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“Skyfall” resurrects Sean Connery’s audience gripping James Bond, which was once thought to be impossible. “Casino Royale” introduced Bond as Fleming had originally written him; a ‘blunt instrument’ as M described him, a dangerous maverick who fell in love and was betrayed by the very woman for whom he was prepared to leave MI6. “Quantum of Solace” was a story about the immediate consequence of this betrayal, and was therefore essentially a revenge thriller. But “Skyfall” seems to have introduced audiences to a Bond character uniquely different but just as flawless as Connery fashioned. Daniel Craig has reinvented the British secret agent, giving the character his own powerful interpretation, resurrecting the James Bond the world has come to love.
While much of the credit belongs to Craig, the actor recently admitted that when he was first cast he deliberately moved away from familiar aspects of past Bond incarnations. British media has quoted him as saying; “I felt it was too soon; I didn’t want to repeat something that had gone on before. I couldn’t just step into someone’s shoes; I would fall on my face really very quickly. I didn’t think,’ he adds, ‘that I deserved to do it.”
Specifically, “Skyfall” draws a definitively distinction between Craig, Pierce Brosnon, and Roger Moore. For instance, Craig’s Bond is rough, an almost thuggish approach to Bond compared to the elegant sleekness of Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore, which didn’t quite capture Connery’s appeal.
No Bond proved skillful enough to deliver the kind of wit or playfulness that was Connery’s hallmarks signature. But Craig wisely replaces Connery like wit with a style closely resembling Jason Bourne. By taking this approach, Craig deliverers some of the most authentically natural and funny lines that seamlessly fit into the script.
After an almost 50 year search for a Bond that would resurrect Sean Connery, the franchise has suddenly hit the lottery, proving that lighting “can” strike the same place “twice.”
I must admit, I have been on the fence ever since Sean Connery bowed out of the Bond role decades ago. In fact, I had not seen a James Bond movie since “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice” that I can honestly say rose to the level of the classic spy movie Ian Fleming perfected. So when I heard one critic emphasizing the opening sequence of “Skyfall,” pointing out that it explodes, I was encouraged, because Ian Fleming’s James Bond, featuring Connery, gripped its audience from its opening scene until its equally attention-grabbing closing foray.
Among the characterizations made by early critics, Christopher Tookey suggests that the miniature movie before the credits has become a signature device for the franchise, whether Bond is leaping out of a plane without a parachute or hunting down enemy agents on a ski run. But “Skyfall” surpasses them all: this time, 007 is killed.
The Independent’s Geoffrey McNab said: “If not a full blown triumph, this is certainly one of the best Bonds in recent memory.”
The Times’s Kate Muir called it “a great British bulldog of a movie”. “From the moment the orchestral sound of Adele belts out, sending a nostalgic shiver down the audience’s collective spine, we know this will be a triumphant return to classic Bond,” she wrote.
McNab added in his review: “Mendes has gone back to basics: chases, stunts, fights. “At the same time, he has subtly re-invented the franchise, throwing in far greater depth of characterization than we’re accustomed to in a series of films that are often proudly superficial.”
The Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye gave the film five out of five, calling the film “a fantastic combination of 007 meets Bourne meets Spooks meets Home Alone”.
Robbie Collin praised director Mendes in The Telegraph: “[He] is unafraid to let the quieter dramatic moments breathe…and ace cinematographer Roger Deakins makes the wildly ambitious action sequences the most beautiful in Bond’s 50-year career.”
“Skyfall” sees Dame Judi Dench reprise her role as MI6 director M, while Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomie Harris join the franchise as Bond’s co-workers.
Critics also praised Javier Bardem’s performance as villain Silva, with McNab saying “he combines pathos, grotesquerie and a Hannibal Lecter-like viciousness.”
Caroline Jowett added in The Express: “He is not a villain in pursuit of world domination like Ernst Blofeld, and he is slightly upstaged by his own hair but he never fails to surprise.
“That he can make us laugh at the same time only makes him more menacing.”
As one of the few US critics at the preview on Friday, The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy called the film a “serious and spectacular show.”
“Dramatically gripping while still brandishing a droll undercurrent of humor, this beautifully made film will certainly be embraced as one of the best Bonds by loyal fans worldwide and leaves you wanting the next one to turn up sooner than four years from now.”
However, The Guardian’s Xan Brooks was not as impressed as other critics. Giving it three stars out of a five, he praised the “whiz-bang first half” but said the film “falls prey to a common failing of many 50th birthday bashes: it allows sentimentality to cloud its judgment and loosen its tongue.”
Their comments makes one wonder, were they viewing the same film.
It is quite clear to me that the Bond films seemed to fail to amuse audiences following Connery’s exit. But a closer analysis reveals that Fleming’s later books lacked the kind of dynamic excitement contained in his earlier works.
Perhaps, this diminishment was a consequence of the dwindling Cold War tension which may have affected the intense passion Fleming initially brought to his writings.
The fact is, Bond films started to lose their way, and so did Bond.
The 007 of Fleming’s books and of the early Sean Connery films were imperialist, arrogant and sexist to boot. He was cold and stoic, with a keen sense of duty and service.
Hence, even before his exit, Connery’s Bond grew puffy and spoilt and wore ludicrous wigs.
Lazenby had been best known for his performance in a chocolate commercial, and unfortunately, his acting did not improve with practice.
By the time Roger Moore took over the role in the early Seventies, Bond was about as cold and ruthless as a chat-show host.
Even Sir Roger wouldn’t pretend his acting abilities were outstanding. His critics pointed out, that of his two eyebrows, only the right one had any talent. It was clear, Moore was no Connery.
Timothy Dalton, who followed Moore, certainly could act. He was a Shakespearean and a stage veteran of everything from Wuthering Heights to Noel Coward. But in his two outings as Bond, audiences simply couldn’t believe in the character.
Pierce Brosnan played Bond with Hollywood teeth and glazed hair. There was still money to be made from the franchise — Brosnan’s Goldeneye grossed $350 million — but by then, Bond had become a parody.
So the producers needed to return to the books to rediscover Fleming’s Bond, not the pale, vain imitations of the films.
There’s a wonderful moment in Moonraker that encapsulates Fleming’s often nihilistic take on the world. Bond, driving to an appointment with evil in his Bentley, looks up and sees a motor-oil advert written in neon on the twilight London skyline. It read, “Summer Shell is here,” but a building obscures part of the message. All Bond can see are the words “hell is here.”
He had witnessed a sea of evil and, taking arms, opposed it: not the cartoon villainy of the later Bond films, but unremitting evil. The kind that threatens civilization, in the shape of cancerous Al Qaeda cells, plotting to bomb planes and discos, and sending children on suicide missions to the gates of army barracks.
After 50 years, the world has turned full circle: we face a global peril again.
And Bond has come full circle, too — in Daniel Craig’s portrayal, he is the steely, selfish, battered, scarred hero of the books, a white knight with a Beretta pistol and a Martini for his sword and shield.
This is the hardened soldier Fleming intended Bond to be. There’s a reassuring moment in “Skyfall:” Bond leaps to his feet amid tangled wreckage, in a perfectly tailored dinner jacket, and adjusts his cufflinks as he strides towards the camera. That’s how an Englishman saves the world — and, in scary times like these, we can be glad James Bond is still around.
The director, Mendes, is unafraid to let the quieter dramatic moments breathe and ace cinematographer Roger Deakins makes the wildly ambitious action sequences the most beautiful in Bond’s 50-year career.
The sensational Istanbul-set prologue is soon bettered by an early sojourn to Shanghai, in which Bond pursues an assassin through a glass skyscraper lit up like a neon Aurora Borealis. This is “Skyfall’s” popcorn-dropping moment, and an uneven third act that harks back to the Bond films of old (the Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance). After following the assassin to his destination, and allowing him to complete his targeted kill, Craig initiates a one on one fight scene, which is brilliantly filmed; exhibiting two silhouettes in mortal combat. It was quite an entertaining moment.
“We don’t go in for exploding pens anymore,” quips young Q (Ben Whishaw). Nor do audiences, which is why I suspect “Skyfall” will be an enormous hit.
Now I’m sure some of the old-time Bond lovers will complain that there was not enough gadgets, none of the tricky dry humor, and too little womanizing, but my answer to them would be, what you do get from “Skyfall” is exponentially better than what you’ve been getting.
After 50 years, Fleming’s Bond has become one of the all-time quintessential heroes of the modern world; ahead of Batman in box office receipts. Its U.S. opening has grossed, approximately, $87.8 million in its first three days and if you add Thursday’s special preview screening, the total becomes $90 million. It’s the seventh best Nov. opening weekend of all-time, and if you count gross revenues worldwide,”Skyfall’s” grand total has reached staggering $518.6 million.
Critical acclaim, box office records shattered, 50-year-anniversary celebrated with staggering success; at this rate, I guess it’s fair to say there’s nothing left to surprise you about “Skyfall.” That’s what I said until I discovered a report out of the Toronto Sun, which claims, Daniel Craig is related to the man who inspired James Bond; Ian Fleming.
According to the report, Michelle Ercanbrack, family historian of ancestry.com, told “Yahoo that while he was researching Craig’s family history he noticed some of the names and places in Daniels family tree resembled names from Fleming’s tree. As he continued to connect the dots, Ercanbrack was fascinated to learned, Craig shares a common link with King Edward III of England, Josh of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.
You can call it a coincidence, providence, destiny, or whatever peculiar name seems fit; I will simply call it; Bond as Fleming had originally written him to be.
Contributor D. Chandler