That familiar theme tune. Gadgets and fast cars. Action and espionage. Oh and a charming, delectable leading man. It can only mean one thing – James Bond is back and wow is he back with a bang. After work and a weekend away stopped me from seeing it earlier, I patiently waited and last night I finally got to see it and it did not disappoint.
Daniel Craig’s stint as Bond has for the most part been highly praised. Casino Royale explored Bond’s beginning’s, telling the story of how he procured his 00 status, and also silenced the many critics of Craig, who believed Bond could never be blonde. Quantum of Solace was a stumble, with some good aspects to it, but certainly not as good as Craig’s first outing. Now British director Sam Mendes takes the helm and in Bond’s 50th anniversary year he creates what some critics are calling one of the best Bond films in history, filled with a new modern day Bond and one that nods to the nostalgia and history of the series.
The film opens with a grand chase involving cars, motorbikes a train fight through Istanbul (once I saw those rooftops and recognised them from Taken 2 I had to laugh – does everyone go to Istanbul now for action movies?) It results in Bond being shot accidentally by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) and presumed dead, the world moves on without him. He escapes death but decides to return after hearing about trouble brewing back in London – an attack on MI6 and an enemy from M’s past stirring up trouble.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins gives this movie an epic feel, with beautiful shots of locations such as Macau, and Istanbul and creates an atmospheric, moody London and rural Scotland. It totally brings you into the heart of the film, carrying you along with the story. Thomas Newman does a terrific score, encompassing new dramatic pieces with the familiarity of the classic Bond theme. And Adele’s theme song is stunning against the opening credits and gives the atmospheric feel that extra boost.
As for the acting, Daniel Craig leads this cast with leading man charm, giving a fantastic performance; he makes the character of Bond look as ruthless as ever, but gives him humanity, humour and vulnerability, particularly as he is brought back into the ‘game’. The film delves into Bond’s roots, taking us to the rural Scotland of Bond’s childhood. Craig also has a great on-screen chemistry with Judi Dench who also returns in this movie as M, as their relationship develops into that of a surrogate mother with her child, and both actors convey their character’s care for the other. Dench has been a firm element to the Bond movies since her introduction with Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, and she gives a tremendous performance of a woman in power who suffers in this movie for her decisions that she could have made or did make. Her sparring with Bond and her motherly connection to him is engaging and great to watch. She is perhaps the true Bond girl in this movie – the matriarch of MI6.
Javier Bardem as the villainous Mr Silva is maniacal, revenge-driven, and genuinely terrifying with his erratic, but eerie calm behaviour and with his fixation on M. Even though he doesn’t make his entrance until an hour or so into the movie, his opening interrogation scene with Bond is an entrance to remember. It’s a role Bardem clearly relishes in playing, and one that he fully sinks his teeth into, making him one of the best Bond villains in recent years.
Other key players in this movie include the sexy witty MI6 agent Eve played by Naoemis Harris-her sparring with Bond and the sexual chemistry between the two of them keep the audience guessing on what (if anything) will happen. It seems that we may be seeing more of her as well and if this is the case then it will be a welcome return. Ralph Fiennes was great as always, and Ben Whishaw as the new Q is a breath of fresh air –he brings youth, wit, charm and yet intelligence and a belief that he is a genius. (He is also extremely cute!)
Skyfall as a movie has great pace – it is roughly 2 and a half hours long, but the story moves well and points in the movie that could have been dragged out mercifully weren’t. The action set pieces are fast-paced and thrilling including the Istanbul opening, and an elaborate chase through London, incorporating the London underground. The humour is also still there, witty lines and amusing moments pop up through the film, including a reference to the exploding pen from Goldeneye which had me grinning stupidly. I can say so much more about this film and the twists and turns but I don’t want to spoil it for you all.
A theme that continually pops up in this film is the idea of ‘the old vs. the new’ with Bond and in some ways M representing the old ways. It is continually suggested that Bond is perhaps ‘too old’ or that he is past his best. After 50 years of Bond, if this movie was not a success, perhaps that is what critics would have said about the franchise. However, after 50 years, the James Bond franchise has become an integral part of Britain, and the film celebrates this by having a British director take the helm, British actors such as Daniel Craig, Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes taking leading roles and by using London as a prominent location throughout the movie (London also looks beautiful on screen). Add to this is Daniel Craig’s involvement with the Olympic Opening Ceremony, escorting the Queen to the ceremony as James Bond and it solidifies the franchise as a cornerstone of British cinematic history.
Bond is definitely back with a bang and I can totally see why it has been called one of the best Bonds in history. The 50th anniversary outing mixes the old with the new, and lays down fresh foundations for the future, which makes you feel that the series has come full circle. This is certainly Daniel Craig’s best performance yet as Bond; an amazing movie that makes up for the slight disappointment that was Quantum–definitely worth the wait despite the product placement that happened in the movie. Bring on the next Bond and the next 50 years of 007!
“She sent you after me, knowing you weren;t ready and that you would likely die – Mommy was very bad” (Silva)