by The Editor
Skyfall...the best Bond movie ever.
WELL there’s an endorsement I never thought I would give to a Daniel Craig Bond film. Like most of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, thanks to my Dad who had the entire collection on VHS, James Bond was a staple for every bank holiday and Christmas (and quite frankly - any excuse he could find). George Lazenby did not even figure on the radar, Roger Moore (and his eyebrows) was terribly suave with a hint of corny, Timothy Dalton was a little Hollywood, Pierce Brosnan was the perfect 90s sultry sophisticate, but despite the Scottish accent, Sean Connery was the ultimate Bond (before he became the rather off-putting political pro-nationalist non-resident highly vocal Scotsman).
And then came along this upstart who was known for a support role in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and as an unnamed lead in the British gangster flick, Layer Cake. Daniel Craig was not the people’s choice for the next Bond, and many were annoyed that the role did not go to the hugely talented Clive Owen, who would have been the perfect progression from Brosnan...a modern Bond but of the same ilk as the previous incarnations.
This blond, rough around the edges, unsophisticated, blue-eyed Englishman from the Wirral was so far from the ideal of Bond, but appeared in Casino Royale in 2006. The 21st Bond film became the highest-grossing box office hit of the entire series, breaking records worldwide. It and Craig were a sure-fire hit for most...not me though. Craig was all wrong; Bond was all wrong; only the inimitable Dame Judi remained as M; there was too much change.
Quantum of Solace appeared 2 years later. It broke even more records than Casino Royale, even surpassing the Harry Potter of the moment, and was very enjoyable too. But it was awfully commercial - a good action flick but not so much Bond.
And then arrived the hype around Skyfall. The 23rd Bond film was marketed in a most eloquent fashion, and the teaser trailer released on 21st May did not just whet the appetite, but had the entire planet on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a film which in just 1 minute and 24 seconds had this looking like a whole new Bond.
Five months later and here it is, in all its magnificent glory. And thanks to rugby, I managed to get to a pre-release screening at Sony’s London HQ. Baffled? Well here’s the link. That tousled blond new Bond actor with those piercing blue eyes is a huge rugby fan, and could even be found in the England changing room at Fortress Twickenham congratulating his home team who beat Ireland on Paddy’s Day in the 2012 Six Nations. Craig played rugby for Hoylake RFC on The Wirral in Merseyside, a club whose other claim to fame is making it to the Tetley's Bitter Vase Final at Twickenham in 2001.
But Daniel Craig is not the only Bond star who can be found at international rugby matches. A certain villainous Javier Bardem not only shares Craig’s love of rugby, he in fact played for Club de Rugby Liceo Francés in Madrid, and represented Spain at the highest level before turning to acting full time - which explains that broken nose!
"I've always said that playing rugby in Spain is like being a bullfighter in Japan. No one does it. I loved rugby - but you have to quit if you want to work as an actor,” he told the Telegraph. After Bardem appeared in his first major film, the hugely successful Jamón, Jamón opposite his now wife, Penélope Cruz, the flanker turned prop was forced to give up his love for rugby after repeated threats from opposition teams, “He is the guy from Jamón, Jamón, let's beat him up.”
Both stars of Skyfall were at various matches during the 2012 RBS Six Nations, though never together.
But back to why we are here. Skyfall...
The Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winning English Director, Sam Mendes, most famous for American Beauty, Road To Perdition and Revolutionary Road, as well being the former Mr Kate Winslet, has taken James Bond to an entirely new level. This 007 film is undoubtedly unmatched by earlier films in the series. Mendes has presented James Bond with such clarity and brilliance, turning him from the superhuman, indestructible suave MI6 agent into the flawed, human, complex and multi-layered character. We see a side of Bond that Ian Fleming illustrated in his books, but never before translated so sublimely to the silver screen.
From the astuteness of Dame Judi Dench as M, to the breathtaking Chinese - Cambodian - French beauty of Bond girl, Bérénice Marlohe as Severine; from the smarts of cool field agent Naomie Harris as Eve, to the quirkiness of the fresh-faced Ben Whishaw as Q; from the ambiguous and somewhat dubious government official Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, to the welcome return of the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger, every aspect of the characters in this film is perfect.
As for the depraved Bond villain, Javier Bardem says of Silva he is “An angel of death – a very clean-shaven person who happens to be rotten on the inside.” The Oscar®-winning actor explains finding the character inside the villain. “He has a very personal objective – he’s not trying to destroy the world,” he says. “And he is on a straight line to that objective: he is a man seeking revenge. It’s about being focused on the one person he wants to eliminate.” And Bardem plays him with the menace of Sir Anthony Hopkins as Dr Hannibal Lecter.
Of the storyline, this is all you will get, as any more would spoil the surprise, intrigue and unbelievable suspense: When Bond’s latest assignment goes gravely wrong and several undercover agents around the world are exposed, MI6 is attacked, forcing M to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Mallory, the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With MI6 now compromised from both inside and out, M is left with one ally she can trust: Bond. 007 takes to the shadows - aided only by field agent, Eve - following a trail to the mysterious Silva, who’s lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.
Like every Bond film, 007’s mission takes us on a whirlwind trip across the world, from Istanbul to Shanghai, and a shorter jaunt from London to the Scottish Highlands, but it is, probably for the first time, a distinctively English film. London has maybe never looked so attractive, Glencoe never so haunting, and Bond never so real. Not just the spy, but the entire film has almost unfathomable depths. The story, the screenplay, the evocative score, the spectacular vistas, the breathtaking stunts, the artistic direction, the special effects, the classic Tom Ford suits, Adele’s theme song; the entire production is irreproachable.
Skyfall is raw, dark, and is cosmically different to all previous incarnations of James Bond. Of course it has heart-stopping action, scene-stealing villains, beautiful Bond women, exotic locations, a killer theme, the Aston Martin, and these elements have been combined – like gin and vermouth, shaken, not stirred – by the talented writers, Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, and translated to the silver screen by Mendes achieving absolute perfection for Fleming’s secret agent. And yet, it is left after a wild rollercoaster of emotions, primed for the next instalment, which frankly, had better not take as long to arrive as this has.
I may once have believed Daniel Craig was a most unconvincing Bond; long before the closing titles rolled on Skyfall, I could say with utter conviction that Craig is Bond personified.
Have high expectations...they will be exceeded. I will end as I began...
Skyfall...the best Bond movie ever.