By Rich Cline on Friday 26th October 2012
Things get very personal for 007 in this high-quality thriller, which keeps us gripped even if it never gets our pulses racing. This shouldn't be surprising, since the director is Sam Mendes, known for more dramatic movies like American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. And he gives the film a deep gravitas that we're not used to in the Bond franchise, as well as coaxing the cast to darkly introspective performances.
That's not to say the action is lacklustre. The opening sequence in Istanbul is a riotous chase through the city streets, across the rooftops and onto a train rocketing through a mountainous landscape. At the end of this, Bond (Craig) is presumed dead while the baddie gets away with a list of Western spies. As he starts releasing names publicly, things get difficult for MI6 boss M (Dench), who is pressured to resign by a government minister (Fiennes). So when Bond returns, M puts him on the case, sending him to Shanghai, where he stalks a mysterious woman (Marlohe) to Macau and meets the camp villain Silva (Bardem). Back in Britain, Silva leads Bond and M on a nasty cat-and-mouse chase that ends up at Skyfall, Bond's ancestral home in the Highlands.
Unlike the usual Bond baddie, Silva isn't remotely interested in global domination or incredible wealth: he has a very personal score to settle, which means that there's no ticking time-bomb underneath the action. In other words, Bond is fighting to save his life, not the planet. Which makes the film feel oddly smaller than we expect. On the other hand, this also allows the filmmakers and actors to develop the relationships more intriguingly than usual. Most notable is the close connection between Bond and M, played with with edgy subtlety by Craig and Dench while Bardem steals every scene with his witty innuendo.
Other characters are strong as well, including Harris as Bond's spy colleague, Whishaw as the clever gadget-geek Q, and an almost unrecognisable Finney as Bond's oldest friend. And Marlohe stirs in the only hint of sex and mystery. Each adds life and energy to the film, as does a continual stream of references to 50 years of Bond movies. Some of these are subtle (a 1962 Scotch) while others get a laugh (that iconic Aston Martin DB5). And along the way, Mendes laces the personal drama with political intrigue and some spectacularly staged action scenes. It's consistently entertaining, even if it's dark and thoughtful rather than exhilarating and fun.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 9th November 2012
Box Office Worldwide: $1.1B
Production compaines: Eon Productions, Danjaq, B23
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 272 Rotten: 23
Cast & Crew
Starring: Daniel Craig as James Bond, Judi Dench as M, Javier Bardem as Silva, Ralph Fiennes as Gareth Mallory / M, Naomie Harris as Eve, Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine, Albert Finney as Kincade, Ben Whishaw as Q, Rory Kinnear as Bill Tanner, Ola Rapace as Patrice, Helen McCrory as Clair Dowar, Nicholas Woodeson as Doctor Hall, Bill Buckhurst as Ronson, Elize du Toit as Vanessa, Ian Bonar as MI6 Technician, Tonia Sotiropoulou as Bond's Lover, Wolf Blitzer as CNN News Anchor