I can’t help it really if this piece turns out more personal than what a movie-review should be like ...forgive me readers for it is Bond, James Bond!
Let me start by saying that Skyfall is different than all the other James Bond flicks that you may have watched before. A plot with a strong sub-text is how I would put it. It was not just a tribute to these characters which have gone strength to strength in the last five decades but also a tribute to the country, where it all started...the Great Britain; it was almost surreal & symbolic to show Churchill’s bunker.
Sam Mendes treated the subject differently; he chose to dig deep instead of just scratching the flashy exterior of gizmos, sex, violence and outer polish of the characters. He took us through Bond’s roots, and tried to lend the viewer a taste of why Bond is, what he is. “Orphans make the best recruits”... M puts it candidly, explaining Bond’s root-lessness standing in Skyfall where his roots are.
The opening sequence in Istanbul stuck to the usual Bond template, except that he is shot by one from his own league (not surprising, that it’s a woman!) and falls under water, only to resurface in M’s apartment as the patriotic strings tug his heart. His vulnerability is well-portrayed on how he struggles to hold onto the elevator, and struggles to meet the fitness test. But that’s just about the ‘Bond’ bit. The treatment is much thicker than that; for the first time the character of ‘M’ is actually treated with what she is worth. I had always felt that Dame Judi Dench gets wasted in these blink & miss appearances that she does for Bond movies. What can one say about her acting....she is terrific! She symbolizes the pre-war British essence to the hilt, with her body language, her speech. I think Skyfall was actually her movie. What a lovely way to exit the series dying in Bond’s arms (only I wish it was Pierce Brosnan and not Daniel Craig!). True to her character till the last... when asked if she is hurt, she replies “No, only my pride!”
If Skyfall did justice to M, so did Javier Bardem, as Raoul Silva. He took the concept of a villain into another level altogether. The blonde hair, puffed-up face added to the intensity. Watching him perform was a shock...it didn’t seem like a Hollywood flick, felt like I was watching theatre; he was so well-aware of his body, his voice. As a matter of fact, the first sequence where he appears is mind-blowing for a lack of a better word. A finest example of what a controlled performance can do to the audience, without using any major props...the only aid is use of modulated voice and his own body, but no rapid movement. Javier Bardem, has taken the concept of a Bond villain to a different level altogether, his successors would have a tough job to follow. Daniel Craig was no match for his performance, the only scene where one could see crackling chemistry was the one where Raul Silva meets M; he almost succeeds in overshadowing the brilliant actress in the first, and skilfully matches shoulder-to-shoulder in the second.
Having a very young ‘Q’ was a shock...but I think more treat is awaited in the following Bond flicks, as far as Q is concerned and so is Ralph Fiennes as new M.
As I have mentioned, the movie is a tribute to Great Britain...to the people who have laid down their lives for her. The visuals of London are absolutely charming, rightly capturing the old World with Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and the Scottish highlands portraying the contrasting beauty.
The essence of Skyfall is beautifully captured in two sequences; In Bond’s first encounter with Silva,
“Bond: Everyone needs a hobby...
Silva: So what's yours?
Bond: Resurrection." ...yes, it is about Resurrection; and even more beautifully captured through Tennyson’s poetry recited by M
“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Isn’t that exactly what Great Britain has come to in the present era, and striving for?