Being a die-hard Bond fan since my childhood, and having read every Bond novel written, and having seen every Bond movie at least a dozen times each, there was no way I would miss Skyfall. Thanks to my dynamic young friends and the Internet, I got myself a ticket for the 23rd Bond movie. And I came out of the theater sharing the opinion of film critics worldwide – that Skyfall is perhaps the best movie in the Bond series.
When Daniel Craig was chosen as the new Bond for Casino Royale, I was one of millions of Bond-maniacs who beat our heads and screamed aloud in agony. He was nowhere near Ian Fleming’s Bond. I mean, the man was snub-nosed and stocky, and he was blond. Blond, for heaven’s sake. Ian Fleming would have been horrified. For me, Sean Connery was the only ‘real’ Bond. Well, Pierce Brosnan wasn’t bad either. Roger Moore, was not exactly compelling as Bond. The less said about Timothy Dalton the better. And to everyone’s relief, George Lazenby played OO7 once, and only once.
With Skyfall, Craig has shut up his detractors once and for all. And he comes close to out-Bonding Connery himself. Very close, but not entirely. Craig blends the suave ruthlessness of Connery and the cavalier toughness of Brosnan, and adds his own sardonic style to present us with a Bond who is as merciless as one expects 007 to be, but a 007 who isn’t afraid to show his soft side and moisten his eyes a little. This Bond is into his golden years, but chiselled and really fit. One is reminded of a 30-year old Connery in Thunderball.
Craig’s Bond raises the bar and sets a new benchmark for future Bond aspirants.
In addition to redefining 007, Skyfall takes a new look at other Bond characters as well. Thus, the new Q is diametrically opposite to the irascible, elderly scientist potrayed by Desmond Llewelyn in 20 of the 23 Bond movies. Ben Whishaw as Q is young, absurdly young, and clearly a nerd. So much so, that a stunned Bond remarks,’You must be joking!’ when Q introduces himself to the 50-year old Bond. This Q doesn’t like dashy gadgets. ‘Were you expecting an exploding pen?’, he asks OO7. All he has to give is a Walther PPK signature gun and one measly radio transmitter.
That measly radio transmitter, it turns out, is enough to trap the villain, played superbly by Javier Bardem as the spine-chilling Raoul Silva, a disgruntled former agent from the OO section. Bardem is different from earlier Bond villains. This villain, thankfully, does not wish to rule the world or blow the planet to bits. All he wants is to kill M, and destroy most of London in the process. And he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s brilliant and ruthless and techno-savvy. This new-age terrorist does not employ purloined nuclear missiles, specially trained crocodiles and overgrown thugs with steel jaws. He uses a computer keyboard. And he seems comfortable with his sexuality. The implied gayness in his first interaction with a bound Bond is scary and funny at the same time.
The new Moneypenny played convincingly by Naomie Harris, is quite unlike the prim-and-propah Moneypennys of old. She is, to start with, black. And she’s a woman of action, matching Bond stunt for stunt, bullet for bullet, before she opts for a deskjob. Finally, after 23 movies, Miss Moneypenny is given a first name. Her name we are told, is Eve.
Judi Dench takes a graceful bow out of her role as M, the head of the double-O section. Dench lent a lot of credibility to a difficult role that was always a male preserve. She will be missed. Ralph Fiennes, as Lt Gareth Mallory, takes over as the new M at the end of Skyfall. This talented and versatile actor promises to add another dimension to the role.
New looks aside, there are vintage Bond moments in the film, no doubt inspired by Bonds of yore. A ‘traditional’ Bond girl who is as always, disposed off by the villain, a beautifully choreographed fight scene in silhouette that brings to mind a similar scene from Moonraker, a sensuous shower scene that is a throwback to Bond movies like The Spy Who Loved Me, and the Man with the golden gun, a thrilling fight sequence in a pit with monitor lizards that is reminiscent of the final clash between Bond and Mr Big in Live and let die.
The traditional opening song sequence is back, with the usual shadowy curvaceous girl in the background and exquisitely rendered by Adele, no less. Adele has the same power in her voice as Shirley Bassey did. An Oscar in the making, one wonders? The Bond signature tune is back, played ‘correctly’ as per the original composition by Monty Norman and John Barry. That original sound was literally electrifying, and it was a thrill to hear that sound again.
Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger makes a surprise return, complete with machine guns and ejector seat (that Bond threatens to use on his boss M).
Bond’s gun barrel sequence is back as well, but sadly, it is placed at the end of the movie, and not at the very beginning as it should be. That is simply not done!
And I’m told that James Bond sipped on a Heineken beer, instead of the Vesper martini, at some point in the movie. I wouldn’t know. I was too shaken and stirred to watch! In-movie advertising, indeed.
Skyfall is Daniel Craig all the way. And Craig is Bond, all the way. Never thought I’d write these words, but yeah, Craig is Bond. Apna Bond.
Cheers … Srini.