With the new Bond (Yes, Skyfall) out in the cinemas, I decided to do a tour back into the abyss of history of other Bonds.
George Lazenby was a one-time James Bond in this Swiss poem of a plot to eradicate humanity (oh, yes Telly Savalas).
This is one James Bond who falls in love (doubtfully yet conveniently) and gets married (yes, really). Lazenby did not have it easy to pick up the role well established by the seasoned Sean Connery. It surely took a lot of courage to try and fit into so much bigger shoes. (On a second thought I am not convinced that Daniel Craig had it any easier – like what? A blond Bond? – remember back in 2005?).
What I like about Lazenby’s take on Bond is he knows he has nothing to lose and therefore creates a young almost pleasant character to start with. Setting the plot aside, he was not such a bad Bond (character, not film).
OHMSS is sentimental – showing the virgin beauty of the Swiss Alps with almost no tourists, with empty pistes, with pristinely white snow. However, this is not enough to make a good Bond movie. Perhaps there isn’t enough of the intrigue, perhaps too much happens in an enclosed golden cage of a mountain-top spa, perhaps there are too few obstacles. This is not a good James Bond movie, but George Lazenby was not that bad of a James Bond.
As Peter Bradshaw has neatly put it in his review of the newest James Bond film for The Guardian – this is the blond-on-blond Bond. Both the villain (amazingly portrayed by Javier Bardem) and the 007 are fair haired.
James Bond embodied one more time by the square shaped Daniel Craig is a tough guy with elements of self-irony, which has been one of the main traits of Craig’s great predecessors . I love the scene when he is being brought on a boat to the casino in Macau and his bow-tie is unevenly tied. I read this as means of reflecting his rebellious character – same as in Casino Royale where we saw the shaping of his personality with the help of Judi Dench’s “M.”. Dame Judi Dench has been with the series for so long it will be a massive change to future films but we see her leave.
Craig’s Bond is not predominantly a gentleman. He is predominantly a tough guy with a gun who can tell an occasional joke. He is an intense agent licensed to kill with few remainders of humanity in him. This Bond is down-to-earth physical and much less intellectual (see the elevator scene in Shanghai), with tons of passion and sense of duty in him. In a way he has also become a robot (that can be explained by the cruel Vesper from Casino Royale) which is not only visible in the way he fights but also in his love moves. Disturbing, shaken not stirred.
Javier Bardem as Silva is a perfect villain this time perhaps more than ever an antagonist so close to Bond, to who he is, to who he might become any minute. The first scene where Silva appears is a magnetic demonstration of power which is not brutal at all and yet intensely hypnotic. Some of Bardem’s face expressions and body language bring to mind the late Heath Ledger’s energy from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The innuendos of that scene are bringing the audiences to tears of laughter.
The opening sequence is introduced quite late after the actual beginning of the film – so late that it actually comes as a surprise. But it works great and the opening titles tie in well with Adele’s co-written and performed song Skyfall we all heard on the radio so many times already. Bond is killed in action before the opening credits so for us Bond experienced viewers we know what we’re dealing with. Again he will come back to life and again he will embrace the evil side. His audience knows his tricks and this Bond film is a magic combination of old with the new. As his fellow agent says at one point Bond is an ‘old dog with new tricks’. And ‘old’ is the adjective permeated throughout the whole story multiple times. Because he feels old or is perceived by others as too old. It is true as others have pointed out – this is a film about Bond (and so was Casino Royale in my opinion). A very successful one at that.
I love how thanks to an unexpected twist we are taken back to the classic old Bonds with Miss Moneypenny heading M’s lair (i.e. office).
I love how London has no tourists, no cyclists in the streets and how nobody gets stuck in its normal daily traffic. London is made up to look more like in the good old days.
It’s a great story that looks good, feels good and does not fail the James Bond fan base.
Thank you Sam Mendes for this challenge that you have decided to take. Skyfall is funny, fast and phenomenally close to the classic Bond films in the spirit of Ian Fleming’s novels.