On November 9, James Bond 007 returns from a four-year hiatus in acclaimed director Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. When the official teaser trailer went viral, the Internet was abuzz with speculation. Could Judi Dench’s M be one of the film’s antagonists? Is Bond faking his death for the umpteenth time? Is Javier Bardem’s blond hair meant to be a chilling character affectation, or is it simply in the actor’s contract that he absolutely must have awful hair to appear?
Whatever the answers to these and other mysteries are, Skyfall looks to be a thrilling ride. Daniel Craig’s first Bond outing, Martin Campbell’s preboot Casino Royale, was a critical and financial hit that fused the modern action film with a sense of charm and sophistication not seen since the Fleming/Connery era. But it was not to last. Just when it looked like the franchise was finally returning to form, revered director Marc Forster gave us 2008’s Quantum of Solace. Though it continued Casino Royale‘s arc, it followed a more “realistic” storyline than the essentially classical Royale. Audiences, critics, and Bond aficionados alike saw it as simply mediocre, if not an outright a misfire.
Filming began in 2011, with key scenes shot in Istanbul, New Delhi, Shanghai, and of course, London. Fans kept eager tabs on all casting decisions, hoping to see the names of fan favorite characters like supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld, secret service secretary Miss Moneypenny, and tech wizard Q in the headlines. Actor Ben Whishaw, who co-starred alongside Daniel Craig in the film Layer Cake, was cast as Q – which, the trailer informs us, is short for “Quartermaster”. Esteemed British character actor Ralph Fiennes, known for his bald head and villainous turns in films like Schindler’s List and the Harry Potter film series, was rumored to be taking on the role of Blofeld beneath the guise of a civil servant character named Mallory, a claim he neither denied nor confirmed. “I can’t say anything more,” he said when interviewed, but coyly added “I will not be stroking a white pussy!”
Skyfall would not be complete without a healthy helping of Bond girls, a requirement fulfilled by Pirates of the Caribbean alumni Naomie Harris and French newcomer Bérénice Marlohe. While Marlohe has compared her character to GoldenEye‘s sadistic femme fatale Xenia Onatopp, Harris was keen to curb rumors that she would be playing a reinterpration of Miss Moneypenny. “The idea of me being Moneypenny was a good, racy rumour. But Eve is not remotely office-bound. She gets to see plenty of action. That meant a lot of gun training.” Harris also commented on the need for Bond girls that can match 007 in both depth and aptitude. “What drew me to this was the opportunity to play a new kind of Bond Girl. We are Bond Girls who are multi-faceted, intelligent and capable,” she explained to Live magazine. Rounding out the cast is five time Academy Award-nominee Albert Finney and Harry Potter’s Helen McCrory, both likely portraying government bureaucrats.
The trailer sheds a little light on what looks to be a labyrinthine Bond adventure. Bond has faked his death, and after a few shots of Bond moodily hopping out of swimming pools and gulping down a large shot in a bar crowded with drunkards and scorpions, gets back to his usual repartee with M. “Where the hell have you been?” she asks, in a scene resembling a similar one in that classic from way back in 2006, Casino Royale. “Enjoying death,” he responds. Bond’s mission: chasing down Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a disgruntled ex-agent who leaked a drive containing all of MI6’s undercover operatives… on YouTube. But is everything a clear cut case of good versus evil? A short teaser synopsis reveals that M’s motives – as well as her past – will come into serious question. The rest of the trailer is devoted to exotic love scenes, slam-bam action set pieces, and montage-y shots, like the one showing the villainous
Joker Raoul Silva disguised in a police uniform.
One of the few moments of dialogue not devoted to planting the plot is a classic Bond zinger, and perhaps a sly promise to fans disappointed by the previous installment. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it – judge for yourself:
“Everyone needs a hobby…” says Bond.
“So what’s yours?” replies Silva.