Like everyone else, I’ve been trying to make sense of the “Skyfall” teaser trailer that went live today (it will play in front of “Men in Black 3” on Friday). It appears to tell us everything and nothing about James Bond’s 23rd adventure and Daniel Craig’s third outing as the most fallible 007. The trailer’s first-half is introspective and apparently deeply personal while all hell breaks loose in the second-half in a montage of thrilling action. I keep freezing certain moments to analyze and relish, attempting to understand the significance of this latest Bond directed by Oscar winner and Craig pal Sam Mendes, but also how it fits in with the rest of the franchise during this 50th anniversary of “Dr. No.”
I’m reminded of Harrison Ford’s Deckard in “Blade Runner,” playing with fragments of a jigsaw puzzle. You see, I’ve spent the last two years immersed in Bond, tracing the 50-year evolution from Sean Connery to Craig for a new book I’ve written, “James Bond Unmasked,” which launched last week on Amazon. The best I can figure is that Craig’s Bond has come full circle back to Fleming as well as the roots of the franchise for “Skyfall.”
The trailer begins with Bond looking across the London skyline at the capital with Big Ben in the background while being interrogated off-screen in a word association game. We see him jogging; and in shadow at a shooting range: “Country/England…Gun/Shot…Agent/Provocateur…Murder/Employment.”
Cut to Bond wearing a blue inmate’s uniform, which accentuates his striking blue eyes and angular, textured face. He sits across the table from a government official. When asked to respond to “Skyfall,” Bond freezes and his confident expression turns sullen. At this point, we notice that he’s being observed through a two-way mirror by M (Judi Dench), a high-ranking official named Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and chief of staff Tanner (Rory Kinnear). Flash for an instant on a shadowy figure holding a gun on someone slumped in a chair. When the word “Skyfall” is repeated, Bond stands up and declares, “Done,” and walks out.
We shift into high gear as Bond steps into action, trying to maintain control as his world falls apart: Bond firing his Walther PPK, Bond running feverishly through the streets of London; Bond firing more feverishly in the dark; Bond falling underwater; Bond falling off a building; a subway crashing through the Tube.
But in between the Bang Bang, there are intimate moments, too: Bond and M peering over the Scottish highlands (his ancestral home) beside his Aston Martin DB5; Bond being tenderly shaved by field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). It culminates with the silhouetted image of Javier Bardem’s baddie, Silva, emerging from a fiery wreck like a phantom in the night. Yet it concludes with Bond saying, “Some men are coming to kill us. We’re going to kill them first.”
In the current Bond 50th anniversary issue of “Empire” magazine, production designer Dennis Gassner says, “This whole film is about illusion.” At the same time, Mendes promises to explore Bond’s personal history for the first time, and states that Bond must be isolated in his own space, cut off from the real world. “There’s this constant tension where he only has relationships with his senior figures in MI6 — and women.”
That’s not the only tension in this hybrid of modernism and classicism. But what’s yet to be revealed is the playfulness we’ve been also promised by Craig and Mendes. Or for that matter, the new emotional engagement between Bond and M, whose personal history is central to the plot. After all, we’ve been told that Bond’s loyalty to his boss is tested when MI6 comes under attack and she’s somehow implicated. At least we finally have a character arc to sink our teeth into when “Skyfall” opens November 9.