007 is back!
It has been quite a while since we have seen a quality James Bond film. And a James Bond who displayed enough Bond-like qualities to deserve our allegence. Well, Skyfall and Daniel Craig are it! (Coach tells me there are reasons, like the writer’s strike that Quantum of Solace fell short, but this was a much better offering regardless and more on par with Casino Royale.)
The plot revolved around revenge, a simple universal truth to which we can all relate. The characters were uncomplicated, the struggles with aging and the changing of the guard believable, and the action stupendous. Things blew up, crashed, flipped, and surprised.
The scene with the backhoe on the train, the subway train crashing into the tunnel, and the Skyfall finale are prime examples of the quality special effects in this film. And afterall, isn’t that why we watch 007 anyway, to see a saucy cad triumph over evil? Bond has the whit, physical prowess, and way with the ladies that all men envy and all women crave because he’s just enough of a good guy to excuse the way he treats women in general. Ah, the bad boy syndrome…
The romantic plot line that was so pivotal in Casino Royale is absent. But after some reflection, you realize that it is a return to the classic 007 that meets a ravishing vixen who he then ravishes thus assuring her dramatic death. The only comment I have on this Bond vixen is that her hair and make-up for their first encounter in the casino is atrocious. It masks her beauty which is revealed later. I am typically humbled by the glamour and sophistication of the Bond ladies, not in this case. I thought that her hair in particular looked as though it were done by a blind grandmother, bobby pins hanging out all over the place in the back. It was very visible in the only scene where Bond has his signature Martini…and he doesn’t even order it. So there was a little let down that we never heard the phrase, “shaken not stirred.” It sounds so lovely with a British accent! But I digress. Now the actress Bérénice Marlohe is divine, I just don’t think they did her any favors in the casino scene.
Another issue with the film is the similarities to Dark Night. Skyfall being destroyed, caverns beneath it, an old gentleman to help him, we have seen it before. In the middle of the film, my perceptive Coach leaned over and said, “This is like Dark Night. I feel like I’ve seen it before!” And he is right, over the weekend he found a review saying exactly that and Director Sam Mendes has previously commented on the Dark Night’s influence. But Dark Night was a great film, so why not borrow from it?
The character transitions for the next two Craig Bond flicks were handled well. I liked Ben Winshaw’s Q, thought he was quirky and believable. The nod to the old gadgety Q was well-played and Craig’s unveiling of that beautiful Bond car received an audible approval from our fellow theater-goers.
The new M, Ralph Fiennes, earned his stripes in the hearing scene where he grabbed a gun and joined in the crossfire, so it was not surprising to see him at the desk at the end. I was a bit sad to see Judi Dench go, but M has always been male and Fiennes assumed the role superbly.
Moneypenny was a bit of a surprise to me at the end. I never imagined her in the field, so well-played script writers. Overall, the transitions from old to new were nicely written and well acted. But, we’ll see what the next installment brings from their performances before I pass judgement. I will say they are all poised for success, if the script is of quality.
Now to the two main characters-Bond and his villain Raoul Silva. Bond dealt with his aging for the first time. Daniel Craig was 38 when he began his run as Bond. Now 44, he will be pushing 50 when his next two Bond films wrap, so it is appropriate that they address it now. He still looks amazing, just older. I enjoyed the vulnerability of the performance–his private exhaustion at the physical tests, his shaky hands, and his pain at M’s death. Despite those, Bond turned it on when necessary killing handfuls of men single-handedly and outsmarting the villain. And Javier Bardem’s villain was incredible. From the moment he began his story-telling entrance, I hated him. He was creepy and odd and perfect! A throw-back to the villain’s of old. In many ways, Bardem made the movie. The aging Bond, main characters in transition, no delicious “shaken not stirred” line, and the borrowing from Dark Night could have left many Bond fans in limbo, but Silva was so depraved that the audience was only concerned with how Bond would take him down. And take him down he did!
Overall, this was a great Bond flick! It sets the stage for Craig’s next two Bond offerings and I’m excited to see what is in store for the new cast. My recommendation, go see it! Bardem will have you creeping out in your seat, but all is righted in the end as it ought to be!
Grade: A Solid A