The latest Bond flick begins with an exhilarating chase sequence involving a variety of conveyances, beginning with cars, heightening with bikes and ultimately culminating on the top of a train. The chase is a disaster –physically for 007; politically for the MI6 and catastrophically for a whole horde of NATO agents operating under cover in various parts of the globe.
The centerpiece of this spy offering is a disc which contains the name of every single NATO operative who is active in the field, and which unfortunately has fallen into the hands of a devious villain. Every week, the demented rogue threatens to blow the lid off the cover of five operatives much to the chagrin and embarrassment of British Intelligence. What follows is an exciting dose of resurrection, recrimination and retribution having its embryo in a high rise in Shanghai, trigger in a Casino in Macau, with a stopover in London before finally coming to an unexpected, unanticipated and unpredictable end in a picturesque setting in Scotland.
Skyfall, unlike a normal James Bond movie does not reek of punch-lines and is devoid of the almost inevitable element of the femme fatale. 007 neither lets loose a copious barrage of one-liners nor does he whip up a damsel into bed at every convenient opportunity. What Sam Mendes instead, brings to the fore here is an espionage icon, intense in his objective, inimitable in his methods and irascible in his views. The epicenter of James Bond in Skyfall is an unrelenting focus and an unwavering determination.
Skyfall is more of ‘M’ than 007. This is a flick designed by for and of the ubiquitous and emotionless iron lady who wields immense powers and at the same time shoulders an extraordinary responsibility. The seemingly invulnerable veneer of ‘M’ is tried, tested and tugged at as the ageing genius struggles to come to grips with her decisions, demands and dalliances. At once she is the creator of an evil force and the destroyer of her own creation. As a nakedly searing past comes to haunt her, she is forced to come to grips with her own judgment or at times, the lack it. The climax, which ought to be sans any semblance of a doubt the most unique amongst all earlier movies, is one in which ‘M’ comes into her own and wields an almost magical influence.
Daniel Craig as the immortal James Bond does more than just justice to his onerous role. He is expressionless when he needs to be and emotive when the situation warrants. Absolutely impeccable when displaying the unique kind of ‘Bond’ humor, he is also equally at home debating, deliberating and dissecting various nuances of life with ‘M’ and ‘Q’. Craig also looks the part while executing the high octane stunts (if he has performed them himself that is) and is veritably at home with his ladies in tow.
Javier Bardem as the devious criminal is a revelation. He irritates, angers and reasons in equal measure. He has a reason to be evil and at the same time absolutely none to be the purveyor of omens and the harbinger of death.
However ‘Skyfall’ is all about Judy Dench. Essaying the role of ‘M’ to absolute perfection, Judy Dench attains a different level altogether with a virtuoso performance. She is at once invincible and at once vulnerable. She is the reason for Armageddon and the sole prospect of hope. She is a bundle of imperfect contradictions and paradoxes that are engaged in an eternal conflict. A particular scene in which she quotes Tennyson’s poetry before a Court of Enquiry just minutes before all hell breaks loose (literally and symbolically) is an electrically charged and emotionally draining sequence.
While Naomi Harris as Eve Moneypenny manages to hold her own, Ralph Fieness is an epitome of the externally stiff upper lipped but internally yielding type of an agent head. Ben Whishaw as ‘Q’ is both likeable as well as laughable. Berenice Marlohe could have been offered a prolonged role for her hesitant sensuality.
This Bond movie is strangely bereft of the sophisticated paraphernalia of esoteric gadgets and advanced gizmos which normally cause headaches to Bond. Other than a sleek looking Walther PPK which can only be fired by 007 as the same has been coded to his palm & fingerprint, and a very ordinary looking distress signal radio, James Bond in ‘Skyfall’ does not have much choice with technology. This is also one of the primary reasons that make this movie unusual. It deflects attention off from equipment and hones in on the emotion.
Skyfall has its dosage of enthralling stunts, engaging dialogues and an enticing plot. James Bond and his team at once pacify and provoke, regale and revel, excite and exasperate, all in measures that are equal, logical and rational. Action merges and co-exists with emotions not overshadowing the larger scheme of things.
Skyfall – a twinkling star indeed!