BOND IS BACK! BUY THIS WATCH! AND THIS PHONE WHILE YOU’RE AT IT. Or so the extensive marketing would like us to think. It’s difficult to get any sense of what you are expecting from a film when you’re bombarded with so much opinion from every side. Fortunately I managed to tune most of it out, in the process being able to grasp the idea that companies want to advertise products, and I don’t need to go off on one every time I see Daniel Craig drinking a Heineken or using a Sony Vaio etc.
Anyway, is Bond back? Yes, I’m pleased to say he is. By this, I mean that Skyfall felt like a Bond film again, the first time I’ve felt like that since Die Another Day. Yes I know those invisible cars were a bit much but get over it, it happened. I’m sure Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were all well and good, but I felt like the fact that James Bond was the main character was almost incidental. The ‘dark reboot’ had thrown the baby out with the bath water, in my opinion.
So in this 50th anniversary year (did you know? It’s been quite LOW-KEY), I was pleased that it re-attached the franchise to its roots, focusing on big characters: Bond and M primarily, with a new Q that might take some time to settle, and some other blasts from the past thrown in for good measure (and soapy-style twists). There was even a baddie with a refreshingly simple motive: revenge. No trying to sterilise the world with deadly orchids from space, or starting wars to sell newspapers etc.
But it’s not business as usual – the gadgets were pointedly kept to a minimum, the plot was uncharacteristically un-international for the most part (most of the air miles were racked up in the first half). We also got a rather key divergence from the status quo at the end (no, I won’t tell), and even an origin story for a well-known character. Background on Bond’s early life are flirted with but never really explored, I think.
Anyway, there was plenty of action, though perhaps it was less reliant on flashy set-pieces than you would expect. In that respect it felt more like one of the older Bond movies than the Brosnan days I am so fond of. Home Alone seemed an unlikely source of inspiration, and yet there was a sequence very much reminiscent of just that!
I’m yet to warm to Daniel Craig’s Bond much, he’s just too serious – continually frowning intently at everything in his path. Ben Whishaw’s Q was again a little too serious. Plenty of wit was traded, but he just seemed so far from the comforting grandfatherly Qs of yesteryear. He was just a bit too blasé about the peril he was subjecting Bond to, it just didn’t work for me. But give him time. Naomi Harris’s field agent (no spoilers!) was pleasant but a little nothingy. Hopefully she’ll get time to blossom too.
Villainous Javier Bardem made for an eye-catching and entertaining baddie, but he just sort of fizzled out. What was his ultimate aim? What was his plan after that? It just confused me a bit really, he was very determined and smart, but… then what? Still, at least I remembered his face, which is more than I could say about most adversaries in the previous two films. I am a little critical of a common lazy choice in movies – just establishing how smart someone is doesn’t feel like a sufficient justification that they are able to do anything the plot demands. Admittedly it wasn’t as bluntly apparent here as it was in the latest Sherlock movie, but still.
But the star this time had to be Judi Dench’s M. She really was the pivotal character this time around, and while I’m not sure what would qualify her for an Oscar nomination, aside from services to looking stony-faced, she is a compelling character, and I’m pleased to see a lot more interplay between her and Bond instead of just being stuck at HQ.
Ugh I want to say more but too many SPOILERS! On nit-picks, there was a particularly eye-popping catastrophe caused in London that seemed to get practically no attention, almost simply serving as a full-stop for the scene. Did that mean nothing to everyone? Also the non MI6 ‘Bond Girl’ (i.e. mid-film shag) was basically a sex slave, kidnapped as a child – was it really appropriate to go and fuck her at the first available opportunity? What a gent!
That said, this will surely be the benchmark Bond movie for the new era, and for me it was easily the best Daniel Craig Bond movie, just a different feel entirely from the other two, and has refreshed my enthusiasm for the franchise. I’d call that mission accomplished, wouldn’t you?