Dir: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney
Certain things stay with you throughout your life. For me, James Bond has been one of those. I watched Sean Connery's Bond, as a child, with my dad. For Roger Moore, I went to the cinema with my mates. Timothy Dalton I saw in the cinema, with girls. Pierce Brosnan, I watched with my own children. Daniel Craig, though, he's different. He's a grown up Bond for an audience that encompasses the old and the young, over a period of half a century. That is not an easy task. It needs all the elements of the modern espionage film, whilst maintaining its individuality and being recognisable as a Bond film.
Casino Royale, Craig's first outing as 007 was, universally acclaimed as a new era. Quantam of Solace, although a good film, did not get the expected reaction, being outshone by the competition. Craig, however, left no one in any doubt that HE was Bond for the early 21st century.
The next film would, always, face another issue: all of the original novels had now been filmed. How could another genuine Bond film be made, and still be Ian Fleming's creation?
The answer: Skyfall. The name of James Bond's childhood home and setting for the explosive finale.
I don't, normally, write film reviews and I have no intention of explaining the plot. You can find that, ad infinitum, on the interweb. All I shall say is that Skyfall is pretty epic and I think it has all the elements expected of a Bond film, for young and old, alike. The set piece stunts are stunning, the fight scenes are superb - especially the one in Shanghai; the sets are suitably monumental and the locations precisely what you want to see in a Bond film. It should be a colossal hit.
From a more personal perspective, I was sceptical about it when I sat down to watch. This wasn't real, old school Bond. How could it be?
Well, I fought against it, valiantly, for the first hour of the film and tried to find things wrong. I failed. In fact, I submarined, big time. By the time the disturbing Javier Bardem makes an appearance, I was convinced that this was 'Ultimate Bond'. During the second half of the film, I became engrossed in the twists and turns of the plot. By the end, I was a wreck with a tear in my eye.
I should explain. The acting, from all, is outstanding, the directing is gritty, sharp, and raw. The action is relentless. But, beneath the surface is so much more. The subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to Bonds past are beautifully incorporated into the proceedings. Bond and M are older, wiser, darker, and Judi Dench's swansong as M is quality drama in its own right. Q, of course, is younger. The other characters you appreciate more towards the end of the film...
Of all the reviews I've read, I have not seen any mention of something that I got from the film. I could be reading too much into it and seeing what I want to see. I don't think so, though.
In the second half of the film, the retreat to Skyfall, I felt a great sense of nostalgia, but not for Bond, per se, more the idea of Bond. The overall aim was to mark this Bond as the 50th Anniversary Bond; bring Bond full circle, almost a Greatest Hits of Bond package. This they do admirably. However, I got an overwhelming sense of John Buchan in the plot and the characters. Buchan's character Richard Hannay was, undoubtedly, part of the model for Fleming's creation. In the later novels, Greenmantle, Mr Standfast, and The Island of Sheep, Hannay is older, wiser, darker. Certain events and locations from those stories are echoed, in the retreat to Skyfall, and the battle. The character of Kincaid, to my mind, is a nod to Pieter Pienaar, Hannay's long-time friend and sidekick. If all of this is accidental then, I am much smarter than I think I am. Still, I felt that this film summed up, not only Bond but all British spies, past and present. I thought they, admirably, captured a hundred years of the gentleman secret agent. Maybe, it's just me.
At the end, I did have a tear in my eye, though. The ending is a moving piece of drama combined with some exceedingly, clever writing. If there were to be a 'final' Bond film, this would be it. It's that good.
Undoubtedly, Commander James Bond will return.
The next one is going to have a hard time besting Skyfall.
Mark L. Potts
The God of Thunder
21st November 2012