Stripped of almost all gadgets, Bond is back fighting for Queen and country, ready to face a very uncertain and different world.
After Bond’s complete re-invention in the superb “Casino Royale”, followed by a meandering and disappointing “Quantum of Solace”, we are back on solid ground. Arguably completing the three picture transition to the fully rounded Bond character, that audiences have embraced for 50 years.
Opening with an excellent played for real stunt filled prologue, Bond (Daniel Craig) then promptly disappears. Returning only when a real threat to “M” becomes evident and agents lives are at risk, following the loss of a stolen data disk. That threat arriving in the slightly effeminate, disturbing and clearly “a few rounds short of a full clip” Bond villain, Silva (Javier Bardem).
It is unusual for the Bond villain to arrive so late in the piece and to have such a narrow goal. It is obvious that the image of huge villainous lairs, with boiler-suited armies and world domination was destroyed forever by Austin Powers.
Late perhaps but what an entrance, Bardem demanding we listen to him and watch every movement he makes, playing every scene he gets to the maximum. A classic interrogation scene that no doubt will be discussed on the Internet for some time to come.
This is Bond at his most workmanlike, with a job to be done, ill-prepared on occasion and with more introspection than ever before. There are many quiet thoughtful scenes and Bardem makes for an excellent villain, you are never sure what he might do next.
Judi Dench as “M” has her work cut out with a huge part in the film and carries it well, no doubt not expecting to be involved in gun fights at age 78. We also are introduced to Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) and the new “Q” (Ben Whishaw) both fitting well into the story. Agent Eve (Naomi Harris) defies usual Bond conventions by being adept in the field, beautiful of course and sharing perhaps the most intimate Bond scene yet, without hitting the sheets.
The film swiftly moving from Istanbul to Shanghai to Macau but overall feels firmly based in Britain and latterly Scotland. There is a well choreographed fight scene back-lit with neon lighting, a grand entrance into a lantern lit casino, enough action and yet the film feels very grounded in the realities of the modern world. Self aware but still able to provide that hyper reality that Bond has always represented.
Of course the film depends on the actor personifying our version of Bond and Craig fits the role like a glove. Difficult to believe now there was consternation when he was first cast. He manages to believably play a character that could either seduce, amuse or kill you, all without a moments pause.
We get more background to Bond, as “M” admits that orphans make the best recruits. The latter scenes suggesting there is a desire to move the franchise forward again, seeking closure on the past and re-inventing for the future, although classic car lovers should look away.
Like anything else, movies are about timing. This captures the zeitgest perfectly, a very British film riding on an uplift of nationalistic pride following the 2012 Olympics. Director Sam Mendes has created a serious film, although Bond has never looked better from a cinematography point of view and the franchise never in more robust health.
There is no question that the combination of well executed real action sequences, tied with that iconic soundtrack is as good as cinema gets, a good Bond film is to be treasured and this is up there with the best.
The film strangely opened much later in New Zealand, therefore box Office figures already indicate this has been the most successful Bond film ever, $700 million and counting. Clearly Bond will be back and soon.
As good as “Casino Royale” but in a different way. Not as iconic perhaps but lays solid foundations for the next two pictures Craig has signed to make, due in 2014 and 2016.
If you love cinema you cannot walk past a good Bond film, this is one and therefore comes highly recommended