To the manor Bond
There’s nostalgiaabout this film as it marks 50 years of Bond. It also fulfils audience requirements in that since Casino Royale thrust Bond back into fashion audiences have been waiting for another action packed Bond Film (considering Quantum of Solace garnered less enthusiasm). Plus, a Bond film is one of those films that you go to the cinema knowing you will like: you may be able to see its flaws, but on the whole you know you’re gonna like it. It inspires and revisits the excitement of when the new Bond would be out (or even an old one on television) from childhood. But…
…Don’t believe the hype: this is not the best Bond film ever made.
It is a Bond of two halves:
It’s definitely Casino Royale mk2 for the pre-title sequence: a pulsating chase through Istanbul that culminates in a reasonably edgy segue into the titles. I liked the titles and the song is fittingly Bond-esque (I wouldn’t be surprised to see Adele involved in further films).
The film continues apace punctuated with a couple of dull moments that are clearly there to show depth to Bond’s character, but feel clunky and ill-conceived in relation to the rest of the film. It seems that in this “Bond universe”, contrary to the rookie Bond in the previous two Craig outings, Bond is a washed up (literally) drunk: battered and bruised and self-aware enough to know that espionage is fast becoming a young man’s game where technology outfights brawn.
But, with a list of secret agents being leaked by a disturbingly camp former agent Silva (Javier Bardem), Bond is soon found to be useful, particularly as this adventure becomes more personal. Silva is potentially Bond of the future: as an agent he pushed the boundaries of his remit too far and M hung him out to dry. Silva explains as much to Bond, but the similarities between them seem to pass him by and, unfortunately that theme does not get revisited.
There are some great set pieces and when the action does get going it grabs the film by the scruff of the neck and lifts it way beyond the shaky plot.
At some point the main plot, the secret agents list, is discarded and it becomes a film about Bond protecting M from all-out assault from Silva. This second half of the film seriously loses its way for me and I began to lose interest.
Silva also inexplicably discards his clever scheming and terrorist tactics in favour of all out warfare. Perhaps it was to show that the list was trivial to him and all that mattered was M, but this was not really represented in the film.
What this film does do is give M much more screen time than previous Bonds. Judi Dench’s clipped and matronly interactions with, particularly Craig’s, Bond have always been well worked. Unfortunately, in this film Judi Dench shows more of her “As Time Goes By”, rather than her Academy Award winning acting chops.
Although the “Straw Dogs” style siege at the end offers up impressive action again, the shine is taken off by the manner in which we got to this point.
At times it feels like fan fiction: revealing more of Bond’s past and knowing nods and winks to previous films (and Bonds). That’s not to say that it doesn’t work, but it places Daniel Craig’s Bond in that uneasy area where previous Bonds are regarded as the same person: George Lazemby clearing his desk in OHMSS springs to mind.
This might seem like a damning review, but I actually enjoyed the film. You do have to suspend belief when watching Bond and I’m more than ready to do that. I suspect the hype led me to believe that this really could be the best Bond of all. It always helps when you like a Bond and, Brosnan aside; I’ve liked all Bonds (yes, some more than others). I honestly think that Daniel Craig is a great choice and conveys Bond’s ruthlessness and charm extremely well.
The film redeems itself massively in the final 20mins and I also suspect that audience members leaving the film on a high and full of anticipation for the next film in the series will have also added to the rave reviews. It sets up the next phase of the series really well and I will be relishing when…James Bond will Return…
My Rating 3/5