With ‘Skyfall’ almost due for DVD / blu-ray release while the movie is still in cinemas (and that, for once, is a great achievement given that ‘Skyfall’ was released over three months ago in the UK) I thought it was time to admit my fanboy obsession with the James Bond movies and publicly acknowledge the impossible magic trick Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson have performed in taking the franchise to creative heights that could never have been imagined even during its golden days.
 
I’ve got to make a confession here. I’ve loved the 007 movies since I was a kid, always used to get that excited tummy-wobble of anticipation whenever a new Bond movie was released and the famous pre-credits gunbarrel would slide across the screen to prologue the thrilling start of another adventure, have always believed that Timothy Dalton suffered unfairly by being way ahead of his time (a point of view vindicated by the success of the current vision) and was one of those admirers who – when Pierce Brosnan was finally introduced to the series with ‘Goldeneye’ – was overjoyed by the possibilities Brosnan’s arrival promised. With Brosnan, Bond could be something special again and ‘Goldeneye’ was an enthusiastically received endorsement of Brosnan’s casting. Unfortunately, it was Bond screenwriters’ Neil Purvis and Robert Wade who burst the Brosnan bubble. Where ‘Goldeneye’s post cold war-storyline gave a new energy to Bond’s character, without straying too uncomfortably from the suavely chilled-out 007 persona, their follow-up ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was slight and ridiculous and (most insultingly to Brosnan) literally handcuffed him to a Bond girl who was, effectively, a female 007 in disguise and looked more convincing on the battlefield than our hero. Thankfully, the third Brosnan ‘The World Is Not Enough’ was a major course correction with (in my opinion) the most beautiful and well-written Bond girl the series had seen so far (Sophie Marceau) and an incredible pre-gunbarrel sequence that saw Bond power boating on (and off) the River Thames culminating in a painful high-fall from a hot-air balloon onto thebrosnan-bond-goldeneye Millennium Dome. Unfortunately, the addition of Denise Richards’ as the character who would eventually be revealed as the ‘real’ Bond girl (i.e. the sloppily written, pretty but vacuous one he rescues in the finale) and a slightly pathetic terrorist whose bullet in the brain had rendered impervious to pain jumped ‘TWINE’ back over the shark, although director Michael Apted did have the sense to realise what an asset the series had in Judi Dench and take M out of the office and into the guts of the story.
 
Sadly, Brosnan’s final outing ‘Die Another Day’, was the biggest betrayal of his tenure as Bond. Saddled again with a female co-star the producers seemed more interested in developing than they did 007, and hobbled by weak CGI (aren’t ‘real time’ stunts one of the reasons we loved watching Bond movies in the first place?) as well as the most ineffectual villain with the most ludicrous world-domination gig of the whole franchise, the only reason to briefly recommend ‘Die Another Day’ is a lukewarm pre-gun barrel hovercraft chase followed by an excellently-realised titles sequence during which Bond gets very nastily interrogated (the first and so far only time Bond titles have been used to integrate the action of the story). But, as the 40th anniversary Bond, ‘Die Another Day’ was a comic-book catastrophe that pleased very few people and, it seemed, celebrated the agent’s birthday by not only proving how out of date he was but also effectively giving him a computerised cake with a franchise-destroying bomb concealed inside it.
 
It was after ‘Die Another Day’ that I threw my tuxedo out of the cot and turned my back on the series completely. Like wanting to cancel out the memories of the girl who broke your heart by swearing off all relationships forever, I refused to recognise that Bond had even existed. Where spy-themed action movies were concerned, Jason Bourne was my guy now and I had absolutely no interest in the announcement that 007 would return with Daniel Craig in ‘Casino Royale’. Wasn’t Daniel Craig the thuggish-looking not-very-handsome guy who was outsmarted by Angelina Jolie in ‘Tomb Raider’? Not my idea of Bond at all. Which is why I didn’t come back to the series until three months ago, when my wife went to see ‘Skyfall’ with friends and came home raving about it (even though she’s never been a Bond fan) and I reluctantly agreed to go and see it with her but figured I should bite the bullet and watch the previous two Craig outings first.
 
In brief, as was already widely accepted, I also had to admit that ‘Casino Royale’ is a brilliant re-imagining and, at that point, the best Bond of the series. Daniel Craig was outstanding in the role and I completely threw all my reservations about him aside. ‘Quantum of Solace’, although a major disappointment after ‘Casino’, is better on second and third viewings than it is the first time around, but it’s still a too-convoluted movie that, despite a solid performance from Craig and one of the most convincingly feisty Bond girls ever, is too much in love with its bombastic, frantically edited, slightly unreal looking action sequences, to properly engage.

And then came ‘Skyfall’.

‘Skyfall” is the most incredible Bond movie ever made. It’s a work of art, a faithful culmination to the rebooted franchise that, at its climax, brings most of the characters we love home again and, for me, does something I’ve always wanted to see in a Bond movie since Judi Dench’s arrival but which was sadly and briefly only intimated in ‘TWINE’ – Sam Mendes and his writers took M centre stage and made her the best Bond girl so far, adding difficult emotional layers to herffjljtrg54j96fzj_D_0_Daniel-Craig-Skyfall-Movie-Pics relationship with Bond, underlining how symbiotic the characters of Bond and M have become and how much depth Bond now has as a truly complex, damaged, totally three-dimensional character. With Craig and Dench together on screen the pyrotechnics weren’t just in the action setpieces, but also crackling throughout their performance. There has rarely been a finer, better performed or better-looking hour, in the whole history of action cinema, than the final hour of ‘Skyfall’. And even more rarely has any movie – action or otherwise – ended on such an emotionally true, affectingly bittersweet note.
 
If Roger Deakins doesn’t get an Oscar for his cinematography, it’s a crime. The fact that Sam Mendes hasn’t been nominated for his direction, that Judi Dench and Daniel Craig haven’t been nominated for their performances, is also a crime and, given ‘Skyfall’s critical and commercial success across the globe, only underlines – again – how out of touch the Academy is, and how biased these awards ceremonies are against unashamedly commercial and mass audience-pleasing movies. The fact that ‘Skyfall’ also has a quality of performance, writing, direction and photography that is hardly ever seen in a commercial film – that it is a tent pole action movie with an art house sensibility and a respect for both its legacy and the intelligence of its audience – makes it’s exclusion from the awards even more unforgivable.
 
Bond movies used to be events. The expectation of a new Bond was always greeted, weeks in advance, by huge fanfare. It was like Christmas. And the premieres, always covered on TV, were a slice of old fashioned Hollywood glamour in London’s very unglamourous Leicester Square. With the coming of ‘Skyfall’, maybe Bond movies will become events again.

The only sadness I feel about the Craig incarnation is 1) it proves what a phenomenal Bond Timothy Dalton could have made, if he hadn’t been hampered by Roger Moore’s creative team and an audience not willing to accept a grittier direction, and 2) that Wade and Purvis couldn’t write Craig’s material for Brosnan. Or maybe it’s the addition of John Logan and Paul Haggis as co-writers which has proved the charm. True, Brosnan is prettier and less muscular than Craig so the action sequences would never be quite so realistically intense, but Brosnan deserved much better scripts and he certainly shouldn’t have been sidelined, in his second and fourth movies, with two sidekicks the producers seemed more interested in promoting and franchising than their leading man.
 
The old saying goes that the sky’s the limit. With ‘Skyfall’, the rebooted Bond has promised the future of 007 can be limitless with the right team at the helm and now that Broccoli and Wilson have found the right team, let’s celebrate the reboot of Bond and allow ourselves very high hopes for the adventures still to come.

P.S.  A quick correction: I’ve just reacquainted myself with ‘Goldeneye’ and been reminded that Neil Purvis and Robert Wade didn’t actually come onboard the Bond train until ‘The World Is Not Enough’. Apologies, gentlemen. The rot that began with ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ was due to screenwriter Bruce Feirstein who, surprisingly, did some fine work on ‘Goldeneye’ with Jeffrey Caine (with a story credit for ‘Cliffhanger’s Michael France) but who continued to derail the Brosnan train – with Wade and Purvis as co-drivers – on ‘TWINE’.

However, the bullet to the brain called ‘Die Another Day’ is completely due to Purvis and Wade and as such, I’m surprised they made it back to ‘Casino Royale’ when Brosnan didn’t. ‘Casino Royale’ is a fine piece of work, as is ‘Skyfall’, but I’m more convinced than ever that Paul Haggis and John Logan’s respective inputs have a lot to do with those film’s success.

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white