Monday, December 31, 2012


Skyfall opens with a chase scene. Some baddies want a list of NATO undercover agents stored on a laptop. Bond and a young female agent are hunting them through Istambul while being micro managed from London by M and her control centre minions. The chase ends with a gunshot that segues into the opening credit sequence populated with morbid graveyard motifs and in the style of 80's Bond movies.

In an interesting departure from the past, the film centre's around M rather than Bond himself. This is understandable if you consider that Judi Dench's talents have been underutilised in her previous 6 films. While under political attack for loosing the list of undercover agents things take a turn for the worse as MI6 comes under cyber and bomb attack. As we know from John le Carré novels, you don't get to the top of the British secret service without having a few skeletons in the closet. M's skeleton, from her time as Hong Kong station chief, is Raoul Silva. Silva is played in scenery munching style by Javier Bardem (who played the equally evil Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men). Silva is a supremely resourceful, sadistic, gloating camp super-villain in the same league as Dr Julian No, Sir Hugo Drax and Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

While Bardem is having fun as Silva...
"She sent you after me, knowing you're not ready, knowing you would likely die. Mommy was very bad."
... Daniel Craig never breaks into a smile as James Bond. There are no one-liners, very limited flirting and Bond doesn't even enjoy sex with either Tonia Sotiropoulou or Sévérine. While a dour Bond is an interesting departure from the wise-cracking, devil-may-care Bond of the past, it does mean that Bond is less distinguishable from other serious and grim action heroes like Jason Bourne.

Usually Bond combats the villain's plans and superior resources with a few of Q's gadgets, a bit of help from his friends, a dose of luck and lots of spur of the moment improvisations. This time he relies largely on some highly unlikely person resources from his past, in particular a Scottish estate he inherited that has been empty and unused since his childhood but comes equipped with a priest hole, electrically lit tunnel, handy sticks of dynamite and an onsite gamekeeper! This comes across to me as a very lazy plot device from the pages of a Famous Five or Secret Seven novel.

Of the Bond girls, Naomie Harris gets the most screen time and action while Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine (Silva's girlfriend) is the most exotic and glamorous. Miss Moneypenny get explained, which might have some relevance in a future film but was not necessary to the plot of this one.

This is a Bond movie that both looks back nostalgically at its 20 odd predecessors and breaks new ground. On the plus side giving Judi Dench a bigger role was a great idea and Javier Bardem make a good super-villain as Silva. The Bond girls are good eye-candy, as usual, even if they are under appreciated by Bond himself. The opening chase scene through Istambul and onto the Varda Viaduct is spectacular and much better than Skyfall's finale. On the negative side: not only has Bond lost his sense of fun, he has also become sentimental, and the Skyfall Lodge was a new low in script writing.

Ian's rating 3/5 Anne's rating 3/5