(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 4 November, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/forging-a-new-bond)
Cast: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and others
Director: Sam Mendes
Rating: 4 stars
It takes something for a hero to get beaten, and still get laid; for a man to be gallant, and yet shrug his shoulders when another lover is shot, burnt, tarred or stabbed to death; for an actor to strike macho poses, while emoting with his eyes; for James Bond to go AWOL, but somehow retain our trust. Which is why Daniel Craig makes such a wonderful James Bond that he’s wiped all the others from my memory. In his third outing as Bond, Craig revels in the shades Sam Mendes brushes into his character.
Mendes cuts to the chase right away, and then pulls us into the theme song, whose mesmeric picturisation – one of the clichés I love in the Bond movies – makes up for its unmemorable tune. The gripping opening sequence cleverly satiates our impatience, and so we’re indulgent with the relatively slow pace of the rest of the film.
Among Mendes’ experiments with the Bond genre is the roping in of psychology and family drama. At one point, I had a vision of Bond going to an Assassins Anonymous meeting, and announcing, “I’m James Bond ...and I...am an adrenaline junkie.” Chorus: “Hiiiii, James.” All the sentimentality makes it less of a male movie, you know? It’s bad enough that, since 1995, a female M (Judi Dench) has ensured there’s very little testosterone in MI6, at least outside of hotel rooms.
The innovations in this film, transcending the trappings of the Bond franchise, make it special. We’re not simply thrown from one chase to another; we’re also coaxed into thinking about age and instinct. A sparkling exchange between James Bond and Q (Ben Whishaw) broaches the philosophical undercurrents of the film through wit, and snide barbs. Bond is at his snarky best, as is Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a seemingly equal-and-opposite force.
Skyfall takes several digs at its precedents, sometimes in dialogue, and sometimes in scenes that border on spoof. One of my favourites is the villain’s rather unique threat as James Bond is tied up – yes, of course, he gets tied to a chair – and awaiting torture. On the subject, the film is bolstered by spectacularly natural acting from every man on screen.
It would be cruel to say much about the plot, but I will say that something happens that mandates new modi operandi for James Bond – and which convinces me the next Bond film will indeed be the best ever made. And if you want more reasons to go, take your pick from bizarre reptiles, exotic scenery, and a delightfully crazy villain.
The Verdict: If you have weekend plans that don’t involve Skyfall, cancel them.