pulls a gun and fires at us. Optical blood dribbles down the screen, and once the entire image is red, the gun barrel fades out and is replaced by the "50 Years" anniversary logo. Text appears beneath the logo, promising: JAMES BOND WILL RETURN.

Going into the next film, the Craig era has its Moneypenny for him to flirt with, a Q to give him gadgets, and a male M to send him on his mission. It seems just like old times.

The end credits roll, and when they're finished the total running time of Skyfall ends up being 143 minutes. With that, it ranks as one of the top three longest films in the series, between the 144 minute long Casino Royale '06 and the 141 minute long On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Although, as with CR, since these modern films have longer title sequences and end credits, there is still more overall feature in between those sequences in OHMSS.

Skyfall didn't take the record of being the longest movie in the series, but it did break a different record and earn a very prestigious honor. It became the #1 Bond film of all time at the box office. Every time a new movie comes out in the series, it seems to be given that title, but as I wrote throughout the 50 Years of 007 series, when box office amounts were adjusted for inflation, Thunderball always reigned supreme with just over a billion dollars. Thunderball isn't tops anymore. Making over 1.1 billion dollars, Skyfall surpassed even Thunderball's adjusted for inflation number to officially become #1.

Not only did Skyfall make a lot of money, but it also earned a lot of praise, from fans, general audience members, and critics alike. It won Academy Awards in the categories of Original Song, for Adele's theme song, and Best Sound Editing (by Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers). Also nominated were Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, and Stuart Wilson for Best Sound Mixing, Thomas Newman for his score, and Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography.

I was rooting hard for Deakins to win. This was his tenth nomination for Best Cinematography, and it would've been awesome if he had finally taken home the gold for a Bond film... But it didn't happen, his shelf is still Oscar-free. Hopefully the eleventh time will be the charm.

It's worth noting that among the orchestra members providing the music for Thomas Newman's very impressive score was a trumpet player named Derek Watkins, who had the distinction of working on the score for every single Bond movie from Dr. No to Skyfall. This achievement rightfully earned him his own featurette in the Skyfall "making of" extras. Unfortunately, Watkins passed away in March of 2013.

In my opinion, Skyfall was fully deserving of every dollar, good word, and accolade it received. It is an amazing film, with an emotionally involving dramatic story mixed with some great action, brought to the screen with the aforementioned wonderful cinematography. The cast is brilliant in their roles, and Sam Mendes proved without a doubt that he could pull off a film of this type and scale. I wouldn't call it the Greatest Bond Movie Ever like many have, but it is undoubtedly one of my favorite films in the series.

I mentioned theatre audience reactions throughout this write-up because I had several experiences overhearing them - I saw Skyfall nine times theatrically, tripling my previous Bond movie records of three theatrical viewings each for Casino Royale '06 and Quantum of Solace.

Fifty years on, the Bond series is still alive, kicking, and as strong as ever, and so is my appreciation for the character.

James Bond will return to the big screen in 2015. With Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw all set to return to their roles, there's a solid foundation to build on, and with Sam Mendes signed to direct again, things are already off to a promising start. I'll be following the production every step of the way, and when it's released I'll be there to see it on opening day.

Here's to another 50 years of 007!


  1. Well done sir. This has been a really wonderful series of posts - you should be proud.

    I also loved Skyfall - three times theatrically. One in Imax Lite and two in regular mode.

    I have the countdown going on a dry erase board at work and on an app on my phone, as I write this it's 815 days, 12 hours, and 5 minutes to noon on 11/6/15. And here's something I'm very proud of - I had already set both those countdowns up while Skyfall was still in theaters - I absolutely pegged to the day when the next film would be released.

    I wish it was 2014. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Craig. Your comments throughout the series have been greatly appreciated. In the early days, they helped me decide what these articles were going to be like, at times you added information that I had left out, and all along the way your comments helped keep me driven to do my best on this series.

      - Cody