After five illustrious cinematic decades and 22 films, does the world of James Bond still have that scintillating sparkle you’d find in a bottle of 007’s favourite Dom Pérignon?
Of course it does and like any vintage it can improve with age.
It was 50 years ago when the immortal line “Bond, James Bond.” was first delivered at the Le Circle club scene in Dr No in 1962 and yet still, even today, no Bond film is complete without it.
Various festivities have been held throughout the year to celebrate one of the world’s most famous cinematic legends, but what would be the best way to pay homage to the world of 007?
Without the shadow of a doubt it has to be a film. After the long four-year wait, the release of Skyfall (the first single word titled Bond film since Goldeneye in 1995) has arrived with all the pomp and circumstance one would expect.
The cast of this very contemporary thriller offers a copious amount of talent which includes the return of Daniel Craig, Judi Dench as M and Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner.
Coming into the newly-revamped Craig franchise is the return of the character Q played by young actor Ben Whishaw.
Would Whishaw ever replace the veteran actor Desmond Llewelyn who portrayed the eponymous Q branch character in seventeen films?
To the ardent fans Llewelyn will always be Q but Whishaw has made his stamp (albeit with a little more screen time than his predecessor ever got) and may prove to be an equal.
Other headlining stars are Helen McCrory, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris, who gave a strong performance.
Of course the main villain is Raoul Silva played by Javier Bardem.
Bardem’s performance is scene-stealing as his softly spoken character has a malevolent intent and a somehow has a calm way of putting his point across.
It has been said that Raoul Silva would be remembered as the best Bond villain ever – for me, unfortunately that won’t be the case when such classics as Goldfinger and Scaramanga hold that crown.
The plot, which is not connected with the previous two Bond films, isn’t overly complex but the ingredients go together well.
The dialogue is urban, pithy in parts and realistic. They have also kept certain traditions too – including the Walther PPK and of course, the Aston martin DB5.
The film is a virtual travelogue of locations which includes Istanbul, Shanghai, Scotland and London (globe-trotting to this scale is probably not within the remit of the real MI6 but it’s still the quintessential elements for any Bond film).
The cinematography is fast paced but not so bad as to leave you disorientated as the previous film did on occasions.
The scenes flow effortlessly, allowing you to be drawn in.
Academy award winner Sam Mendes takes the reins on this instalment of the longest-running film franchise in history.
It’s also the first time a Bond film has been directed by such an awarded director. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – Skyfall certainly delivers.
Would a return of Mr Mendes bode well for Bond 24? Yes, is the simple answer.
The past two films have shown an appreciated return to the dark, cold character that Fleming introduced us to in 1952, a fact that had slowly and sadly waned over a number of years.
Bond is, in essence, a blunt instrument of the government and again Craig has given a performance showing Bond’s ruthless side along with the antithesis of vulnerability with clear chinks in his armour.
It was nice to see a little of Bond’s heritage with the house in Scotland and a scene depicting the headstone of his parents.
There are a few phrases and references throughout the film that echo passed escapades which will delight the fans.
All in all Skyfall is most certainly worthy of the hype that had surrounded the film.
The sets are lavish, the locations are breath-taking and the acting was first class.
The film ends leaving you shaken and stirred with a few little surprises; strains of “Oh, no!” and “Really?!” clearly audible within the audience.
Will this Bond stand the test of time? Yes.
Any disappointments? Yes, just a few. Thomas Newman’s score fits the film like a proverbial glove but one wanted to be enticed with the familiar Bond chords during the long pre-credit scene.
Yet again the famous gun barrel piece was AWOL at the beginning of the film and seemed to be, like in Quantum Of Solace, tagged on at the end like an afterthought (people, it needs to be at the beginning to rouse the viewer into excitement.)
I’m not sure if this is a disappointment or not (the jury is still out) but Bond was only given two gadgets from Q. Is that a good thing?
Bond had to rely on his stamina and wits rather than technology – it was, again, pure Fleming Bond as opposed to fantasy Bond.
As the credits rolled it was declared that James Bond will return – sooner this time, please.