Armed with a licence to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007 and must defeat a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, but things are not what they seem.
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When Bond's latest assignment goes gravely wrong and agents around the world are exposed, MI6 is attacked forcing M to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With MI6 now compromised from both inside and out, M is left with one ally she can trust: Bond. 007 takes to the shadows - aided only by field agent, Eve (Naomie Harris) - following a trail to the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves. Written by
M's name is "Olivia Mansfield." A 2013 props exhibition revealed her full name to be visible in an inscription on the box given to Bond from Eve containing M's porcelain bulldog figurine. In 1995, the original script for GoldenEye (1995) had revealed M's name as "Barbara Mawdsley," but this was before the James Bond series "reboot" with Casino Royale (2006), so Judi Dench's interpretation of M is likely two different characters. Curiously, "Olivia" is Dench's middle name, and the first head of the British Secret Service was (George) Mansfield Smith-Cummings (known by the first letter of his last name "C"). According to fellow spy novelist 'John Le Carré', Ian Fleming (ever tongue in cheek), designated the head of SIS as "M", using instead Cummings' first name. Keeping the Mansfield here as a surname is a twist but not intended in any of Fleming's original works. Fleming's "Man With the Golden Gun" gave his M's name as Myles Messervy. See more »
When Eve accidentally shoots Bond while he's fighting Patrice on the moving train, presumably she has more than one bullet in her rifle that can also eliminate Patrice and prevent the hard drive being stolen? See more »
The opening credits feature Bond periodically shooting at targets, Shanghai dragons, Silva's skull logo, and the Skyfall mansion from which Bond's eyes stare out. At the end of the credits, the sky is seen falling upon the mansion. See more »
Competently directed but full of plot holes and strange narrative decisions
After a botched MI6 operation in Istanbul, a lone mercenary, Patrice (Ola Rapace), escapes with a computer file containing details about undercover agents working within terrorist organisations. James Bond is accidentally shot by his partner Eve (Naomie Harris) and believed to be dead. Back in London, M (Judi Dench) finds her position threatened by Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who urges her to retire in the aftermath of Istanbul. When the MI6 headquarters are bombed following a threatening cyber-message to M, Bond returns, facing questions about his mental state and his physical ability. But when Patrice is tracked down, an assassination leads Bond to a casino in Macao, owned by cyber- terrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a former colleague of M's.
If I can say off the bat, I've always been in favour of this re- invention of Bond. As the 'old' Bond films were progressing, they were becoming gradually more ridiculous and fantasy-laden, leading to the inexplicable invisible car in Pierce Brosnan's last film as Bond, Die Another Day (2002). The films seemed to be losing sight of Ian Fleming's source novels, and although they remained commercial hits, Brosnan's outings (with the exception of GoldenEye (1995) were becoming increasingly dire. Casino Royale set the tone early with a moody black- and-white sequence that gave birth to Daniel Craig's colder, brutal Bond, less concerned with how his Martini's were made than going to extreme (and illegal) lengths to bring down his target(s). Royale's reinvention showed a darker side to the beloved character, yet staying with tradition, still kept him at an emotional distance.
Director Sam Mendes made the bold decision to reveal more about Bond's past and childhood, risking fanboy wrath and damaging Bond's almost mythical characterisations. The main crux of the film focuses on his relationship with M, a stern authoritarian that risks career and her own soul in putting national safety and the success of a mission above the lives of her agents. Bond, being a willing soldier, follows M blindly, and when Silva announces his intention to enact revenge on M for a former betrayal, Bond takes M to his childhood home, Skyfall. Bond facing his childhood allows time to develop on Bond's tormented psyche, but it all seems quite out of place. One of the most intriguing things about Bond is his almost suicidal willingness to risk all for his job due to his almost complete lack of emotion, but Skyfall is unable to make any grand revelations so it all comes to nothing more than a distraction. (Saying that, the only previous Bond film to try and engage Bond emotionally led to one of the most devastatingly cold climaxes in the series' history in the underrated On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)).
As well as the Bourne series, it seems that Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy (2005-2012) is a major influence on this film in particular. Mendes delves deeper into the workings and hierarchy of MI6, rather than just a boss sat behind a desk, and adds a modern, more 'real' bad guy in Silva to the mix (even stealing the Joker's voluntary arrest in The Dark Knight (2008)). Silva is a technical genius, able to hack MI6's database with relative ease, and also proving himself more resourceful and intelligent than Bond and M realise. Bardem is wonderful in the role (as you would expect), but sadly his character is not. Labelling him simply as a cyber virtuoso seems like a very lazy way to allow Silva to repeatedly outwit MI6 and their own technical marvel Q (Ben Whishaw) to the point where you wonder if Britain's finest could really be so stupid. The film is therefore full of plot-holes and distracting MacGuffin's that stretches out the running time to more than it really needs to be.
Skyfall also asks a lot of the audience, especially when it comes to suspending their belief. Before the frankly bizarre opening sequence appears and we are treated to Adele's drab title song, we witness an already wounded Bond get shot with a rifle and fall over 300 feet from the Varda Viaduct into water, only to emerge alive and romancing a mystery woman. No explanation is given as to how he manages to survive the ordeal, and given the revelations about Bond's diminishing physical prowess, it seems rather insulting. As questions are raised by his superiors over Bond's ability to his job given his age (it must be the grey in his stubble), Bond is put through various tests in which he struggles with, yet half way through the film, this seems to be simply put aside as he competently shoots and fights his way through various bad guys. Again, no real explanation given.
Like I stated before, the most suitable word to describe this film would be underwhelming, especially with the critical adoration that the film was lavished with. The action scenes are dull, with nothing matching the free-jumping opening of Royale. They are also quite strange - was anyone expecting a henchman to be eaten by a CGI Komodo dragon? How about death by underwater funky chicken? It all leads to a very unsatisfying climax at Skyfall, where a simple shoot-out and foot chase fail to justify a 2 hour-plus build-up. It feels like the entire film is building up to an explosive climax that never comes. I found the whole experiencing really quite baffling, with the attempts to mix the old with the new Bond never really convincing or flowing. The film is competently directed by Mendes however, and everything looks suitably crisp and clean. What direction all of this means for Bond, I don't know, but given the film is currently the 14th highest-grossing film of all time, and the film somehow being lauded by critics and audiences alike, it won't be too long until Craig dons the suit once again.
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