Dave on film: Classic Bond is back and better than ever
There's no more iconic spy in Western culture than that of 007, Bond, James Bond, and with a 50-year cinematic history, the 22 previous films in the franchise also represent an extraordinary body of work. The character of suave but deadly Bond has been played by a number of actors, from Sean Connery to Roger Moore, George Lazenby to Timothy Dalton.
The two latest films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, have both featured the rugged Daniel Craig in the title role. Craig's Bond is more of a rough-edged killer, a thug, rather inconsistent with the original vision of author Ian Fleming, and indeed, these later outings are a mixed bag, missing the wit and sophistication of earlier movies.
Skyfall fixes all of these problems and is the first film where Daniel Craig captures the classic hero. The film has all the hallmarks of the best 007 films, including exotic locations, beautiful women, a nefarious villain, interesting gadgets and amazing action stunts. A complex storyline that twists and turns, surprising even the most jaded viewer with its intricate machinations, marks this as a great action film too, one that requires -- and rewards -- close attention.
When a computer drive containing the identities of all deep cover agents associated with UN security efforts worldwide is stolen, Bond does his best to recover it, a thrilling opening chase through Istanbul. As a last resort to ensure the data doesn't fall into enemy hands, field agent Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) is ordered to shoot Bond. He falls, seemingly to his death, in a scene that's shocking: Bond dead? Can it really be true?
Months later MI6 is ingeniously attacked while M (Judi Dench) finds herself in front of the new head of MI6, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), defending her handling of the lost agent list. She's too old, it's time to retire, Mallory insists, a theme that recurs throughout Skyfall. She's not about to retire when the list is still missing, however, and when Bond shows up unexpectedly to assist, we learn that the theft is just the first step in a far more complex plot.
It wouldn't be a Bond film without a gorgeous woman for James to seduce and in Skyfall that role is ostensibly filled by the glamorous and enigmatic Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), who is immediately attracted to 007 but is in the employ of villain Silva, who, as is common with all Bond films, treats her poorly and aggressively.
The real beauty in the film, however, is Eve Moneypenny (Harris) who begins as an inexperienced field agent and ends by filling a critical role for future films in the franchise. Eve is girl-next-door beautiful and watching her and Bond flirt is a pleasure even as she retains her independence as befits a woman in this modern age.
The cast offers uniformly excellent performances and the introduction of young hipster Q (Ben Whishaw) is inspired: he has just the right amount of self-importance that he serves both as a good foil to Bond and an anxious field agent when he realizes that villain Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) has anticipated every move MI6 makes.
There are so many things I liked about this Bond film, I'm eager to go see it again -- in IMAX to compare the two versions -- and unabashedly recommend it as one of the best films in the entire Bond franchise. With many subtle nods to earlier Bond films (including the Aston Martin's ejector seat control, lifted directly from Goldfinger), fans of the series and newcomers to the Bond mythology alike will enjoy Skyfall.