Skyfall, the 23rd Bond, releases in New Zealand just as we hear the news that Daniel Craig has been signed for two more episodes and a staggering purse of 31 millions pounds. (Approximately 60 million New Zealand dollars) Its incredible faith in an actor who was once despised for introducing us to a ‘Blonde Bond’. That said the critics are saying this could be the film that gives Bond his first Oscar, an insight into the quality of this outing and a fan base that has grown to love the intensity that Craig pushes into every scene.
Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade have crafted a distinctly different Bond for Skyfall. This episode seems to be a fork in the road however as Purvis and Wade depart the franchise to leave Bond 24 in the hands of co-writer John Logan for 2014. What they leave on the screen appears to be a Bond with a deeper vulnerability. It’s within the scars of this character that we find the mastery of how the writers have repositioned the character back to a classic spy. Over the years we have seen the character evolve with culture, fashion and gadgetry but in Skyfall the circle appears to be coming around to being less about the panache on the surface and more about the strength of character in the man.
It is in Skyfall that we see a more haggard agent struggling to keep up in the field. For Craig there seemed to be a realism to the portrayal as the 44yo actor took his third walk in the spy’s tuxedo. Keep in mind Sean Connery was 41 when he ‘finished as Bond although he returned at 52 for Never Say Never again. Roger Moore was probably the oldest Bond playing the spy up until he was 57 in A View to a Kill. As the story gains momentum we see Bond having to assess his ability to ‘save the day’. This presents an ideal opportunity for the writers to make all things old new again and the introduction of some classic characters gives the Bond story a soft reboot. But less about anything bordering on a spoiler.
Our story surrounds a turned agent bent on revenge. The character of Silva is distinctively played by Javier Bardem. The Spanish actor best known to our audience as the lead in the Coen Brothers 2007 film No Country for Old Men owns the stage when he brings on the creepy European charm. What is superb about this story is how the antagonist is not a destroyer of worlds with seconds to disarm a nuclear bomb but here it’s a personal vendetta and Bond and ‘M’ are in the cross-hairs from beginning to end.
Ralph Fiennes drops in as Gareth Mallory and for a while you wonder whose side he’s on. Although it becomes blatantly clear where he stands the role is still a surprise option for Fiennes at this point in his career. Dame Judi Dench brings her stoic resilience to the role of ‘M’ and a pleasant find was seeing Albert Finney involved in the resistance needed to help Bond survive to spy another day.
One thing we often overlook after we’ve taken apart the Director and Actors is the Editing and Cinematography. This is one Bond where we won’t make that mistake. Here the calibre is high. Sam Mendes has crafted a fine film well worth sitting alongside his Directing credits on his CV of headline movies like Jarhead, Road to Perdition and American Beauty. In bringing on board more UK stalwarts like Stuart Baird to handle editing and Roger Deakins for Cinematography this produces a film that has ‘Michelin for Movies’ written all over it. Baird brings his sharp editing skills that many would have enjoyed in unique action movies like Salt and Vantage Point while Deakins was Director of Photography on classics like The Shawshank Redemption and A Beautiful Mind.
For the 23rd Bond celebrating 50 years of Spydom the Skyfall movie is a celebration. The script is excellent, the acting admirable and the cinematography is sublime. You will enjoy the story from beginning to end while having the occasional smirk if you were old enough to have seen the original ‘Connery’ era whether at the cinema or from your DVD collection. Enjoy the highly recommended Skyfall for all it celebrates in the Bond journey and how well it positions the character for his next mission.
4.5 out of 5 popcorns