By Susana Gómez Báez
The James Bond series celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 9 with the release of the series’ 23rd installment, Skyfall. Featuring Daniel Craig, the sixth actor to play Bond, Skyfall is Craig’s third Bond film after Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.
The movie centres on an aging and nearly forgotten Bond who, after believed to be dead, comes back to protect M (the chief of MI6) from a targeted attack.
The film’s director, Sam Mendes, is known for works that focus on character-building, something Bond movies often lack in favour of action.
But Mendes has created a movie that simultaneously sets up the tension for future films and also gives a heart-warming, introspective view into Bond’s past before the women, the killing, and the cars – before Bond ever even thought of becoming an agent.
“My way of treating [Bond] was to not assume that the audience knew him at all,” said Mendes in a press conference call. “For me, it’s about telling a story that would be interesting whether or not the character was James Bond. [He] isn’t just intrinsically interesting because he’s called Bond, you have to make a case for [him]. I think if I felt that we were just remaking the same film and doing the same thing as the last 22 movies I probably wouldn’t have been interested in making it.”
But the audience expects certain things out of a Bond movie. The theatre fills with laughter and murmurs of excitement at the first sight of 007’s classic silver Aston Martin, so it can be risky to treat a Bond film like it is just any other film.
“I spent a bit of time, pretending with the writers that we didn’t have to do all the things that Bond movies normally do – like action sequences and girls and locations – and find out what the story was at the root before we added all those things back in,” Mendes said. “One of the big things with the Bond movies is that you’re surrounded by white noise… of everyone’s opinion of the kind of Bond they want to see and you quickly realize that everyone’s Bond is different. Some of them want to see more gadgets, some don’t like gadgets.”
“The truth is, wherever you go, you’re going to have someone stating the opposite opinion to what you think and so I think the most important thing I discovered is to push away the white noise and try to ask [myself], what do [I] want to see?”
But Mendes’ Bond didn’t fall short. Skyfall has a lot more gadgets than the previous movies, including a gun that recognizes Bond’s handprints so only he can fire it. The usual exotic locations are also present:
The iconic opening chase occurs in a market in Istanbul, Turkey and escalates to the roof of a train. The action continues in Shanghai, China, where only silhouettes are visible amidst the fluorescent city lights.
Where the movie lacks luster, however, is in Bond’s relationship with women.
The Bond women play no part in advancing the plot and the expendable girl Bond normally sleeps with for information is more useless in this movie than others – she doesn’t last very long, even for Bond standards. The sexual tension with his other work-related lady, in this case named Eve, is uncomfortable and doesn’t lead to anything.
In fact, it seems that the only woman Bond interacts with seriously in Skyfall is M. But maybe that was the point.
“This is my Bond movie,” Mendes said. “But there’ll be others to come along and everyone’ll have a different vision of Bond.”
Skyfall, at its core, is about getting the audience to know Bond better when it seems he has let himself go.
In one scene, Bond says his hobby is resurrection and that’s the essence of the film – to bring him back and make him more personable.
It’s as M describes 007: “Old dog, new tricks.”