Sunday, 4 November 2012

224, Skyfall

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I have been a James Bond fan since as far back as I can remember. Before DVD and easily marketable VCR's I remember willing it be a Bank Holiday with the guarantee of some form of Bond movie gracing our families brown box TV and each time it was always an event. It didn't matter which movie either, I have seen all of them dozens of times each, totalling hundreds of viewings over the best part of 30 odd years and although I instantly recognise each movie, scene, actor, villain & love interest to me, they haven't aged become dull or predictable or indeed, any less appealing than the first time I watched any of then.
Due to age restrictions - remarkably my first cinematic Bond experience came with what could have been Roger Moore's last outing, A View to a Kill (although you would have to check that by my Mum). Being aged 9 at the time, this was the last PG Bond movie thanks to Timothy Dalton taking the reigns in 1987 with The Living Daylights (Cert 15). Being only 11 at the time, there was no way my parents would have smuggled me into this one but in 1989 and a return to a PG rating for Dalton's 2nd movie, Licence to Kill chances are I went back to see that one on the silver screen. Luckily, that's the end of vague memories and thanks to a 6yr gap between releases & now aged 19 years of age I clearly recall finishing work one evening and heading to Bluewater Shopping Centre where I witnessed Pierce Brosnan take over in Goldeneye and from then on (the next 17 years in fact) each Bond release has got me more excited with anticipation than any other movie I can think of and the new Skyfall is no exception.
Celebrating its 50th year - James Bond has continued to captivate audiences world wide. Everyone has their favourites. Connery set the benchmark with his early run of releases (5) before On Her Majesty's Secret Service saw George Lazenby take over in what some people say is the best Bond movie - albeit with the worst Bond actor. With only one outing, Connery returned for number 6 (Diamonds are Forever) before Roger Moore took on a more comical approach with a record 7 appearances. Dalton did 2, Brosnan, 4 and in 2006, Daniel Craig took up the reigns after brilliant performances in movies like Layer Cake & Munich and to my knowledge, beating Clive Owen (although don't quote me) to the part.
Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were very different Bond Films. Although Dame Judy Dench continued on as 'M' there was no Moneypenny, no Q-Branch and a far tougher, rougher Bond - far more reminiscent of Dalton or Connery. Skyfall needed to bring Bond back to its roots. We want the recognisable characters, the cars and the gadgets and I felt the last outing for Daniel had moved too far away from this and needed reeling in. In addition, 50 years needed something 'special' and as with Die Another Day (2002), Bond celebrated its 40th anniversary by having Bond (Brosnan) a Q (Llewelyn) in an old gadget storeroom with the keen eyed noticing there were gadgets and gizmo's from every single one of the preceding Bond movies, dating back to Rosa Kleb's dagger shoe and Thunderballs jet pack - Brilliant!
So - Skyfall. What a movie! Not only do we get a brand new Q played by Ben Wishaw (another Layer Cake participant) we get Daniel Craig back on top form and an opening sequence fit to be the climatic scenes in any other action movie to grace our screens.  I don't want to give too much away as I know some still won’t have seen it but there are too many fab moments to ignore. To celebrate 50 years we get the very best of the new Bond, paired with the very very best of the old one and easily the stand out performance (apart from Q) is the Aston Martin DB5. Tucked away in a private garage, Bond uses it to escort 'M' to his childhood home of Skyfall - the mansion in Scotland where he spent his younger days before the death of his parents and there is even an ejector seat quip that should get the whole audience chuckling along.

The villain Silva, played Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men / Eat Pray Love) is one of the most dislikeable baddies to grace a Bond story line in may a year. An Ex Agent, one of M's best now feeling betrayed and cheated by MI6. He sets out to expose every Agent undercover and take down the lady in charge but with an almost alluring attraction to Bond himself (that's right readers - the leg stroking scene is brilliant) we get a real feel of betrayal and an almost understanding with him to his pain and despair, soon righted though by a no nonsense Bond. You don’t feel sorry for him for very long!
The girls - well, Eve & Severine (played by Naomie Harris & Berenice Marlohe) mix both brains and beauty seamlessly and make up this movies love interests. The twist with Naomie's character at the end is fantastic and the introduction of Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) as a new Head of Operations of some sort just set this movie up to be one of Bond's all time greats and open up all sorts of excitement for movies in this franchise yet to come.

In my mind, there is no bad point in this movie - I loved it so much I've already seen it twice in the space of 1 week and given the chance - would go again. The introduction for the first time to Bond's childhood open up the character much more than we have ever seen and there is definitely some emotion from the hardened spy towards the very end of the movie when events take a sorry turn for the worse.
Finally (and believe me, I could write for hours) I just wanted to highlight two essential items not seen in a while. It’s no surprise that Moneypenny and Q have been missed but that's not what I'm talking about. Yes, we get some familiar characters back for what I hope will be the next two confirmed Daniel Craig’s outings (Bond movie's 24 & 25) but the brown leather studied door to M's office and the hat stand, situated to the left of Moneypenny's office are both back! I know - nerdy but true.
It'll warm you inside when you see them back and paired that with that original soundtrack AND the movie finishing with Craig staring down the barrel of the now infamous gun, panning from left to right its proof that Bond is well and truly back and most definitely on top!