FILM REVIEW: Skyfall
The biggest-grossing James Bond movie of the franchise to date is also the smallest. It is the smallest insofar as director Sam Mendes manages to skilfully keep the film engaging without losing sight of the need to balance action and drama so that the mind-numbing excesses of the idiotically titled Quantum of Solace are thankfully erased.
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw
Skyfall is small on car chases, gadgets and pyrotechnics, and is the better for it.
Here we have the kind of film that showcases Daniel Craig's strengths as an actor who is best when he's having introspective, moody moments - reminding us of the dramatic potential unleashed by his first appearance as Bond in Casino Royale.
Briefly, the plot centres on Judi Dench's M, whose past comes back to haunt her in the shape of her former protégé turned Julian Assange-style cyber terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem). Her current protégé 007 has to protect her against Silva, no matter the cost and wherever this duty may take him.
They must revert to low-tech smarts in order to outwit their hi-tech foe.
Skyfall moves away from the easy dualities of the good system versus bad system setup of most Bond movies, painting a grey line of ambiguity that makes clear that, in the world of intelligence, things are more complicated than we'd like to believe. It is also a film that tries harder than its predecessors and within the constraints of the brand to speak to current political and social realities with M having to answer to a commission of inquiry about the practices of MI6.
Taking us from the rooftops of Istanbul to the casinos of Macau, Skyfall keeps up Bond's penchant for international jetsetting, martini drinking and tuxedo wearing, but the girls are fewer and less part of this mission - if anyone is to take the title of Bond girl here, it's M whose story is so central to the plot.
Bardem happily hams it up as a kooky mash up of Julian Assange and Willy Wonka, but Craig and Dench hold the film together through its few but inevitable cheesy moments. Ben Whishaw stars as a new, toned down, younger and more realistic Q.
Naomie Harris as Eve, Albert Finney as Kincade and Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory round off a strong cast.
Skyfall is a well-executed action drama that breathes much needed new life into the franchise and takes it confidently forward into the next half a century.
You have to admit that, for a director not known for his action capabilities, Mendes and his team have done a good job on a franchise that comes with so much cultural expectation that 007 would probably turn down the mission to keep it alive.
'Skyfall' opens at cinemas today
A TON OF GIRLS
OF ALL the Bond girls of the past 50 years there was only one who got away.
When talking about Bond girls, I'm not referring purely to the romantic interests, who are always easy on the eye, but to all of the members of the opposite sex.
Judi Dench might not be a poster girl, but she is a Bond girl.
Playing Bond's boss, M, for the seventh time, in Skyfall, the actress is one year older than Ursula Andress -who famously emerged from the blue Caribbean wearing a bikini and a knife to become the first Bond girl in Dr No half a century ago.
M is a central character in Skyfall, in which she is the target of an ex-MI6 agent who has turned bad.
Daniel Craig, James Bond No6, enjoyed no romantic liaisons in the previous movie, Quantum of Solace, but he gets some action this time around, courtesy of Severine, played by Bérénice Marlohe, as well as lots of flirtations with Moneypenny, portrayed by Naomie Harris.
In the old days, the only role for wrinkly women in Bond films was as a villain - Rosa Klebb was perfectly ugly in From Russia With Love and Irma Bunt was houndly hideous in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
Klebb gets her just desserts with a well-aimed bullet fired by an attractive Bond blonde, but there was no such justice for Bunt, the nasty who shot dead the one and only Mrs Bond, who had been married for less than four minutes.
Arch-villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld drove the car while Bunt sat in the back seat, rifle in hand, peppering Bond's beloved Aston Martin and Mrs Bond (played by Diana Rigg) with bullets on a picturesque mountain pass in 1969.
In the next movie, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond is bent on vengeance and eventually gets to kill Blofeld on an oil rig. Bunt, however, doesn't even feature and gets off scot-free.
Dead and buried, Blofeld was brought back to life (for all of six minutes) in the teaser of For Your Eyes Only.
Legally the producers didn't have the rights to the name "Blofeld", but the evil character in the wheelchair is clearly him.
Clue one: the sequence starts with Bond visiting his wife's grave; clue two: the baddie has Blofeld's trademark cat on his lap.
Bond, of course, kills him yet again, with Roger Moore dumping him down a tall chimney stack.
But 43 years on Bunt - the ultimate Bond villain - hasn't even been killed once. For all we know, she is sitting on a beach living off her ill-gotten gains and sipping pina coladas.
In 23 instalments, the Bond girls have a combined weight of more than a ton, at least, and a total age of more than a millennium.
That's a damn lot of lady, but even so, that's no excuse for letting Bunt slip through the cracks. - David Isaacson
After a month on the international circuit, 'Skyfall' is already the most successful James Bond film of all time, with box office earnings of $790-million as of November 25.
Daniel Craig is the highest-earning Bond in history. He will earn £31-million for the next two Bond films.
Adele's latest single 'Skyfall', the official theme song for the latest Bond film, has sold more than twomillion copies worldwide. - Staff reporters