Some say this is the best James Bond film in years, but in my humble opinion it is the best of them all. It is set in the heart of the modern world and informed by World War II it takes us from the garishly lit night cityscape of Shanghai to the wild, empty moors of Scotland.
Villains are dispatched mano-a-mano; they’re eaten by man-sized lizards or crushed by an earthmover traveling on top of a moving train. It has verve and breadth and of course mind-bending stunts.
And mostly it has Bond. This highly imaginative latest installment of the beloved series, Bond 23 stars the man who in my humble opinion is the best Bond of all time, Daniel Craig. He has gravity, animal intelligence and rebel streak.
Also there is that a drop dead physique, and after all these years, an imperviousness to women. I’m sure its temporary but he is focused on the job at hand here, which is protecting M.
M of course, played by Judi Dench, runs the espionage show with a steely, cool intelligence. Nothing rattles her, except maybe a sisterly affection for Bond. Thing is, her shadowy past has risen to slap her, resulting in a massive bomb attack on MI6 offices.
Her troubles are compounded by a vital mistake whilst Bond was fighting on top of that aforementioned train. She told a green field agent (Naomie Harris) to shoot too early, and Bond is hit and presumably dies.
M is ordered to step down for putting Bond in harm’s way and told she has lost the game; she’s “too old”. If she doesn’t leave peacefully, she may suffer grave consequences. And wait for it, M shares the movie with Bond. It’s her big moment, fifty years into the franchise.
However in magnificent cinematic style, 007 rises from the dead and comes to her aid. He begins an international tour of hotspots where he treats us to manly fights, brave escapes and rescues. This is Bond in full bloom, the brilliantly considered result of decades of refinement, embodied in the ideal actor for the part.
And then there’s Javier Bardem as the blonde, campy cyber terrorist villain as Silva, a fey and lethal addition to the Villain Hall of Fame, recalling both Hannibal Lecter and The Joker. He is obsessed with M and wishes to settle a score with her.
The direction, although dissimilar to anything else Mendes has done, is supple and decisive, there’s not a moment’s lag or and you want it to keep going even after its long running time. Four years till the next Bond! No!
The cinematography is beyond beautiful. The environment Roger Deakins creates, whether its Churchill’s underground London bunker, an island of the dead or a glass elevator in Shanghai there’s visual magic.
This Bond seems more real than the Bonds of the past, but the film never loses its fantasy. It seems to veer away from the old Bond in many ways, especially in its reverence for the past and focus on older characters. Bond gets hurt a little more, he doesn’t have many gadgets preferring a knife and a radio. He could be yer old dad. Just doing huge stuff.
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35mm action adventure
Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan based on Ian Fleming’s characters
Directed by Sam Mendes
Opens: Nov. 9
Runtime: 143 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking
Country: UK / USA