The name's Bond, James Bond
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
It’s a good year for James Bond. He’s celebrating his 50th year in movies, making his easily the longest running film franchise thus far. It’s also been a long four years between this film and the slightly disappointing “Quantum of Solace” of 2008, and anticipation is just ripe.
‘Skyfall’ is Bond’s 23rd outing on the big screen, and Daniel Craig’s third since taking over the reins from Pierce Brosnan. It is helmed by Sam Mendes, the auteur behind movies like ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Revolutionary Road’. The big question on everyone’s mind is: is this really the best Bond movie ever? Without hesitation, yes. Even if it’s not everybody’s favourite, it’s easily top five.
Also read: 10 things to know about James Bond
‘Skyfall’s’ opening sequence is excellent—a spectacular action sequence that really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Throw in more great action set pieces, stunning Bond girls and a memorable villain and you’ve got a great Bond film.
'Skyfall' catches up with a slightly older Bond, chasing after a hard disk that contains a list of all the identities of operatives MI6 has deployed all over the world. Needless to say, Bond is unsuccessful and the drive falls into the wrong hands. M and MI6 come under heavy scrutiny due to this leak and she must once again call upon her most trusted agent, 007 to retrieve it. Problem is ... 007 seems to have lost a step or two.
The choice of director; Sam Mendes, has left many fans curious. Not exactly known for action movies, Mendes had many fans worried that ‘Skyfall’ would be an all-out talking picture. Well, they’re both right and wrong. Mendes brings his unique sense of characterisation to the franchise and delivers what is perhaps the most emotional Bond movie thus far.
The director himself has stated that he was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ while making this film and it clearly shows. The real world is brought out through the MI6’s struggle in this film, a clear parallel to the delicate state of espionage affairs in the real world and the propensity of the general public to draw up conspiracies these days, resulting in a tight balance between public transparency and the profession’s very need to live in the shadows.
Most importantly, the plot places the onus squarely on Bond and M’s relationship, something not quite explored thoroughly yet in any Bond film thus far. Up to this point, Judi Dench’s M had mostly been relegated to sitting in rooms, overseeing the missions and worrying about Bond surviving. Here, she is no longer passive, instead taking an active role as the villain who digs up unsavoury secrets from her past, lays them out on the table and forces Bond to choose sides.
Javier Bardem plays Raoul Silva, the antagonist of the movie. While we need to refrain from revealing too much, we need to say this: Bardem grabs you by your collar the moment he enters the film, whether it’s through his hilariously out of place blonde hair or his introductory monologue, he takes your attention and never lets go. His performance is charmingly twisted, with hints of insanity and tragic hurt. Not to mention, he’s kind of funny in a campy way. The many weird quirks in his character were more than enough to elicit chuckles from the mostly serious audience we watched the film with.
Most notably, Bardem’s portrayal of Silva is believable and that’s very unlike the evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil villains we had in the past. There’s a reason and method to what Silva does, and it’ll make even the most hardened soul feel for him. Best part of it all, Bardem’s mighty performance seems to elevate Daniel Craig’s game as well. It’s nice to see a film where the villain doesn’t outshine the hero off the screen completely and that’s exactly the case here.
It's not a Bond movie without the Bond girls -- Berenice Marlohe is Severine
As for the Bond girls, Naomie Harris’ Eve is the weak link in here. Despite quite a chunk of screen time with Daniel Craig, they never seem to hit it off and the scenes they share feel a little wooden as a result.
Thankfully, French/Cambodian/Chinese actress Berenice Marlohe saves the day (Is this chick smoking or what?). Though her role as Severine is small and pretty much a glammed up femme fatale type role, it’s still a great part. Her smoky eyes and figure hugging dresses give the film a sensual sexuality that will surely be one of the talking points of the movie.
Also see: Top 10 Bond girls
All in all, ‘Skyfall’ is indeed the real deal. People don’t go to 007 movies expecting radical changes. They like the formula—action, hot chicks, fast chicks, cool gadgets, and the works. What Mendes and his team have achieved is to work with that very formula, find some wiggle room and reinvent the franchise while staying true to the history and legacy of James Bond.
An emotional, character-centric instalment of the spy franchise, this movie completely justifies the casting choice of Daniel Craig back in ’06 and finishes what ‘Casino Royale’ started then: a grittier and more macho Bond that’s also more human, though not necessarily humane.
James Bond looks alive and well on his 50th anniversary—here’s hoping we get more Bond.