Having been asked to write a review as an assignment, it was only natural of me to be pulled to the write something about my favorite past time; movies. As it is widely popularized all over the world, 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise and this provided a perfect setting to produce the 23rd installment of the spy series; Skyfall.
Daniel Craig, arguably the best Bond actor ever to utter the infamous ‘shaken not stirred’ line, has his third outing as James Bond. The film kicks off with pre-credit action scene that culminates in a vicious hand to hand combat on top of a moving train (as if there is any other kinds of Bond fight) and climaxes with Mr. Bond assumed dead. I would not want to spoil the salient plot line, except to highlight that the circumstances do seem to drive our favorite hero to feeling a little disillusioned- and reduced to ordering a bottle of Heineken as opposed to his preferred poison. However, to the Bond fans, rest assured that he does not order this drink is a glamorous establishment. This opening sequence, coupled with a catchy theme song by Adele, serves up one of the best openings of any Bond norm.
And so my hopes were extremely high, until the film thrust into what seems like an unnecessary blend of the Chekhov and John LeCarre slated into a conventional Bond film: undercover spies are in peril, there are chances of a mole in the organization, top governmental secrets have been leaked, Director M is facing both personal and professional threats and when Bond finally surfaces, he is feeling more than a little betrayed and shaken, not stirred, to his foundation. Everyone who has watched a traditional Bond film knows that there isn’t any conventional rogue asset to blame, but a captivating arch villain (Empire, 2012). Javier Bardem plays the renegade asset with a couple to scores to settle with Director M. He seems to be particularly skilled in employing what seems like hundreds of well trained but nameless arms men whose primary purpose seems to be getting killed.
The movie, directed by Sam Mendes, is still quite entertaining. The action scenes are well staged, predominantly the aforementioned opening sequence and a climax that involves daring, not only for the appealing Bond but also for Judi Dench and the grizzled Albert Finney. Ralph Fiennes is a superb addition to the cast as a firm but sympathetic bureaucrat. Bardem is pleasantly over the top as the chief protagonist, and the Bond girls- one nice, one naughty- are rather limited in their contributions to the plot.
The jury is still out as far as the current state of the Bond series and Daniel Craig is concerned. Craig is a capable actor, but his portrayal of Bond is somewhat unpleasant and would not be entirely out of place in a spy film, say, on the order of a Graham Green or a LeCarre project. In the last couple of productions, Craig’s performance seems devoid of appeal; there is little flamboyance to his one-liners and no delight when he gets to do what the things Bond’s characters do best- that does not involve ending peoples’ lives. Current Bond films want to offer two viewpoints in their plots: they want to achieve a certain emotional and intellectual complexity to the franchise, while still maintaining an extremely pragmatic, though thrilling, action scenes. The challenge is that now there is a distinct sluggishness between the set pieces. Additionally, when one is given more time to critically asses the film, one can criticizes almost everything, including how many times Bond had the villain in his sights. However, the ending does provide a glimmer of hope that the Bond series will be back to real business in the foreseeable future- someone take the Heineken of his hands and get this man a martini, shaken not stirred.