Just two Bond films from the finish line we managed to get caught up with lots of boring real-life stuff like moving house and changing jobs. But now, after six torturous months without watching any Bond movies, we finally sit down to watch Skyfall.
In Turkey James Bond finds a fellow MI6 agent, Ronson, who has just been shot. The hard drive from his laptop has been stolen, which contains details of undercover operatives. 007 wants to stay and help his wounded colleague, but M insists he gets after the villainous Patrice.
“M sees her agents as disposable as James Bond sees women,” says Mel.
Bond, and another agent called Eve, chase Patrice through the streets of Istanbul. After a motorbike pursuit across the roof of the Grand Bazaar, Bond and his quarry end up on the roof of a train. Eve drives alongside the train in a Land Rover, describing the action to M back at base.
I tell Mel that when Eve tells M the crashing sound she can hear is, “VW Beetles,” some people don’t like this because it seems like clumsy product placement.
Mel is not convinced. “But what’s the point of it?” she asks. “It doesn’t make them look good. They’re just reminding you that VW Beetles exist. When you’re looking for a new car you don’t say, ‘Have you got any of the ones that James Bond crushed with a big crane?'”
While trading blows with Patrice, Bond nearly gets knocked off the train and has to climb back on.
“James Bond never screams or anything does he? He’s never, like, ‘Arrgh! I nearly got my head knocked off!’ Do you think he gets training for that? I wouldn’t be any good at the job would I?”
Mel yelps in alarm if I stumble slightly on an uneven paving stone, making it impossible for me to style it out.
M orders Eve to take a shot at Patrice, despite the risk of hitting 007. She shoots Bond, who falls a really long way off a bridge into the water below.
Mel says, “I —-ing love M. She’s so beautiful. I want to grow old gracefully like her. I’m not pumping poison into my face or getting surgery, I’ll just use good creams. And I’m going to be fierce like her.”
M is taken to a meeting with Gareth Mallory in her black Jaguar. For our wedding day we hired the same the model of car to transport me and my groomsmen to the venue.
“I never got to sit in that,” says Mel.
We did get some nice photos with it though.
Mallory is trying to force M into retirement.
“I’ll leave when the job’s done,” she retorts.
“—-ing boom!” Mel approves.
The spymaster is on her way back to Vauxhall with Bill Tanner when they are stopped by police. Suddenly, the front of the SIS building explodes.
“I really jumped then!” exclaims Mel.
We then learn that Bond survived his tumble off the bridge, and has been living as a bit of beach bum. He’s also got himself a girlfriend.
“Here he is,” says Mel. “Shagging in his shag-cave.”
He’s still in good shape though.
“I want us to be ripped like this,” Mel says.
I pause, a slice of Papa John’s chicken club pizza halfway to my mouth. We’ll start tomorrow, I suggest.
With River House out of use, MI6 have relocated to Churchill’s underground bunker. Bond pulls some shrapnel out out his shoulder, lodged there during his gun battle with Patrice.
Mel says, “That is minging. It makes me feel sick.”
The analysis of the metal leads Bond to Shanghai, where he finally kills Patrice. Back in his hotel room Bond receives a visit from Eve, who ends up shaving him erotically.
“This is so weird. A bit close for two colleagues. If a man I worked with handed me a razor and wanted me to shave his face, I’d tell him to —- off. I don’t ask people to shave my legs do I?”
I remember reading in an interview with Naomie Harris that the scene originally went on longer and that made it clear that they didn’t sleep together. As it is, we’ve only got the final version to go on. I ask Mel if she thinks they post-shave sex?
“I don’t think they did. But she does look a little bit jealous when he goes off with this girl.”
Bond and Eve go to the Golden Dragon Casino, named on a poker chip that was among Patrice’s effects. 007 has a drink with a lady called Serverine, who makes contact after he cashes in Patrice’s chip. Bond deduces from her tattoo that she was in the Macau sex-trade.
“You can see the vulnerability in her,” says Mel.
Bond has to fight off some henchmen before he can follow Severine to her yacht. After one of them is eaten by komodo dragon, Bond quips, “The circle of life.”
Mel rather beautifully sings a few lines from The Lion King (one of her three favourite movies. The other two are Beauty and the Beast and The Karen Carpenter Story).
Bond arrives on Severine’s boat to find her washing away the smoke and sweat of the casino in the shower. He disrobes and joins her.
“I don’t like that he knows she has been in the sex trade, she’s vulnerable and afraid… and he goes and has sex with her in the shower.”
The new couple arrive on a deserted island after being taken prisoner by the crew of the yacht. Bond is tied to a chair and meets Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent. Silva unbuttons a couple of the buttons on Bond’s shirt and caresses his legs. Bond cleverly pretends that this isn’t his first homosexual experience so that the lecherous villain will stop.
“Well, he did ask Le Chiffre to tickle his balls,” says Mel.
Outside Silva challenges Bond to a shooting competition. Bond misses the glass of scotch on Severine’s head.
“I hate this bit,” says Mel.
Silva shoots his girlfriend dead. Bond does some cool moves and kills all the henchmen.
“That’s disgusting.” says Mel. “Why couldn’t he do that before?! A woman has just died. She meant absolutely nothing to him.”
But then there’s a really cool bit where Bond reveals he’s radioed for help and the RAF helicopters arrive and it plays the Bond theme tune. But even this doesn’t help Mel forget about the woman who has just been brutally slain.
“I’m not enjoying Skyfall as much this time. I think it’s more brutal than I remember.”
Back at base, Bond is standing guard at Silva’s cell when M arrives to speak to their prisoner. Silva notes that M is smaller than he remembers.
“Whereas I barely remember you at all,” she replies.
Mel says, “That’s the best response. Make him feel insignificant. She’s won this – she took all the power. She wouldn’t even say his real name.”
“He’s very clever though. He’s my favourite villain. He’s got a backstory that I’m interested in, a weird relationship to James Bond and a plan that I understand.”
Shortly afterwards Q plugs Silva’s laptop into his system, which allows the villain to escape into the London Underground. One of his minions hands him a Police uniform disguise. There are crowds of people as Bond follows Silva through a tube station.
“Welcome to rush hour on the Tube. Not something you’d know much about,” says Q.
By the time Q realises that Silva is aboard, the doors have closed and the train has set off. A bemused couple on the platform look on as Bond has to run along the platform and leap onto the back of the carriage. The man says, “He’s keen to get home.” A lady in the cabin looks shocked to find 007 hanging off the back of her train.
“That’s the funniest bit in all of these films,” says Mel. “And her reaction! It’s British humour – and I like that it puts James Bond in the real world, not off doing loads of weird stuff.”
I agree, likewise threatening Silva with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mel says, “I hate how crowded the tube is. I’ve seen it a lot worse than this though.”
Yeah, he wouldn’t be able to move along the train carriage at rush hour. He’d be stuck in a corner with someone’s armpit in his face.
M and Tanner are at an enquiry about her handling of recent events. Silva bursts in and starts shooting. M turns around to face her attacker.
“She’s so brave. She’s like, ‘Just shoot me then, you little shit.”
Bond arrives, and after a shoot-out, whisks M away in her Jaguar.
“Too many people are dying because of me,” M tells 007.
Mel says, “I thought that. When all the people were getting shot should she have stood up and said, ‘I’m here, it’s me you want. Stop shooting everyone.'”
Bond enlists Q’s help. “So much for my promising career in espionage,” the gadget man complains.
Mel says, “He’s a bit cocky when he’s just let Silva into his system, and then escape.”
Bond and M arrive at a lock-up so they can change cars into the iconic Aston Martin DB5.
“Is the tax-payer footing the bill for this garage in London? It probably costs about £200,000 a year. Is that all his stuff from his flat that M sold?”
I ask what Mel thinks might be in all the boxes.
I know that this was a bit controversial with some fans when the movie came out. As at best a casual viewer, at worst a long-suffering victim, I’m interested to know where Mel thinks this car came from.
“What do you mean?”
Well it’s the car from Goldfinger. It’s the same number plate and the exact same gadgets as the one from that film – ejector seat, machine guns behinds the headlights. But this is a new Bondinuity that started with Casino Royale, so Goldfinger hasn’t happened to him. Some people think it breaks the continuity a bit. It’s not the one he won in the poker game from Dimitrios in Casino Royale, because that was lefthand drive… Unless he got Q to convert it.
Mel thinks for a moment. “I think they need to get a grip. Why do people worry about continuity when there’s different men playing the character?! I just think it’s a nice nod. It’s the car that’s synonymous with James Bond.”
For what it’s worth, I think Bond has just bought an ex-company car that double-Os in the 1960s were routinely issued with. Maybe that’s how M know its got an ejector seat?
Mel sighs. “I don’t know the answers to these questions, Mark. That would fit your theory… but maybe she just saw the red button and realised it’s an ejector.”
The duo arrive at Skyfall, the Bond family’s ancestral home in Scotland. There they meet the groundskeeper, Kincade.
I tell Mel that there’s a rumour that the legendary Sir Sean Connery was originally considered for this role.
“But that would have been even worse continuity!” she replies.
But the DB5 looks the same as it did in 1963, whereas Connery looks different.
Bond asks Kincade if he’s ready. “I was ready before you were born, son.”
Imagine Big Tam delivering these lines, I say to Mel. She rolls her eyes.
…Because Connery was James Bond before Daniel Craig was born.
“Actually that would have been good,” she admits grudgingly.
Silva and his men arrive, and a fierce battle ensues.
“I never have much to say during these bits,” says Mel. “It’s just shooting.”
We learn that M has been wounded in the firefight as she and Kincade escape through a priest-hole tunnel.
“Oh no. Poor M.”
Silva signals his helicopter to fire at the DB5, which explodes. Bond looks pissed off and his expression shows new resolve as he rigs some gas canisters. I ask Mel if she thinks it’s significant that he doesn’t seem to mind his family home being shot up and exploding, but is angry about the car.
“Yeah. Because he has no roots now. He just lives for his job.”
The canisters explode, blowing the house up and taking out the helicopter. Bond escapes through the priest-hole. M and Kincade are out of the tunnel and heading for a church. Kincade uses a torch rather than use the light from the enormous pyre that was Skyfall. Silva spots the beam, alerting him to his old boss’ whereabouts.
“This bit is really annoying,” says Mel. “That they put this torch on and get caught. They would have got away!”
While Bond shoots through the frozen surface of a lake and fights a henchman under the water, Silva tries to make M shoot them both through the head.
“He’s absolutely insane. But he’s transfixing, you have to watch him.”
Bond arrives and kills Silva by hurling a knife into his back. M asks what took her agent so long.
“Well, I got into some deep water,” he quips.
“That’s a bit shit,” says Mel.
I ask her if it would have been better if he’d said, ‘I’ve was just breaking the ice?’
“No. No, I don’t.”
“She’s gone. It’s the end of an era.”
On the rooftop back at MI6 Eve gives Bond a box with his inheritance from M. The box reveals that M’s real name was Olivia.
“I love that name. If we have a little girl I want to call her Olivia.”
Bond learns that Eve’s surname is Moneypenny. “Well, I look forward to our
time together, Miss Moneypenny,” he says.
“He just assumes she’s a Miss. I hate it’s simply assumed I’m a Miss.”
Mel will return…. Watching SPECTRE.
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Nods to other James Bond movies in Skyfall
Skyfall celebrated the first fifty years of James Bond on the silver screen, but did you spot all the references to the previous films?
WARNING: contains some spoilers. And several extremely tenuous homages.
Dr. No – Both Dr. No and Silva have a secret lair on an island and use technology to remotely disrupt the endeavours of Western countries.
In the Shanghai high-rise opposite where Bond and Patrice fight there is a Modigliani painting on display. The painting was stolen in real-life. In Dr. No Bond spots a stolen Goya in the villain’s lair. (via Adam Slusar).
From Russia With Love – Both feature a fight on a train, and both introduce the character of Q.
Patrice’s rifle is constructed from the components of his briefcase, like Bond’s in this movie (via Adam Slusar).
Goldfinger – Features the Aston Martin DB5 and a villain named for a precious metal.
Thunderball – Both villains keep their woman on a yacht.
MI6 liaison Paula Caplan takes a cyanide pill when captured, just as Silva has in Skyfall.
You Only Live Twice – The apparent death of 007 and his resultant obituary.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Both of these movies end with a woman dying in Bond’s arms.
Live And Let Die – Bond jumping on the Komodo Dragon to escape is reminiscent of the crocodile farm scene in this movie.
The Spy Who Loved Me – 007 patronises women drivers: When Eve knocks the wing mirror off, he says “you weren’t using it.” To Agent XXX he says, “Does it play anything else?” When she can’t find the right gear.
The Man With The Golden Gun – Bond tracks down a bad guy by the ammunition he uses.
A reflection in a mirror takes a bullet. It’s Bond in Scaramanga’s hall of mirrors, and Kincade uses the same ruse in Skyfall.
Both villains challenge Bond to a shooting competition.
Moonraker – Both movies feature waterfalls; but while Moore narrowly escapes going over the Iguaza Falls, Craig’s 007 takes a tumble.
For Your Eyes Only – Both films see Bond drop a chap off a roof.
Bond delivers a bullet extracted from his shoulder for analysis and says, “For her eyes only.” (via Elena Fdez).
Octopussy – Bond spots Magda’s Octopus tattoo, which gives her past away. Similarly, he recognises Severine’s ink in Skyfall.
The fight on the roof of the train (via Adam Slusar).
A View To A Kill – The pre-titles sequence of both films feature Bond discovering a dead/dying MI6 agent who has had some hardware stolen.
Bond defends his house from attackers, as he did when Zorin’s thugs attack Stacey’s home.
The Living Daylights – Introduction of a new Moneypenny actress.
Licence To Kill – Skyfall’s pre-title scenes are set in Turkey, which is where M wants Bond to go just before he resigns in Licence to Kill.
As in Skyfall, James Bond is given a signature gun, that will only fire in his hands (via Emery Cormier).
GoldenEye – Both villains are rogue MI6 agents.
The new Q refers to exploding pens, a key gadget in defeating GoldenEye‘s Alec Trevelyan.
Bond takes advantage of his hotel’s swimming pool on both missions.
Tomorrow Never Dies – Two lots of Motorcycle-based antics, jumping across rooftops and the like.
The World is Not Enough – Attack on MI6 HQ at Vauxhall. M in danger and captured by the villain.
Die Another Day – Bond with facial hair and underground MI6 bases.
Casino Royale – “Don’t touch your ear.”
Quantum of Solace – Bond immediately tends to his fallen comrade in Skyfall‘s pre-title sequence, Eddie Love suggests this is a direct rebuke to him dumping Mathis’ corpse into a dumpster.