November 2, 2012 7:07:11 pm
Cast: Daniel Craig,Javier Bardem,Judi Dench,Ralph Fiennes,Naomi Harris,Berenice Marlohe,Albert Finney
Director: Sam Mendes
Indian Express Rating:****1/2
Any which way you look at Skyfall,James Bond — the film and the character — have matured. And there could have been no better hand to lead them towards it than Sam Mendes,a director who does rather well with middle-age at crossroads.
His Bond is brave and brash but also beaten,bruised and doubtful. His world is grey,its boundaries fuzzy,its shadows long,its blood deeper,its characters older. At the same time,with life and death hanging by a thread,it remains a visually stunning world — be it the glittering Shanghai skyline,a damp and foggy Scotland,or a castle in flames in the midst of cold marshland.
And it all happens against action that remains endless and innovative. Bond rides a bike over Istanbul’s grand bazaar before fighting atop a train,plunging into a waterfall,dangling from an elevator on its way up a skyscraper,jumping onto a moving train,and eventually having one fall down upon him. Bond is also James the orphan whose parents died when he was a child — a detail that has taken 23 films and 50 years registering. And kudos to how Neal Purvis,Robert Wade,John Logan,the screenwriters,bring in that.
If Mendes mixes it all up nicely,he is amply helped in this direction by Craig,who excels once again in his role as the 007,and a superlative Bardem. A former agent turned rogue,Silva (Bardem) is not after 007 but M (Dench) for betraying him. However,his feelings towards her are confused,to say the least. His anger is as evil in its ferocity as almost childlike in its simplicity. His anger even may be justified as is clear from how Bond looks at her,and how M looks away.
The story concerns Silva stealing a list of NATO agents embedded in terror organisations across the world from MI6. The government,represented here by an officious Mallory (Fiennes),wants M to act fast and pull those agents out. As M tries to first get her hands on the list through her agents,Silva starts exposing the embedded agents,three of whom are publicly executed. M’s judgment is called into question,as is her dependence on Bond who has just recovered from a certain death and actually failed tests he requires to pass to be declared fit for return to duty (M hides this fact from Mallory).
While Bond remains tentative about his abilities,it falls upon him to take on the increasingly devious Silver,who has hacked into MI6 computers and is one step ahead of them.
Naomi Harris is more in line with the other Bond girls,even more so as it turns out,but it is Marlohe who captures hearts as a tortured sex worker in her brief role.
If the going is good,the end,at Bond’s ancestral home in Scotland,with Albert Finney as the housekeeper,is a fitting finale. It pits experience against technology,007’s old Aston Martin against a chopper,dynamite against grenades,grit against guns,even bulbs against bullets. As Bond tries to save M from Silva,it is but fitting that his ancient,childhood home is ultimately what stands between the life he could have led and the only life he would.
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