Tuesday, 16 October 2012

SKYFALL THE (P)REVIEW

Skyfall is where we start
A thousand miles and poles apart
When worlds collide, and days are dark
You may have my number, you can take my name
But you'll never have my heart...

Yes, it's nearly here – Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond series. As Adele's soulful voice fades away and the action begins, we will finally know if the long wait has been worth it. At $150,000,000 ($200 Million according to some sources) Skyfall represents a massive investment in terms of credibility as well as finance. If 'they' – EON Productions – haven't got this one right James Bond's fiftieth birthday might see his retirement... Due for release in ten days (the 26th of October 2012 for any archivists amongst you) with the Premiere on the 23th, this is the first 007 film to be released for the IMAX screen as well as conventional cinema.

The security surrounding this release rivals that of MI6 themselves –  EON are exceptionally, famously cagey when it comes to Britain's favourite spy. This (p)review is a loosely-cobbled piece that I put together, filling in a few blanks along the way...
Who's responsible if it flops?;
Sam Mendes Directs – American Beauty and Jarhead should ring bells with those who aren't instantly familiar with the name. Michael G.Wilson produces with Barbara Broccoli – and yes, he's got a cameo as usual. Production Design is in the hands of Dennis Gassner, the veteran responsible for the look of Quantum of Solace, the iconic title sequence is back in the safe hands of Daniel Kleinman, who has provided them on most of the Bonds going back to Goldeneye.

Is it all Computers?;
Nope, although the credits (Thanks IMDB) show the population of a small town were involved with the CGI elements, there's a reassuringly large list of stunt people there. The Stunt Co-Ordinator is one Gary Powell, if you are a true fan you'll skip on here; starting with Goldeneye he's been a Bond stalwart, co-ordinating the action from Casino Royale onwards. Powell is from a legendary family; he doubled Brosnan, older brother Greg doubled Dalton and Moore before him, while Uncle Dinny and Dad, the LEGENDARY 'Nosher' Powell* both doubled for Connery as well as popping up risking their necks in just about every movie and TV show ever made in the UK. (*See my review of his wonderfully entertaining book on this Blog for more).
GREG POWELL; 'People always think stuntmen are fearless. But I'm scared of a lot of the stuff I do, and if I come across a stuntman who says he's fearless, I actually won't work with him, because he's got no sense of danger. For us, it's beating the fear. You get frightened of something, you go in there and you beat it. It's a nice feeling.'
The stunt drivers include a certain Ben Collins, aka Top Gear's 'The Stig' (His book is a petrolhead's dream) who is another one of my heroes. That's that box ticked – no Bond film is complete without the usual breathtaking stunts – we know 'he' doesn't do all the stunts himself, but we don't care, so long as we see some actual humans doing actually dangerous stuff that's the main thing...


Who's in it?;
Regulars Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench are joined by, amongst many others;
Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, Helen McCrory (Harry Potter, Cherie Blair in the remarkable The Queen) as Clair Dowar, French TV actress Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, Ben Wishaw (The Trench, Layer Cake) as 'Q', Naomie Harris (Tia Dalma in the Pirates of the Caribbean series) as Eve, (Speculation persists this is a blind and she is really the new Moneypenny),  Albert Finney plays Kincade (– a nod to the Bourne films?) and Rory Kinnear reprises his role as Bill Tanner. The baddie is Javier Bardem, (Collateral, No Country For Old Men, Eat Pray Love) one Raoul Silva.


(Above; Sam Mendes directs Judi Dench/Bérénice Marlohe/Javier Bardem) Any hollowed-out Volcanoes?, what about underwater secret bases then?;
Steady on, I'm not psychic – here's what I do know. The production certainly clocked up the air miles – as well as England they filmed in India, Shanghai, Scotland, Japan and (hooray!) good old Istanbul makes a welcome return. Locations include;
India – the Goa to Ahmedabad railway.
Istanbul – the Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar and the New Mosque.
Shanghai – the recent re-emergence of the city to it's rightful glory was obviously attractive to the production team, with the stylish, modern city presumably used to full effect.
Glencoe – apparently a last-minute choice.
Old London Town – (Gertcha/Apples and Pears Guv'nor) locations here?; that building obviously, as well as Smithfield Meat Market (Ahh Mr.Bond, fancy a nice bit of brisket?), St.Bartholomew Hospital – Saint Barts to Brits – and the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
Hashima Island – Japan. This is a real teaser – off the coast of Japan and also known as 'Battle-Ship Island' or 'Ghost Island' the island is rumoured to have been used as a location. Obviously someone wants this kept quiet, but instead of speculating, lets take a quick squizz at this eerie place. Used as a location for pop videos in the past, its abandoned and off-limits (The buildings are crumbling and it's dangerous). Bought by the Mitsubishi corporation in the Nineteenth Century, it was an undersea coal mine until it's closure in 1974. The island itself is grim and foreboding, with an unsettling feeling from the look of these piccies;


Ugly allegations of Korean slave labour used in the mines during WWII don't lighten the mood of this awful place, amusingly earning it's nick-name when the Americans torpedoed it by mistake. (In fairness you can see why; in profile the likeness is clear). Okay – lets speculate; baddie base?, possibly an underground one?...
(Above: Ben Wishaw as Q. Guaranteed controversial, a kid stepping into Desmond Llewelyn's shoes!. The jury is out.)
So, what do I get for my money then?;
Two hours and twenty-three minutes for a start, but plot details are thin on the ground right now. You'll really have to see it to find out; but we do have a few snippets to go on...
We know Bond is depressed, bored and having difficulty with his career choices (Mendes said so in an interview), Raoul Silva is an ex-MI6 agent who feels he was betrayed – and probably was, M being the focus of his hatred. He's a cyber-terrorist (Whatever that actually is) and I personally think he might be head of the elusive Quantum organisation that Bond has been after since Casino Royale, as there have been mentions of 007 getting revenge for poor Vesper...

(Above; Is it me, or is there something of Steve McQueen here? - Craig's Bond - to date - has been tougher than his predecessors, while retaining a touching innocence and a tender side. No wonder the girls love this 007!)
For reasons unclear at this point, M orders Eve to shoot 007, Bond falling from the roof of a train travelling over a viaduct (See the teaser trailers) there's a London Tube Train crashing in a horrific fashion, (I shall give the producers full benefit of any doubt regarding usage of the Tube here – I don't think for a second they would ever intend any disrespect). MI6 HQ is blown up in spectacular fashion (CGI for once) and here's where Mallory (Fiennes) might fit in – he's Chairman of the Intelligence & Security Committee who oversee MI6 activities, there's a scene involving him, Bond and Silva with a lot of shooting going on (Possibly Silva's revenge trip, or is Bond gunning for Mallory?). Somewhere in all this is Ola Rapace as a French Mercenary – anyone's guess, for now.
Skyfall Lodge – to quote Manuel in Fawlty Towers, 'I know nothing'... my guess?; Bond's ancestral home, a legacy of some kind?, certainly Silva and his men, landing by helicopter think it important as they attack 007 there.

Oh, and a certain Aston Martin DB5 makes a timely return – M marvelling at Bond's idea of it as 'inconspicuous transport'.
So, the standard hero-is--dead-no-he-isn't bit with a revenge-crazed nut-case threatening the Nation,  possibly the World?... things are never that simple in the cloak and dagger World of James Bond. EON Production's latest gamble is probably based on some very sound strategies – I wouldn't like to bet against them pulling it off yet again. All we can really be sure of it's going to be fun finding out...  


(And won't this look funny after the film's release when my guesswork proves ludicrously wrong!)




COPYRIGHT NOTICE - Eon Productions owns 007, James Bond and Skyfall, any infringement on my part is purely mistaken, Moneypenny...

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