Magazine article Screen International

Skyfall

Magazine article Screen International

Skyfall

Article excerpt

Dir: Sam Mendes. UK-US. 2012. 143mins

Fifty years on from the release of Dr No, the twenty-third official James Bond film refreshes a formula which seemed flagging in Quantum Of Solace, the last entry, by keeping on Daniel Craig, who has grown into the role of the secret agent but brought his own distinctive take on the character, but bringing in top talent, including director Sam Mendes (unwinding after weightier things, but taking the assignment seriously), script-polisher John Logan (working over a screenplay by series regulars Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) and (perhaps in a masterstroke) cinematographer Roger Deakins, who finally provides a Bond film with a visual sophistication that matches the credits sequence.

It seems likely that this will be much more warmly embraced by series fans and general audiences.

New characters - Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as a field agent, Ralph Fiennes as a politico - join the team, and Judi Dench, who has been in post since Pierce Brosnan joined up in Goldeneye, has her best outing yet as M, as the focus of a plot in which a flamboyant baddie, Silva (Javier Bardem) comes after her to avenge a wrong done during the handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese.

Berenice Marlohe fills an evening dress and takes a shower with Bond, but - as has been the case since the larkish latter Roger Moore outings - the agent is relatively chaste here. He has also given up smoking, though his dependence on drink and danger is probed in a manner that Ian Fleming might have grumbled about.

For fifty years, Bond has been among the most buttoned-down of heroes, quipping after violent deaths and shrugging off any number of lovers, but here - drawing on elements of the novels - his background is hashed over, and he joins the ranks of heroes driven by the loss of his parents in traumatic circumstances at an early age.

It may be that this baggage will be unhelpful for future installments, but at least it's carried onscreen here with bearded charisma by Albert Finney, in a role that someone must have wanted to offer to Sean Connery, as a Bond family retainer with a handy shotgun and a laconic flair for the throwaway line that shows where the spy got that habit from.

Locations include Istanbul (visited by several other films this year), Shanghai (where a simple fight in a steel-and-glass office block is turned by Deakins into a standout sequence), a gambling hell in Macau (which affords a chance to play with giant reptiles) and an abandoned island that Silva has made his lair. …

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