When British agent James Bond's (Daniel Craig) latest assignment goes gravely wrong and several undercover agents within terrorist cells around the world are exposed. Then, after being hacked, MI6 is physically attacked, forcing M (Judy Dench) to relocate the agency. These events cause her authority and position to be challenged by Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), 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 (Naomie Harris) - following a trail to the mysterious Silva (Javier Bardem), whose lethal and hidden motives have yet to reveal themselves.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Ian Fleming could never have written this screenplay - unless he were alive now. What the writers have done is make Bond relevant in today's dangerous world in a way he has rarely been. Not only is his role framed in contemporary political circumstances - the threat of terrorism - but he is also engaged in a fight that is far more real to us than a mad baddie who wants to rule the world. This baddie wants revenge, not world domination and he's prepared to destroy MI6 in the process.
It's not Bond who spells out his relevance in the 21st century but M, the durable Judi Dench, while facing a Parliamentary inquiry after the agency's list of secret undercover agents is stolen and it's HQ bombed. Her speech should be reprinted in full. This element is important to the overall survival of the franchise, making Bond over for today's audiences, and making him a figurehead of the British role in combating terrorism.
But the best part is that this element fits snugly into the Bond action adventure setting, with the balance perfectly kept. James Bond 007 is intact as the icon, as the flawed, weakened but resilient human anti-nasty machine fighting for the security of his country. We can all respond to that.
Sam Mendes realises the screenplay with gusto and many deft touches that are both humorous and respectful of the Bond traditions. The Aston Martin DB 5 returns in style; Bond drinks martinis (and we don't need to hear him order them); his flirting runs unabated; his dry quips in tense moments turn out well; and his suits are still tailor made.
Daniel Craig is at his best Bond here, and he's stretched in every direction, even emotionally. Dench is fabulous as M, her role considerable and her character deeply involving. Naomi Harris is a wonderfully fresh accomplice as Eve, the MI6 field agent whose assignment with Bond at the start of the film is one of the major plot points. And Berenice Marlohe is gorgeous and heartbreaking as Severine, the girl who is tied to the villainous Silva, an explosion of a performance by a blond Javier Bardem.
There can be no good Bond film without a badass baddie, and there have been several; but Bardem, due in part to Silva's agenda and in part to the stunning characterisation, is really fearsome. For one thing, he has more IT acumen than my brilliant IT-head son (and more money to buy digital gear with). The new Q, played by charismatic young actor Ben Whishaw (a terrific casting idea) puts this in context when he says how much damage can be done with a single computer these days, in the face of a dozen weapon gadgets.
We mustn't forget the ever sharp Ralph Fiennes, who arrives in Bond's world like dogpoo on his shoe, but has a few surprises up his sleeve. Fiennes nicely underplays his character, the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who at one stage tells M just how outdated she and MI6 are these days. There's irony here to savour later.
The film's stunts are stunning, the special effects are special, as are the computer graphics that play a key role in the hunt for Silva, and the iconic Bond theme is inventively and sparsely but effectively woven into a powerful and dynamic score. If I haven't mentioned design it's because it's seamless as it should be.
Notable, too, is Adele's haunting title song, every bit as unforgettable as (but totally different to) Shirley Bassey's rendition of Goldfinger.
But I do have a few quibbles (almost too few to mention) and to avoid spoilers I have to be a bit cryptic: one is the omission of absolutely crucial information the audience needs, to know what happens early in the film after Bond falls from a tall bridge into the seething river below. The second is a lapse related to this event in which Bond's bullet wounds don't add up. Finally, a small one: the drive from London to Scotland, even in an Aston Martin DB5, takes much longer than it seems to in the film.
But there's no denying that director Sam Mendes does a superb job maintaining tension - and releasing it from time to time so we can take a breath, have a laugh, sit back from the edge of our seat - as he shows how seriously the James Bond character can be taken, without breaking it.
Review by Louise Keller:
Establishing a sense of urgency from the outset, the 23rd Bond film hits its tall target with a bonus back-story, character establishment and strong storyline to balance the action. As a consequence, we are offered a film that is uniquely Bond, not just another action thriller with tokenisms. The formula might remain the same with its exotic locations, wry touches of humour, seduction and danger (as well as that famously shaken dry martini), but here there is something far more vital about Ian Fleming's 007, whose confident exterior is countered by shadows from the past. Skyfall is one of the best Bond films ever. You'll want to see it again.
Through Sam Mendes' skilful direction, we are transported into the unique world of Bond where relationships weigh in as precariously as issues of life and death. The attention to detail is impressive, with little nuances throughout, including the music cues that depict humour, attitude and reinforcement of the essence of the Bond character. Superbly made with a clean plot line, we immediately recognise the significance of the list of NATO agents that has fallen into the wrong hands and understand how in this age of terrorism, MI6 needs to do everything possible to get it back.
Coming even closer to death than he did in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig's James Bond has never been so vulnerable. Craig has always been credible as Bond: he looks as good in his action scenes as he does in a tailored dinner jacket. His appeal to women is assured. The relationship between Judi Dench's M and Bond is the integral piece of the story line and the fiery, sarcasm-filled confrontation between the two of them on Bond's return after his near demise is one of their best scenes together. With M central to much of the action, Dench has ample opportunities to shine. The scene when Bond takes M for a purpose-filled ride in the famous Aston Martin DB5, complete with eject button is one worth anticipating.
Craig's physical prowess is matched with words by Dench, whose days at MI 6 are numbered, according to Mallory (Ralph Fiennes in top form), the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Ben Whishaw as Q, the new geeky gadget man, brings an offbeat dynamic and a new 21st Century sensibility. Naomie Harris as Eve, who gives 007 a close shave with a traditional, old fashioned razor ('sometimes the old ways are best,') is a lovely and important presence. As for sex, it is implied, like the shower scene behind the steamy frosted glass, although the scene between Craig and stunning Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, the seductress wearing a low-cut backless dress with a Beretta strapped to her thigh is temptation at its most provocative.
We are kept waiting to meet the villain, but it is worth the wait. Javier Bardem is terrifying as the eerily monstrous Silva, the former field agent with effeminate mannerisms and a softly spoken delivery that defy his every action as he plots his revenge. Bardem is a master of nuance - every glance, movement and detail is moulded together to form a larger-than-life character that remains grounded by his human foibles. A totally different creation to Bardem's Oscar-winning villain in Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men, Silva is a complete characterization: he is pathetic as well as repulsive. By the time all the elements are set for the climactic scene in the remote, austere Scottish location of Skyfall, where the young James Bond grew up and left his secrets buried in its secret passages, all guns are blazing for a spectacular fiery conclusion.
The title song (reminiscent of Shirley Bassey's Diamonds are Forever) is sung with grit by Adele and the fabulous underwater title sequence does not disappoint, with its visual montages that range from skimpily clad girls, red fiery swirls, dragons, stags and striking imagery of death.
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BARBARA BROCCOLI INTERVIEW
by Andrew L. Urban
NOW AND FOREVER BOND
CAST: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Berenice Marlohe, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory, Rory Kinnear,
PRODUCER: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
SCRIPT: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins
EDITOR: Stuart Baird
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dennis Gassner
RUNNING TIME: 143 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 22, 2012
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.