Daniel Craig: the Modern Bond
Daniel Craig has now settled into the role of James Bond, 007 and seems to be cruising with it. he still has hang ups on colleagues touching their ears when using earpiece radios; when will they get the message? His Bond is distinctively different from all the others and the writers and Sam Mendes have established the character not as an infallible super spy, but as a super spy with many flaws. As is the case with the other movies he flutters through this film as a tortured soul. So a little bit like Jason Bourne then. And there is that obligatory reference out of the way.
For one as I am sure many of those who have seen have noticed, he has a major fucking drinking problem, and M even remarks whether he had run out of drink after he comes back to her apartment as the prodigal son. It is not just in this movie that this is noticeable but all the Daniel Craig, Bond movies. His excessive drinking seems less like Frank Sintara’s cool endorsement of whisky and more like Frank from Shameless’ pitiful drunk. Still at least he is in great shape; and for the third time in as many films he shamelessly shows off his torso like proud peacock from the scene in Shangai. Another flaw shows that he is not at his peak when it comes to weaponry which proves fatal in one instance. And his final flaw is the question that whether his age has an impact on performing his duties. Age is also the major theme of the movie and one that is handled subtlety.
We can also see in ts Bond film more insight into the character’s back story although without giving too much away. There is a contradiction in parts when Bond claims his country as England although he is Scottish so he should perhaps be incorporating all the countries from the British Isles no? The tortured soul of Craig’s Bond is explained by a family tragedy, which explains why he mostly never smiles.
1995 was the first appearance of Judi Dench as the character M in the film Goldeneye. The film was the debut of a new Bond but also of a new and entirely different M. First of all she was a woman, which changed the relationship between Commander Bond and his superior. She maintained the role of the strongest woman throughout the series. The relationship was maternal, it was also explored in greater depth a hate but mostly love attitude towards each other. But most importantly it dismissed the almost anonymous role of James Bond’s boss throughout the entire franchise by showcasing a really important actress in an otherwise silly action films by getting the character more involved in the plot. And no matter what you thought of any of the bond films from 1995, she was ALWAYS the best thing in it.
In Skyfall she rescues the film considerably from trading on familiar ground. Dench’s M has always been steely and a bit of a battling ram but we get to see a little bit of vulnerability that really rounds out her character and is not so far away from the Queen Victoria role that she played in Mrs. Brown. She makes mistakes in the movie one of them you can probably see in the trailer but she is ready to be accountable for them and like Edith Piaf and Frank Sinatra, she has no regrets.
Being attacked on all fronts; from a cyber terrorist who wants personal revenge, to Ralph Fiennes who is trying to push her out of her job, to a member of a government inquiry who wants to lay blame, and finally from James Bond and his ongoing issues, we are made to sympathise but also acknowledge that she has the resilience to come through in the end. Judi Dench owns this movie. This is a film not just about a tough super British spy but about a tough battle axe of a woman who takes no shit and so the film’s focus is as much about her as it is about James Bond.
The exchanges between her and Bond, her and her employees, and her and the bureaucrats she has to deal with are always sharp, witty and forceful. Her finest moment comes during a public inquiry (that bears a veiled social commentary to the Leveson inquiry with shades of Wikileaks). Coming from a relentless verbal attack from a lady on the panel, she recites the poem Ulysses by Tennyson which aptly describes her character and her handling of the situation. It is M‘s “My way” and a literally and truly poetic moment that is in sync with the rest of the film.
The old ones are the best
Craig’s Bond is no spring chicken and this is constantly referenced throughout the film. Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee wants to get rid of him because he feels that he is too old and even remarks that being a spy is a “young man’s game”. The new Q (Ben Whishaw) who Bond undermines initially because he feels that he is too young, remarks to Bond that “we” don’t do exploding pens anymore when Bond is unimpressed with the gun and radio that he is given. And when Eve is helping shave Bond with a cut throat razor she remarks to him that “the old ones are the best”. The age theme is also extended to M, a lady who has done it all seen it all, served her country well but she is questioned about her decisions because people feel that she has lost it through age. Therefore there are efforts to have her removed from her post through transition, or the sack.
Besides M, the women in this film are mainly peripheral, and though there is the obligatory sex scene there is not much sex going down in this movie. There are more important things at hand. There are three objects of desire in Skyfall, one woman we don’t get to know her name. There is Eve, (played by Naomi Harris) a colleague who flirts with Bond but we don’t perceive that they have sex and the femme fatale played by Berenice Marlohe.
The biggest sexual chemistry comes from an unlikely source: the Bond villain. There is even a bit of sexual harassment dished out by Bond’s antagonist. Javier Bardem like Samuel L. Jackson has a penchant for wigs for his various acting roles (they may have it written into their contracts) and he gives a memorable blonde and camped up turn as the Raoul Silva the camp grotesque in the mould of Heath Ledger’s Joker or Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. At times I felt he needed to tone it down as there is too much effort in trying to steal the show but his bad guy does provide much of the film’s humour.
Conclusion and Verdict
I am not a self confessed Bond fan but I found the film immensely enjoyable. The writing was excellent and the performances great. It was brilliantly directed by Sam Mendes who has shown that he is capable of handling such material, and it had terrific action set pieces.
Have you ever seen the film They Live? Well if you have, the advertisements for Skyfall that have bombbarded our consiousness prior to its release is a kind of Orwellian way fo us to support this movie and OBEY. Buy Coke Zero, drink Heineken, wear Cartier, but above all watch Skyfall:
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