10 November, 2012

Skyfall : Large shoes to step into…Ably filled

50 years & going strong

Cubby Broccoli
If Ian Fleming is to be called the father of James Bond then without a doubt Albert “Cubby “Broccoli would be his mother. 

The former created the eponymous secret agent on paper while the latter nurtured and grew him on the celluloid with much love and care, that it is now fifty years completed to the most successful film franchise in the history of cinema.

Why has the franchise survived?

Ian Fleming
The character created by Ian Fleming as secret agent of MI6 had everything going which appealed to the  cold war generation and some for the generations to follow. Bond had good lines, traveled to exotic places, made love to gorgeous women who always seem available to him, Bond had zany toys: Guns, Cars and other deadly gizmo’s strapped on to wrists, tucked into ankles and folds,and what-not-places.  He had a license to kill and he always got his villain ( so larger than life that the villains had their own fan followings) and escaped with his girl. It was the stuff of male testosterone fantasies and the Bond actors themselves appealed to the women. The books of Fleming were essentially a male read but the films of Cubby Broccoli were age & gender neutral appealing to all. The books are relegated to the background today but the films have made James Bond immortal.

The Changing Bond :

Over the years many characters have played Bond thus giving him a physical form and shape from Sean Connery (6 films), George Lazenby (1 film), Roger Moore (7 films), Timothy Dalton (2 films), Pierce Brosnan (4 films) to Daniel Craig (3 films) now. Connery and Moore were the originals and older purists still argue over who played him better. George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton did not leave a mark and were quickly replaced. Connery, the first Bond, brought to the character a sturdy physical presence with his Scottish charm. Moore the elegant Bond had the best lines and introduced into the character a sense of humour. But essentially the character over the first 16 films remained two dimensional and true to the books. It was with Pierce Brosnan arguably one of the best Bonds, that  dimensions to the character started getting added. A woman, Judi Dench became M and the franchise started looking exciting once more. Brosnan was blue steel and his classical good looks had him slip into the shoes of Roger Moore to perfection and make them his own. After four films he moved on and Daniel Craig took over. As far as  looks went he was not the most exciting prospect, he did not speak much; humour was left to the ladies ( Bond girls ), but his was a raw physical presence so also he brought a brooding intensity to the character and Connery’s shoes left vacant for long found a worthy successor. The actor has added dimensions to the character. Here one cant help but compare the difference that Chris Nolan made to the Batman Franchise by changing it forever. Daniel Craig and now Sam Mendes have done the same with Skyfall…the Chrysalis has begun and the change is irreversible.

SKYFALL : The Movie a review

This may be the first Bond film where the directors name may consume equal newsprint & bytes as Bond himself. Yes…“Skyfall”, is a James Bond Film but also equally importantly "Skyfall" is a Sam Mendes film , such is the impact he leaves on this work. It takes a brave director to get into the worlds favourite film hero and attempt to impact his environment differently forever.

Mendes achieves this with a cunning that makes for a beautiful film. This movie has more undercurrents than any other Bond film so far. It has its spectacular chases across crowded streets, bazaars and rooftops of Turkey jumping from bridge to train one of the most physically awesome opening sequence since Craigs own high energy parkour stunt in “Casino Royale”. It is after that chase that the movie expands into a new dimension. Bond chasing an assassin who has lifted a hard disk containing the names of all “good guy undercover agents” of the world gets shot from top of a train. He survives but loses his nerve. Presumed dead, Agent down, M-Judi Dench even writes an obituary. The movies shifts to bad guy Silva-Javier Bardem, relentless, charming and utterly evil who has acquired the disc to settle scores with M. He had been one of her best agents till he went rogue. This relationship between Silva & M and M & Bond is the fulcrum of the film and James Bond is the executing pivot. Bond when he watches MI6 HQ blown on TV from his idyllic hideaway gets back on the job. He isn’t admitted in but sweats for it to re-certify himself “fit for action”. Ralph Fiennes is breathing fire down M’s neck as the head of Security and pressurizing her to retire for her failure on the disc job. The film does stick to format however the characters aren't caricatures but truly well etched out and played by such polished performers that it’s a pleasure all the way. Albert Finney as the caretaker of the bleakly isolated Scottish family estate of Bond,  comes in to an important cameo and superbly carries it off.

Sam Mendes in the closing sequence of the film seems to have paid a tribute to Coppola’s Godfather and the transition begun here makes the next one a film to be eagerly awaited. Craig is totally able as James Bond and his stamp of authority on  the character is absolute. Judi Dench is spectacular in her last film as M. The old purists may have issues with the treatment in this film, not enough action, not enough gizmos,  but one feels the tension simmering all the time below the surface waiting to explode making the need for viewing action itself redundant. 

There are two Bond girls and one ( Berenice Marlohe ) does not have much to do while the other Eve ( Naomie Harris ) we may end up seeing more of ahead . The young Q ( Ben Whishaw)  is geeky and cheeky and has one of the best lines ever “Were you expecting  an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore”. The BMW has been the official Bond car since Pierce Brosnan but when Craig unveils the Aston Martin DB5 we had the old Bond back for a fleeting moment and then as it gets blown to smithereens by Silva, it signals with a finality that yet another exciting new era has begun for our favourite franchise.  

Is it worth a watch ??? As a film, without a doubt but as a Bond film absolutely unmissable.