Luke Quantrill Remembers Skyfall

"A bloody big ship." I don't know about you but I'd love to see a television series where Daniel Craig's dimwitted James Bond travels the world as an art critic. The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn? "I dunno. It's some bloke in a stupid hat with someone on bongo drums behind him." Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer? "Some bird with a tea towel on her head." The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci? "Some people having their tea." The Mona Lisa? "A miserable looking bint."
Skyfall is the greatest film ever made (damn you Rotten Tomatoes) and one that earned about twenty-seven trillion dollars at the box office. I avoided this film in the cinema and watched it once on DVD although that probably didn't count because I made much use of the fast forward button. Some months later I was sedated, strapped to a steel chair and forced at gunpoint to finally watch another Daniel Craig James Bond film and I use the words "Bond", "James" and "film" in that slightly sarcastic and unfunny way that people do when they immediately repeat words again in quotes straight afterwards.
My first brilliant deductive observation with Skyfall is that the rookie Bond angle has been swept firmly under the carpet. In this film Daniel Craig now plays a burnt out wreck of an agent who could easily be mistaken for an extra in a George Romero film if he didn't mumble something now and again to remind us that he was still alive. I know Craig is not exactly the most boyish of actors but what the hell happened between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall? The man looks like he's aged about twenty-five years. He looks so awful in this film it's almost surreal. Scratch that. It IS surreal.
Skyfall's most audacious gambit comes when the the final portion of the film takes place in a muddy field. I've always wanted to see a James Bond film where the climax takes place entirely in a muddy field in the dark. I'm surprised that more films haven't stolen this great idea. Just think how much better Goldfinger would have been if instead of robbing Fort Knox, Goldfinger's masterplan revolved around scrumping some apples from a local fruit farm. Think of the tension as Pussy Galore's Flying Circus crept around the orchard at night plucking apples from trees as James Bond entered through a gap in the fence and strained his eyes in the darkness looking for them.
Just imagine if Die Hard had taken place not in a skyscraper but in a pear orchard in the dark. It would have been so much more exciting to have John McClane and those German terrorists playing a game of cat and mouse in stinging nettles and bushes and maybe someone could have tripped on a stone or got their sock wet by accidentally treading in a big puddle. Skyfall could have been so very different though. Have you read the original Purvis & Wade script? In the first draft, the entire third act took place in a small bakery and had Daniel Craig taking out several of Silva's henchmen with one of Mr Kipling's Fondant Fancies.
Skyfall is a ruined house and Bond's childhood home. The house is maintained by his gamekeeper Kincaid. Kincaid has been there for about 30 years living on berries and squirrels and conversing with a sock puppet that he knocked up himself so he would have some company. When Bond's parents died the future spy locked himself in a cupboard and came out a man. Luckily for the young Bond the cupboard was stocked with Fanta, Wagon Wheels, Wham Bars, Coconut Macaroons and one of those table tennis bats with a ball on a piece of elastic. The young secret agent in waiting not only developed a sweet tooth but he also worked on his hand eye co-ordination.
Kincaid struggled to get by in the years that Bond was away battling the Quantum Organisation (who have now branched out and own several carpet warehouses) but his occasional work as an Uncle Albert impersonator was welcome. I would personally love to see a spin-off franchise where Kincaid and Judi Dench travel around helping people and having adventures like Michael Landon and Victor French in Highway to Heaven. A dilapidated farmhouse could serve as their base of operations. Each episode would start with them eating crumpets and then Judi would look worried and Kincaid would take that as his cue to give his beard a brush and put his coat on so they could hit the road for their first mission of the day. There would be a reccuring bouffant haired villain who occasionally sneaked up on them in a big helicopter.
Skyfall (as you are all well aware by now) marks the last appearance of Judi Dench as M and she is given a larger than usual role by way of swansong. It sometimes feels like she is in every scene in the film but I'm sure that would be impossible. To all intents and purposes Dench is the female lead and Bond girl in this film. Now, as we know, Dench made her debut as M in GoldenEye in 1995, the film that introduced us to Pierce Brosnan's 007. By the end of Brosnan's run those obligatory scenes of Dench nagging him or looking concerned amidst banks of computer screens had become so tedious they could bring tears to your eyes. She should have been jettisoned when they put Brosnan in the ejector seat and replaced him with Derek Deadman.

But Barbara Broccoli couldn't bear to part with such a luvvie and so we now had to put up with Dench and Daniel Craig gloomily acting together as if they are in a po-faced BBC4 docu-drama. A costume drama about nuclear waste. Dench's spirit sapping earnestness reaches its apogee with what I think is probably the most insufferable scene she has ever been given. Daniel Craig is running through streets to intervene in an assassination attempt at a Parliamentary Select Committee and M quotes Lord Tennyson’s poem Ulysses. The hero returning to his kingdom. I love the idea of a Parliamentary Select Committee that would put up with this. What I wouldn't have given for someone to cut her off straight away. "No, you can't quote Tennyson you daft cow. This is a committee not a ******* poetry club."
When Daniel Craig was cast there were a lot of rumours and discussions about how Matthew Vaughn might direct a James Bond film because of the Layer Cake connection. I didn't give it much thought at the time because I wasn't very familiar with Vaughn but since then we've had X-Men: First Class and Kick Ass and I believe Vaughn would be a fun choice. Fun. There is a word we don't associate with James Bond these days. Skyfall is lumbered with that pompous arse Sam Mendes. Not only does Mendes give us a James Bond film with hardly any action and no sense of adventure but he also tramples over anything established by the series or Ian Fleming. If the end of Skyfall had revealed that James Bond was really a window cleaner from Armenia who had lost his memory you probably wouldn't have been surprised.
The song for Skyfall is much lauded despite Adele apparently not being able to speak her native tongue of, er, English. "Let the ska faaaaw, let it cruuuumbow..." What on earth is she going on about? Plastering Daniel Craig's face over the titles is never a great idea either. I mean, he doesn't really have the Milk Tray Man looks needed for that sort of promotion does he? Q and Moneypenny return to the series but with a twist. The twist is that Moneypenny is a field agent who needs acting lessons and never tells anyone what her name is.
She shoots Daniel Craig at the start of the film but unfortunately the shot is not fatal and he shrugs it off after falling from a train into a river. I personally like to think that Bond's fall into the river explains why his clothes always look too small for him. Q is a techno whizz nerd played by Pingu from Nathan Barley. It feels a bit gimmicky and pointless. Bardem is beyond ridiculous as the villain and the film is so in hock to Nolan's Dark Knight series it's almost embarrassing. Why don't you just have done with it and put Daniel Craig in an Iron Man suit or something the next time around. It might be time for the James Bond series to mine its own territory rather than mimic whatever has been released in the last few years.
Skyfall has a few throwbacks to the Bond of old but the people running the series these days still seem to have a snooty disdain for the franchise they inherited. All in all, I would probably rather eat my own legs than sit through another Mendes/Craig James Bond film. Roll on Bond 24!
* Luke Quantrill's new book "The Amazing World of Sam Mendes" is available now in all good bookshops.


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