Yet another Bond/Skyfall post, in my defence as a huge fan I write about James Bond all the time, I‘m not jumping on the bandwagon. In a variation on my recurring Drinks in Movies thread I am going to look at the drinks in Skyfall. There are films that are full of nuanced symbolism and metaphors, in other movies what you see is what you get. I could be cracking open the secrets of the film or reading too much into it you decide. Whatever your thoughts, there are lots of spoilers here so don’t read unless you have seen Skyfall.
As I have mentioned before Bond drinking a vodka martini is a bit of a cliché that is only partly true. In the Ian Fleming novels Bond invents the Vesper in Casino Royale but drinks various different things but favours Scotch Whisky, no great surprise, his farther is from Glen Coe after all. Around the half way point of the movie Silva (Javier Bardem) gives Bond (Daniel Craig) a glass of his favourite Whisky, a Macallan 1962 Fine and Rare Vintage, he describes it as being a 50 year old. Most likely a reference to the 50th anniversary of Bond rather than the drink itself. So what can we read into this? Silva knows everything about Bond, something thay he prides himself on. We also see M (Judi Dench) drinking the same Brand of whisky, something that I am sure hasn’t escaped Silva’s notice. Does it go deeper? Is it also the Writers (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan) or the director (Sam Mendes) telling us they know there character, they aren’t filmmakers for hire, paid to churn out the next Bond film, they know their character inside out. Its one of those great little touches that fans will appreciate but many people won’t notice like giving Bond a midnight blue dinner jacket instead of a black one.
We do see Bond drinking a martini in the Macau casino but we never hear the shaken not stirred line or the Vesper recipe. This is still the Bond we have known for 50 years (longer in the books) and we aren’t going to forget that, but he is moving on. This works in the same way as the exploding pen conversation with Q (Ben Whishaw) being a reminder of the past and a signpost to the future.
There has been a lot of fuss over Bond drinking Heineken, this is unfounded as he is no stranger to beer having drunk it many times in the books and films. As a product placement Heineken has appeared in several films including Craig’s other two outings as Bond. Product placement is certainly nothing new to Bond, in the books he has drunk more champagne than anything favouring Taittinger. In Cassino Royale he remarks that “[1943 Taittinger] is probably the finest champagne in the world” but a long standing placement deal means he has drunk little but Bollinger since Live and Let Die 1973). I wouldn’t read much into beer or the product placement, but it is worth considering when he drinks it. In the scenes where Bond is “dead” he is living away from his spying world as a broken man, an ordinary man and not the supper hero that Bond has become, beer as the great leveller of men, a memento mori.
Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) pours M (Judi Dench) a glass of cognac, Courvoisier VSOP, this is a gesture seen many times in Bond films where M gives Bond a drink. A possible hint towards Mallory being the new M as he does at the end of the film. It actually goes a stage further than that. In GoldenEye Bond (Pierce Brosnan) meets the new M (Judi Dench’s first appearance) for the first time. When she offers him a drink he tells her “Your predecessor kept some cognac in the top drawer of…” she tells him that she prefers bourbon (She actually gives him Jack Daniel’s, a Tennessee Whiskey rather than a bourbon, but a common mistake in England). Later in the movie we see Mallory as M in an office more reminiscent of the one inhabited by previous M’s Robert Brown and Bernard Lee than the modern one Dench uses, the office and the return to Brandy could just be a further reference to Bonds past in his 50th year on screen, but it could also be a suggestion of a return to classic Bond of the 60’s.
As mentioned I am probably reading too much into this, but next time you watch Skyfall take a look and see what you think. And while you are at it look out for the scrabble score mug Q (Ben Wishaw) drinks his Earl Grey in.