By John Glynn
This is Judi Dench’s seventh outing as the unfathomable spy-chief M, but it is only in this dynamic new Bond movie that her vulnerability has been exposed. Under the elegant direction of Sam Mendes, Judi Dench’s M is undoubtedly the Bond girl that makes a true impression. M is an authoritative female with the double-O boys firmly under her control. Treat them mean, keep them keen seems to be a philosophy that Dench’s character has resolutely adopted, often being rewarded with avid loyalty, varying with blistering antipathy. It’s an amalgamation with its own assumed eroticism, leading to the creation of one of the most unforgettable Bond villains in current times. M demands so much from her agents, with a diminishing concern for their safety. On one occasion, Bond actually shows up at M’s apartment, late at night, after an arduous stretch in the field. The two engage in an abrupt exchange of words, with sharp comments flying back and forth. Fatigued and obviously damaged, Bond says he will stay at a hotel. “Well, you’re not bloody well staying here,” is M’s beautifully timed and extremely cutting reply.
The 50th anniversary of the big-screen Bond finds the correct balance between lavishness and pragmatism. The movie kicks off the with an unrelenting chase scene in Istanbul. Featuring 007 and Bond’s alluring colleague Eve, played by Naomie Harris, the first few minutes show that Skyfall is a movie that is genuinely superior to any other action movie in recent times. As well as exciting the audience, this pre-credit sequence, with its devastating finale, offers up an immensely enjoyable new theme song from Adele, The vocals mightily convey the slightly camp mishmash of Bond’s masculine pride and peculiar openness.
Daniel Craig’s Bond looks slightly haggard, more burdened, and truly vulnerable. With something to prove, Bond is a somewhat damaged entity, physically and even psychologically. However, even at his lowest point, Bond is still skilled enough to pull off a terrifying drinking ruse involving a scorpion. After outwitting the scorpion, Bond must face one of his deadliest adversaries ever – the unsettling Silva, played by the always excellent Javier Bardem. Bardem manages to bring the creepiness that he showcased so excellently in No Country for Old Men. In fact, Silva makes his first entrance in a style that is truly unnerving, delivering a chilling speech about what happens when rats fight each other. Progressively, his disconcerting face comes into focus – quite a visual triumph for the gifted Mendes and his cinematographer, Roger Deakins.
Silva is tremendously blond, with both his locks and eyebrows projecting a Nordic-baddie appearance. His eccentricity is strangely complemented by his Spanish accent. Bardem has a very amusing, ominous habit of cringing and grimacing with unforgettable disdain, this fact is especially evident when 007 swears that he will foil Silva’s evil plans. Think Gary Glitter morphed with Julian Assange, then perhaps you have a vague picture of just how creepy Bardem’s character is. Silva is very much cut from the same cloth as 007, with both men sharing an emotional back-story involving M.
However, despite the innovative hi-tech aspect promised by Silva’s proficient skills in cyber-terrorism, this is not a futuristic, ultramodern Bond. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; Skyfall has a more back to basics feel. Honestly, I do not believe that Sam Mendes is particularly enthused by Nolan’s Dark Knight movies. Actually, Skyfall’s most erotic scene involves Craig stepping into the shower with the ever luscious Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe), and this could have appeared on any of the Bond movies in the last half-century.
As with each Bond movie, you will need a sense of humor to go with the flow. And thankfully, the flow does not entail a plot in the insipidly usual sense of the word: more the inexplicit effect of panoramas and performances. To add, Ben Whishaw is fantastic as Q, the go-to-gadget-guy. In recent times, Bond fans have had to endure some inexcusable product placements: but luckily, Bond’s one emergence with a certain type of lager is with his hand firmly covering the emblem. The largest commercial branding comes for Sony; I noticed quite a few of M’s employees typing away on a Sony Vaio, not a MacBook in sight. Also, for a country, China gets favorable promotion, with massive set pieces taking place in Shanghai and Macau, Asia’s Las Vegas.
From the opening scene in Istanbul to the epic finale in the Scottish Highlands, Skyfall is a film saturated in sheer elegance. Despite the title, Craig manages to defy gravity on a regular basis, giving his best performance since Layer Cake.