Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Feinnes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan and (based on the characters created by) Ian Fleming.
Running time: 143 mins
Release date: 26th October 2012
Let me get this right out of the way. I love James Bond films. I have always loved them, wanted to be him, wanted his cars, his gadgets, his women. I have seen every film countless times and I never get bored with them. They have excited me, thrilled me, even disappointed me. None more so than the last time Bond was on the screen in Quantum of Solace. I seriously thought we have seen the death of Bond for good (especially when EON were left in languishing in a battle with who was going to release their films once United Artists crashed). Well thank goodness for the most unlikely saviour of the series, director Sam Mendes. He has managed to bring the series back on track and even propelled it to being called The Best Bond Ever! Trust me, that isn’t an understatement! Pound for pound, this is the most entertaining, exciting picture of the year…by far!
A hard drive containing the names of all the undercover agents who have infiltrated terrorist groups, has been stolen and James Bond is after the man who has it. Chasing through the streets (and roofs) of Istanbul, he battles the thief on top of a train. Getting orders from London by M, the agent with Bond is ordered to take a shot at the culprit, the bullet hitting 007.
Bond is believed dead, and M is held responsible for the loss of the files and must be accountable for the actions in front of a government committee when MI6 comes under attack, bringing a broken Bond back to London, a shadow of his former self. Told to rebuild himself for action, Bond struggles until he finds a clue to getting the thief of the hard drive, which eventually leads him to Silva, a blonde haired former agent with revenge in his heart, aimed directly at M.
The first thing that makes this a massive difference to the past two Bonds is that it is full of humour. Yes, Bond has got his funny bone back. Sure, we all liked the serious, ice-cold Bond from Casino Royale but he was far too serious in QOS so it’s great to have the quips back and most of the humour is from the relationship of Bond and M.
We also get spectacular set pieces that, unlike most action films of today, are not riddled with CGI and can be seen, thanks to Roger Deakins superb cinematography. This is one of the most beautiful looking Bonds, with scenes clean and crisp and not a shaky, handheld camera in sight. The stunts are amazing too. The opening 12 minute sequence is worth the admission price alone. It is the most exhilarating pre-credit starter ever, leading to the tingling Adele sung theme tune and impressive credits that captures everything we expect from a credit sequence on a Bond film.
The story is the best ever. With all the fights, chases and explosions is a story that focuses more on M than on Bond. Everything that happens, happens because of her. She is so pinnacle throughout and it’s a real pleasure that an action film has a mother figure as the central reason for the story’s existence.
Sam Mendes, who I must admit I had reservations as he is known more for his dramas (American Beauty for example) manages to mix the action with the human story quite superbly. He makes Bond a broken man, needing M, as the mother, to bring him back and then setting up a triangle between 007, M and Silva, Bond and the villain almost being the same person but with different opinions.
The performances are the best we have seen in a Bond film. Javier Bardem is perfect as the camp, sly Silva. His first appearance, a long monologue in which he slowly walks through a room filled with computers and wires, is both vital to the plot and sinister. He relishes getting to speak such wonderful lines and even gets to make Bond feel uncomfortable without a shark or a laser beam in sight. A real coup for the Bond team to get an Oscar winner like Bardem on board and he is right up there as one of the best villains in the series.
Judi Dench, who has been in every Bond since Pierce Brosnan came on board as M, get to really shine here. She commands every scene she is in and even is allowed to be involved in some of the action too. She is one of those actresses who could come on screen and sneeze and it would be a tour-de-force. Here she is magnificent.
Finally, there’s Daniel Craig. His third film as the secret agent and he is at his most relaxed. He, like the original Bond, Sean Connery, has the qualities of every man wants to be him, every woman wants to be with him. He has become the character, bringing depth and intelligence to what many would see as a two-dimensional role, Craig has made him human.
The film is full of delights: Ben Whishaw’s Q, the appearance of a very special car and the ending will both shock and delight all. Plus we get the Bond theme used quite wittily throughout…yes Bond is back! At 143 mins, it never lags or loses it’s break-neck pace and it just keeps throwing up surprise after surprise. I am so glad I got to see it with a paying audience instead of a preview screening, as listening to the real fans cheering, clapping, laughing and even gasping made the experience even more thrilling. The best Bond ever? I still think Goldfinger is incredible but this is pretty darn close!