Skyfall trailer analysis

Feature Mark Harrison 1 Aug 2012 - 14:16

The latest trailer for Skyfall landed yesterday, so what have we learned? Resident Bond expert Mark’s been having a look...

A couple of months ago, we got the first teaser for the 23rd James Bond adventure, Skyfall, and it didn't go far beyond teasing. Yesterday, we caught a look at the new international trailer - many of the tantalising shots seen in the previous promo were repeated, and given greater context in the over-arcing plot.

Without a sky-diving monarch in sight, let's explore the secrets of the latest Skyfall trailer.

You only live thrice

The biggest surprise in this trailer was already wrecked by the increasingly annoying trend of releasing teasers for trailers online. M orders Naomi Harris' field agent, Eve, to shoot Bond as he fights a foe atop a moving train. Eve obliges, and 007 seemingly falls to his watery grave. We already saw the shocking opening, on Monday, however sobering it may be, to see M typing up Bond's obituary before this sequence is shown in the trailer proper.

Still, if you've never, ever seen a James Bond movie before, you might think he really is a goner. To the initiated, it's reminiscent of You Only Live Twice, which memorably begins with MI6 faking 007's death in order to restore his effectiveness as a secret agent. As we speculated when we saw the row of Union Flagged coffins in the teaser, it seems as though the other 00 agents are less spry than Bond when it comes to avoiding certain death.

After a brief flash of Bond “enjoying death” in a seedy bar, he's back on duty, sneaking up on M in her home. Ralph Fiennes' Mallory is surprised that Bond is back, asking why he didn't just stay off reservation and admit defeat. As he misses a target in MI6's shooting range, Bond looks like he has some way to go before he's back at the top of his game; Craig's portrayal has always been less unflappable than his predecessors, and this could get very interesting.

“Think On Your Sins”

We also learn more about the film's plot from this trailer, specifically that M's much-speculated indiscretion involved a “judgement call” that resulted in the loss of some very important information - the names of every field agent working undercover. This information goes public, in a YouTube video, and we're guessing that leak directly leads to the line of coffins.

Leading the charge against M is Silva, (Javier Bardem) who features prominently throughout the trailer. Following his Oscar-winning turn as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, Bardem once again puts his hair on the line, this time to play a nasty, bleach-blond terrorist who antagonises Bond and MI6. He sees them as old-fashioned, and chastises M's deployment of Bond after the earlier events. “Mommy was very bad,” he asserts.

If we can presume that he's behind the YouTube leak, then his final message, “Think On Your Sins”, could bode ill for M. Ever since the first synopsis was released, it's been said that M will be more central in Skyfall. With Judi Dench having played M since 1995's GoldenEye, even surviving a complete reboot of the series, perhaps this is being built as an endgame for Bond's stalwart boss?

A new quartermaster

One of our favourite parts of this trailer is our first glimpse of the new Q, played by Ben Whishaw. Meeting Bond in a gallery, he provides him with a gun that is coded exclusively to his palm print, recalling a very similar gadget that appeared in Licence To Kill. With Q Branch having been absent in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace, it's exciting to see the new dynamic between Bond and Q.

Although Desmond Llewellyn defined the role over the course of 19 films, the series had the opportunity to introduce a younger Q once before. When Llewellyn retired, making his farewell in The World Is Not Enough, we were given John Cleese as his replacement, who carried on into Die Another Day. Cleese had zero chemistry with Pierce Brosnan, and was burdened by some bloody awful dialogue over the course of his two cameo appearances.

With a Q who is younger than Bond, there's real opportunity. While Bond is much cooler than Q, as it always was, it feels fresh to have a whippersnapper who can boss 007 around. It's not glimpsed in this trailer, but we liked the description of Whishaw's dialogue from the Comic Con teaser, in which he primly informs Craig that he can do more damage with his laptop in an hour than Bond can do with a whole year in the field. Given how there's no beating Llewellyn, why not mix things up in much the same way as Bond and M have been reinvigorated over the years?

How much do you know about fear?

On the darker side, the usual wham-bam that you expect from a James Bond film is present and correct, and it looks like Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins have done a terrific job of shooting it. There's also far more oomph put into Silva as a villain. After the underwhelming Dominic Greene in Quantum Of Solace, they had to compensate, and it seems like they might be on the right track. If nothing else, Bérénice Marlohe's Sévérine seems very afraid of him, judging by her chat with Bond.

Not to overstate a point, but we're really curious about his connection with M. There's an intriguing shot in the middle of the trailer where he's in a transparent holding cell, like Hannibal Lecter in Silence Of The Lambs, and he goads M, while Bond is present, by saying “The two survivors. This is what you made us.” We're left in the dark about that one, but we like the idea of a villain who can really get under the skin of our hero and his allies.

We're missing a good henchman though. Let's not forget that Greene's sickeningly unmemorable lackey, Elvis, must also be atoned for. If we can have Q in this one, why not some henchmen with deformities that are more like superpowers? A Jaws or an Oddjob would not be entirely unwelcome, right?

Off the cuff

Our other favourite moment of the trailer should be immediately obvious: the scene with the JCB and the train. The digger takes a massive chunk out of the back of a moving train carriage, just as Bond jumps inside. He lands on his feet, regains his footing and immediately attends to his shirt cuff before moving on. Between his teething troubles in Casino Royale and the uber-serious tone of Quantum Of Solace, we haven't seen a lot of Craig doing this more cheeky brand of Bond swagger, but we like it a lot.

In fact, it brings us to a point that we've noticed: when you look back at the previous Bonds, it tends to take an actor two films before they perfect their portrayal in their third outing. George Lazenby never got there, and Timothy Dalton arguably perfected it in both of his turns in the role, but look at Sean Connery in Goldfinger. Then there's Roger Moore, in The Spy Who Loved Me; on the DVD commentary, he acknowledges that film as his best as Bond.

Even Brosnan, in The World Is Not Enough, gets something of an unfair drubbing, given how it's his most distinctive take on the character. Aside from the absurdity of Denise Richards' nuclear scientist character, and a bit of hokey dialogue here and there, the film itself is a cracking mix between the post-modern angle they were going for in the 1990s, and the Moore-era slapstick and comedy.

In this writer's opinion, each of those aspects served to undermine certain parts of GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies, respectively, before going completely stupid in Die Another Day, but The World Is Not Enough was the film where the balance worked very well indeed. It also has a larger-than-usual role for M, and that one bit where Brosnan straightens his tie underwater, which is what the cuff moment in this new trailer first called to mind.

This film does look far moodier, but if it means that Daniel Craig's third outing will consolidate the good, serious stuff from Casino Royale, as well as bringing back old elements like Q and the sense of humour, we're definitely up for a bit of The World Is Not Enough in our Skyfall.

What were your favourite parts of the new trailer? Are you looking forward to this one? And are we completely off the mark in our appreciation of The World Is Not Enough? Share your thoughts below.

Skyfall is released in cinemas, and on IMAX, on October 26th.

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