Movie review: Skyfall


Movie: Skyfall
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw
Direction: Sam Mendes

“Old dog, new tricks.” Naomie Harris’s sexed-up Moneypenny tells Daniel Craig’s James Bond. Skyfall was always about making that obvious point: Bond at 50 is an old dog good enough to learn a few new tricks. And score. It was about proving that Agent 007 in his 23rd outing- “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “relic of the Cold War” as M famously described him in Goldeneye- was far from his expiry date.

Skyfall is the definitive Bond film of the Craig era in that sense, also one of the most imaginative entertainers the series has ever given us. Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes makes room for a little Shakespeare here and a whiff of Tennyson there even as a crackling special effects team serves up the action frenzy. A ticklish tease creeps into the screenplay too, in a scene where the villain sexually provokes Bond. You are left mulling over the sexual orientation of the superspy with a stiff Brit upper lip after all these years.

Yes, Skyfall is a bag of new heady tricks for Bond buffs- something that Casino Royale came close to being and Quantum Of Solace was never meant to be. Craig, who will follow up this film with Bond 24 and 25, may have peaked midway on his five-film deal.

The challenge for Mendes was to update his ‘Cold War Relic’ for Gen-Now tastes and yet retain Bond basics. A first step in that direction had already been taken in Casino Royale where the erstwhile ladykiller became a vulnerable lover. Skyfall’s screenplay references earlier 007 adventures to further humanise the superspy. In-house jokes about the 1973 Roger Moore flick, Live And Let Die, are an example. They seem to be shouting out that the franchise is no longer the hammy trip of excesses it once was.

The biggest twist, though, comes with the character of M. Dame Judi Dench, in her final outing as the MI6 boss, plays out the role of her life within the Bond franchise. If Skyfall’s story wholly draws from M’s past, Dench at 77 gets to play what no one would have imagined- she is actually the Bond babe here (details would be spoilers, so I’ll gloss over), pushing the film’s two eye candies to insignificance.

Yet there are the formulaic strains. Bond is after all working at thwarting a smart villain as he always does. The standard mix of action, drama and trademark wry 007 humour is played out, and the Bond babes get scope- however minimum- to leave you shaken and stirred. Like always, there’s a twist in the end. This time the twist- indeed, the film’s story itself- pertains more to Bond’s private world than world peace.

The script (John Logan, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade) takes off at a time when Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) was a field agent. She joins Bond on a mission in Turkey after an MI6 agent is killed and a vital hard drive is stolen. The chase leads to the cyber terrorist Raoul Garcia (Javier Bardem), but it becomes obvious soon that all is not what meets the eye. Thrown into the mix is the sexy Severine (Berenice Marlohe), aide to Raoul. Her high point is a standard romp in the shower with Bond.

is Craig’s triumph because the film lets him prove James Bond can impress beyond Sean Connery swagger. But the film wouldn’t have been the smasher it is without Bardem. Playing a blond baddie to the Blond Bond, Bardem uses his soft voice for maximum sinister impact, and lets his droopy eyes indulge in more evil talk than the dialogue-sheet would allow.

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