Daniel Craig stepped into the ‘big’ shoes of James Bond in 2006 with the remarkable Casino Royale, beginning a re-boot for the franchise which was followed by a not-so impressive Quantum of Solace in 2008. During MGM’s financial problems which stalled the follow-up to the highly bankable franchise ‘indefinitely’, the fears of Quantum of Solace being helmed the final Bond epic was almost tearjerking.
However, MGM were dragged out of the mud and the 23rd Bond adventure, Skyfall, managed to resume production and has since grossed over a billion, breaking records for British Box Office figures. In Skyfall, Bond is assigned to locate and catch an unknown cyber-terrorist after a hard-drive containing the details of working agents embedded in missions undercover is seized by a mercenary known as Patrice (Ola Repace). Traveling from London to Shanghai, Bond becomes acquainted with the dangerous yet damaged Séverine (Bérénice Marlohe) who offers to lead Bond to her ’employer’ if he sets her free from him. Joining Séverine, Bond finally comes face to face with Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a ex-agent from M’s (Judi Dench) past who has been orchestrating these attacks on the British Secret Service only to get closer to his former boss.
The film opens with a spectacular pre-credits scene where Bond is assisted by field-agent Eve (Naomie Harris) to catch Patrice who is running across Istanbul with the stolen hard-drive. Director Sam Mendes illustrates his craft for directing action sequences within the opening scene, putting to bed the rumours that Skyfall would eradicate action from the narrative so that an Oscar worthy Bond film would shine through. Not only does Mendes do justice for himself against these rumours, he does justice for the franchise, working with cinematographer Roger Deakins to create a fascinating and incredible vision of how a Bond film should look and feel.
The ensemble cast for the 50th anniversary film are also well assigned to their roles. Craig will not only go down in history to play one of the limited actors to play James Bond, but one just as recognised as the iconic Sean Connery. Craig was the real star of Skyfall: his blend of hard-hitting action and sexualised humour go hand in hand to create a more grounded Bond, one appreciated in modern times, far from the sexist Roger Moore interpretation. Ben Whishaw also leaves us wanting more, re-introducing the iconic character Q. With witty dialogue and a nerdy-but-cool look, Whishaw firmly reinvents the character making him just as memorable as the late Desmond Llewelyn’s Q.
Newcomer Bérénice Marlohe is a name I expect to hear more often: Séverine is a complex character with an incredibly troubled and disturbing backstory that only a serious actress could interpret for the screen. The cloud of smoke from her cigarette in the Macau casino masks her inner pain and turmoil she is so helplessly trying to break free from. The chemistry between Craig and Marlohe is just as strong as Bond’s chemistry with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, something that was missing in Quantum of Solace. The same can’t be said between Bond and Eve’s chemistry. Not until the final scene did I feel Harris was suited to the role.
Bardem’s interpretation of a classic Bond villain I find slightly sceptical: I feel that the insane Silva character was slightly been-there-done-that plus his elaborate plan of being captured (yes, similar to the Joker’s from The Dark Knight and Loki from The Avengers) was possibly too elaborate, verging on ridiculously impossible. However, he was a massiveimprovement from Dominc Greene in Quantum of Solace who’s master plan was stealing water.
Although the cast are off high standard and Mendes sets a new high for the future of the Bond films I do feel the majority of the praise must go to screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan who have managed to create a contemporary Bond for modern times that fits the Ian Fleming creation like a hand in a glove. The three have really worked well to create a character we empathise and sympathise with unlike some of the past Bond films. It’s a shame the following two Craig films won’t be written by Purvis and Wade although knowing that the films are in safe hands with Logan is reassuring.
Skyfall is a massive leap forward for the Bond franchise. It’s amazing to watch a fifty year old franchise grown while still providing for it’s audience. The only negative thing to highlight is we’ll have to wait three years for the next instalment but putting our faith in Barbara Broccoli, Michael Wilson, John Logan and Daniel Craig, I’m sure they won’t disappoint.