I’ve made it no small secret that I am a big fan of the James Bond franchise and all of their films. Those of you that know the series well will likely have a question for what is widely considered biggest shortcoming of any official Bond film (so, not counting Never Say Never Again) and that is, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. George Lazenby stars in it as the second actor to play Bond and also as the only one to do it just once, and his story is even more interesting than that. That interesting story is what is the focus of Becoming Bond to tell, from Lazenby’s own words, so it easily topped my list of must see films this year at SXSW. I got into the premier and its time for me to tell you what I think.
Written by: Ben
I’m no a big fan of reporting too many rumors, because in Hollywood there are too many out there and too many that don’t come true. But as this is one involves a series I care a lot for, a director we all love and is based on a real offer, its too much to let pass. So the potential of Christopher Nolan to direct the next James Bond movie is like getting chocolate in my peanut butter, and I just gotta share. Follow us through the jump for some more details on this.
The James Bond series has had a fairly up and down history with Sean Connery defining the role as the first to play it and to much success. It hit some lows after George Lazenby took over and then eventually down again in the middle of Roger Moore’s run. But it came back strong in the 90’s with Pierce Brosnan and done well lately with Daniel Craig, and Skyfall was widely well received, including by myself, and gotten the world excited for more. Director Sam Mendes did a great job on the movie that almost didn’t get made due to MGM Studios going bankrupt, but it assured us another one would come. Mendes was reported a few months ago to not be returning and so people have been wondering who would be next and Nolan seems to be the man primed to take the job.
So in case you guys have been living under a rock, or just are really bad at recognizing director’s by name, Nolan has become one of the most prolific ones of this time. Starting his career with the brilliant psychological thriller Memento and moving on to great fame for the recent Batman Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception he has earned that spot. Nolan mixes artistically done and smartly written and conceived movies and makes them in a way that has found a lot of deserved critical and financial success. Mendes was an interesting choice as an artistic director for an action series, and he did it well, so Nolan’s track record in action and arty movies should lend itself very well to a sequel to Skyfall. Nolan’s next confirmed movie is of course the sci-fi thriller Interstellar that we’ve covered before which is set for a 2014 release.
Written by: Ben
I’ve made it no secret that I adore the James Bond franchise, possibly more then any other. My Bond 50 box set sits in a place of pride, front and center flanked by all of my other box sets. So of course, I was excited that the series would be honored for its 50th anniversary at this year’s Academy Awards.
However, I think its also a little fair to say that the Academy dropped the ball and it was a little lackluster. Luckily Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr., a 19 year old film student from the Netherlands took it on himself to make his own tribute in this 4 minute video. He did a wonderful job capturing some memorable moments and all of the themes that make the series great and really honoring its history. Not to mention, he uses the great Skyfall theme that won Adele an Oscar last weekend which always makes me happy.
Written by: Ben
I know, this may shock you guys but I am actually writing a review this time. Why? Well you may have picked up the subtle hints that I love mystery and spy thrillers, but above all else I am legitimately a massive James Bond nerd. I am ashamed to say I don’t have encyclopedic knowledge, but no series of films elicits more joy and happy memories of watching movies with my dad and brothers then James Bond. Whether it be the stellar original Connery films, the great ones of the last 20 years or even the most campy of the Roger Moore films (Moonraker, what are you doing with James Bond in you?) I love it. So of course I was super excited for Skyfall, the return of Daniel Craig who has done a great job being Bond in Casino Royale and the wrongfully belittled Quantum of Solace. With MGM in massive debt it was almost not released, but it finally came out and while they have been doing heavy marketing for it, this movie didn’t need it because the Bond name and the quality of it speaks for itself, but maybe I should explain that better.
As for the plot it starts with some of the action packed James Bond fair the Craig has been dishing out, taking what we love about Bond and mixing in more of the literary character and some of the action style from the Bourne series. Bond is entering a compromised safe house in Turkey, finding that a drive has been stolen and the goes on a chase with a new female agent (Naomie Harris). They’re fighting on a train and the female agent is ordered to shoot at them fighting by M (Judi Dench) to try and ensure the drive isn’t taken, but Bond is hit and falls into the river below, and then the opening title sequence kicks in. We then see M meeting with a new director in charge of MI6, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) where we learn the files lost were the names of all undercover agents, and that M’s position and credibility are in question, but she stands her ground, only for MI6 headquarters and her office be blown up. We find Bond drinking and screwing his way through “death” until he hears reports of the attack and comes back to help protect M and MI6 as they are the only family he has and they need him. Bond then goes out on his usual tuxedo wearing world tour to find the man, who we find out after a while is Silva (Javier Bardem) and stop the threat his cyber-warfare poses. Also thrown into the mix to help support Bond, and add some comedy in as his predecessor in the series did, is the new Quartermaster, or Q (Ben Whishaw) as a computer genius and brilliant engineer to outfit Bond.
The plot holds up as great standard Bond fair, and actually much more an updated take on the old school bond with mysterious criminal masterminds he must chase. As a Bond nerd this harkening back to the classic fills me with glee and nerd squeals that make me really want to see the movie again. The mix of the more physical Bond who is closer to the original literary character that Craig has been playing is played perfectly against this retro style Bond villain where we had a more gun-toting spy Bond generally taking lead. It plays very nicely into the well laid out theme of the movie of “Nothing wrong with the old ways, in fact they are sometimes better.” And it’s played out beautifully in this film, and hammered home with so many brilliant and lovely homages to classic Bond movies and the books that I smiled hard enough to cause my cheeks to hurt by the end. This Bond is the classic suave British killer and provocateur that we’ve always loved and this movie shows that that flair that the Connery era had is not gone and still has a place in this world, and I love it.
But yeah, not that I’ve waxed poetic about their main theme and homages to the classics, why not talk about the characters and performances. To start off is Craig as Bond, somebody who people (including myself) were largely apprehensive about when this muscular blonde dude took on the role. However, in Casino Royale he proved he was Bond, just with awesome parkour skills and able to take a lot of abuse to the junk while on a wicker chair. In Skyfall Craig continues to give us that tough and brutal Bond, but he also humanizes him a lot too by showing us him wounded, weakened and even confronted with his troubled past that brought him to being the best MI6 has to offer. All while causing the ladies to swoon as he sips his martini. Next most important character has to be M, Judi Dench in a role she took on with Pierce Brosnon as Bond and with criticism that all previous M’s had been male and that this was a big change. But Dench has mastered the role and been brilliant throughout, and the hard edged motherly role she has taken on with Craig’s Bond is wonderful as we follow her as her past wreaks havoc with MI6 and Bond and she has to come to terms with how she impacts the world leading MI6. Next up is the new character of Gareth Mallory played by the fantastic Ralph Fiennes in a rare role as something other then a villain. He is a new political head of the secret divisions like MI6 and he comes from a heroic military career and wants to ensure that even in the face of heavy criticism M is given respect and trust that she deserves, even if he is overly protective in his ways. Its great to know that a great actor is joining the recurring cast of Bond characters and Fiennes brings a strong presence of military calm but also an energy and control that reads well on screen. Mind you, you really don’t get a great feel for him in any of his scenes until the end, yes you end up loving him in those scenes, but it bears noting that it takes a fair amount of time to get there. The next most important has to be Ben Whishaw as Q, he gets more screen time then our villain and is a welcome addition to the cast. He has a fun young energy and comes off as a more social version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock. He is a bit clutzy but also clearly a genius too and I can’t wait for more. Last but not least is our villain, Silva, by the charismatic Javier Bardem who while getting top 3 billing gets almost the least gametime. He is charismatic, cunning, crazy, (more then) a little gay for Bond and also kinda scary crazy towards the end. He plays like a classic crazy Bond villain like Goldfinger, being welcoming to his guest (Bond) yet also trying to break and torment him. There are some glorious scenes between them that just are terrific. People may criticize how long it takes to get to the villain, or that he is the Joker to Bond’s Batman, but it is that mystery behind him and the opposites that makes him a perfect villain here.
Now finally onto the directing and cinematography behind this film. First off, it needs to be said that if you haven’t gotten it from the trailers, you will quickly realize that at least most of the movie is just shot gorgeously. From uses of shadows and Bond in silhouette, to reflection s and also parallels between dark and light this movie plays with visuals in ways used that shine in a skilled hand which is what we clearly have here. Take the scene where Bond, in his tux, floats into a Macau casino on a raft at night, going from pitch black to bright reds and golds of Chinese dragons and traditional decor. It’s a visual treat in a lot of places and honestly the only problems is that some scenes its not all that pretty or amazing and then you realize that its not in a very real way. But truthfully it is a film that is another great credit to it’s director, Sam Mendes who may not have a long and storied film career, but his short list all hold up. From the great success that made Kevin Spacey a star, American Beauty, to the less talked about but gorgeous period piece Road to Perdition, Mendes has shown a talent at directing actors in an array of varied situations while also a prowess for gunplay. However in this movie his skills at action also shine beautifully in ways I didn’t think he was capable of. Bond gets physical as ever in well-choreographed fights and hanging from elevators as well as taking down groups of henchmen with a speed and flair that Jason Bourne would admire. Mendes shoots these scenes with a talent that I hadn’t realized he possessed for physical action, and that I’d like to see again. Its clear that while much of its primary cast was already well established and talented, he brought it together to a great way to redeem the serious from the weaker outing in Quantum of Solace. I really can’t say anymore because if I do I have to end up in spoiler territory as I nerd out over the movie, and I refer to do that, so it’s time to get to reviews.
I fought with myself on the score between a 4 or a 4.5, but in the end I realized that the .5 was my fanboy side coming out more. If you are a die hard Bond fan like me, this will be a 4.5 for you. The movie is fantastic, and it’s a must see, especially in a theater where you can fully appreciate the gorgeous cinematography and great action. However, if you’re not a classic/major Bond fan like myself you might not adore all of the little touches they put in there and as such its only a 4. I can’t say with any certainty as I’m still riding the high of this one, but there’s a good chance that Casino Royale is still the best of Craig’s films but this one gives it a run for its money, and in many cases, especially the final reel, it may even have it beat. I’m excited to see what they do with the next film with changes and additions to the cast and story laid out in this one, and I’m certainly going to see Skyfall again.
Along with my many other nerdy fandoms, I am also a huge James Bond fan. My Dad read the books when he was a boy and had a collection of almost all of them, so of course he was a big fan of the films. Sadly most of those books were lost in a flood but my Bond love lives on. As such, I’m psyched for Skyfall as the newer movies have been among the best since Connery and truly Daniel Craig has proven that he is a legit Bond. As I’ve read/am listening to the audio books of the original Bond books I can vouch for him being more like the original James Bond character and this trailer looks to continue that trend and I can’t wait.
SKYFALL – Official Teaser Trailer (by SonyPictures)