DHAKA: ‘Skyfall’ has a lot to offer, not only as a Bond picture, but a fiercely forceful drama in its own right.
We lost sight of him in the murky mess that was 2008’s ‘Quantum of Solace’, one of the most pedestrian and often downright boring movies ever misfired from the 007 canon.
With ‘Skyfall’, we can all quickly exhale a sigh of relief, then inhale as many deep breaths as possible. For this is one of the 50-year-old series’ most exciting and commandingly compelling entries.
Yes, James Bond is back to being James Bond.
This is in spite of the first half-hour of ‘Skyfall’, where the sky does indeed appear to be rapidly crashing down upon the suave super-spy (played with newfound grit, gravity and self-deprecation by Daniel Craig).
Not only is Bond saddled with a middle-aged identity crisis, a drinking problem and a contentious relationship with his employer. There’s also the near-lethal gunshot wounds from a botched assignment in Istanbul, and the widespread belief he is dead.
Meanwhile, back in London - which, in an about-face from the franchise’s famously globetrotting ways, is where much of ‘Skyfall’ plays out - the once-indefatigable M (Judi Dench) is also under the hammer.
With her agency under sustained cyber-attack from a mysterious criminal entity linked to her past, M is hauled over the coals by the British government.
A new espionage overseer (played by Ralph Fiennes) keeps dropping none-too-subtle hints that maybe M should be calling it a day.
If ever there was enough heat on MI6 for James Bond to come back in from the cold, it is now.
Let’s leave the plotting at the that. The storytelling in ‘Skyfall’ is as enjoyably convoluted and instantly gripping as anything penned by original Bond author Ian Fleming.
However, there is also a refreshing soulfulness to this tale that is sometimes uncharacteristically moving, and always highly memorable.
Many a Bond film has switched off for a period to chase easy, disposable thrills. Not this time.
Which is not to say ‘Skyfall’ does not cut it as an action picture. Far from it. Director Sam Mendes lets fly with the rough’n’tumble stuff judiciously, but very effectively.
Two sequences in particular stand out.
The first is a brilliantly choreographed 15-minute chase early in the picture that almost sends 007 to an early grave. The other is a sparsely staged fist fight high up on a darkened skyscraper, where every punch landed is both hurtful and artful.
Both of these sections in ‘Skyfall’ bring the very best out of the great cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men), whose camera placements and lighting are point-perfect throughout.
Speaking of perfection, Deakins’ No Country colleague Javier Bardem all but steals the ‘Skyfall’ show with his depiction of one of the best Bond villains ever.
You will have to wait until the one-hour mark for the preening psychotic known as Silva to make his entrance, but you will be blown away when he finally does appear.
(Like the aforementioned fist fight, Deakins shoots the unveiling of Silva in one long, uninterrupted take.
The effect, aided by Bardem’s dazzling delivery of his dialogue, is a complete knockout.)
Believe me, I have only scratched the surface of what ‘Skyfall’ has to offer, not only as a Bond picture, but a fiercely forceful drama in its own right.
Mendes is renowned as an actors’ director, and he really leans on Craig and Dench to explore a performance range denied them in previous outings.
Each responds magnificently to the challenge.
BDST: 2014 HRS, NOV 22, 2012
Edited by Robab Rosan, Cultural Affairs Editor
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