This is a very, very good film. It gives you everything you want in a Bond movie, and more besides.
All the ingredients are in place, and nicely integrated too. There are more ingeniously staged fights and chases, where Bond does the impossible, outwits the bad guys, and generally proves himself superior to other men, whilst maintaining a sense of style and a close hold on his feelings.
There is that important thing, a great villain. Javier Bardem is creepy, impossibly powerful and a bit camp, and manages to make computer hacking exciting. Forget greed or political disagreement, In our brave new world, the real enemy is the hacker with a grudge.
Dame Judi Dench is back as M, and we get to see what a touch cookie, and a devious operator, she can be. (You don’t get to be M by being sweet or naïve). She also shows us just enough of the human being under the hard bitten exterior. Her final scene is particularly moving.
Everyone is suitably tight lipped, dispensing dry quips in as few words as possible, as each wild plot twist rolls in. Bardem goes the other way, way over the top, but then he is a Spaniard, and our heroes are, you know, British.
There’s a sprinkling of gorgeous women, of-course, but apart from a tastefully blurry shower scene, there is not much intimate action. This Bond is not the type for carefree fun.
One obvious feature of SKYFALL is the spectacular look of it. There’s a shot of Scottish scenery that is just breathtaking. A fight in a skyscraper becomes a ballet of silhouettes and rippling neon lights.
The villain’s hideout is in a weird, rubble filled town that looks like a war just finished that morning. A train crashes through the ceiling of our heroes’ lair. (That’s right, this time the good guys have an underground lair). And we’re given some fabulous views of Istanbul and the Turkish countryside at the start.
So top marks, all round, eh, 007?! But there is something else. Apart from all the spy stuff, SKYFALL is a film with strong themes…
Getting old…Honouring the past, before leaving it behind….Stepping forward into the future…A battle between the future and the past, and the enduring bonds between the two…
And so, the good guys have to go back into the past to plan their strategies. First, in a hidden bunker from World War 2 (this time the heroes have the underground lair, not the villain), then later in the old Scottish farmhouse where Bond grew up. Only these places are out of reach of their ultra-modern enemy (For a while, at least).
But then, Rodriguez (or whatever the villain’s name really is) is haunted by his past too, obsessed with revenging the Secret Service’s mistreatment of him years ago.
All through the film, symbols of the past appear, and are put to the test: can they, should they survive in the new world of mutating encryption codes and Asian mega-cities?!
So we get a new Q, seemingly just out of school, who gives Bond a small radio transmitter and says, ‘what do you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t do that anymore’. And there is a new, younger rival for M. Even old Aston Martin car gets Bond to safety in one scene.
Even the opening titles manage to be old fashioned and ultra-modern at the same time.
The ultimate symbol of the past is, of-course, Bond himself. When Bond is asked what hobbies he has, he replies ‘Resurrection’, and he’s not kidding. Even before the opening credits, he has been shot, and fallen (apparently) to his death, and throughout the film he keeps being defeated and written off, only to rise again.
His ultimate return is signaled at the end, when we finally see the traditional shooting into the camera lens sequence. 007 is back!
So Bond lives on. He has become one of those characters, like Tarzan or Doctor Who, that will outlive any individual character who plays him, and will become reinvented for each new generation. But…for the next few episodes at least, he is in safe hands.
To sum up: It’s Bond! It’s fabulous! Go see!
© Peter Morrison
11th December, 2012
Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- SKYFALL, James Bond, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison