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James A. George On Skyfall

George On Bond

The Glasses Man Cometh
So here we have it, the best Bond film to date, with the best embodiment of James Bond to date. On its fifty-year anniversary, this film is both an homage to its predecessors and a bold blueprint for the franchise. The film is as elegant as it should be, as funny as it needs to be, as extravagant as is tradition and yet takes a lot of risks new to the series, perhaps since On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The difference of course being that where that was once hated, this is adored.

Quantum of Solace had a story as thrilling as basket weaving and nowhere near as solid; at least with most action films as boring as the plots may be we know where we are. So who better to call in than Sam Mendes, director of acclaimed dramas American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Revolutionary Road, to name a few. James Bond is getting old and suffering from more than a few bruises. His struggle is real, he is real, and although it’s very hard to doubt his success as with many superheroes, it is quite unclear whether MI6 will be able to carry on business as usual. All the mayhem is due to the fantastically camp baddy, whose name escapes me, but it’s Bond, does it matter? The baddy is Javier Bardem, who proves yet again that he can terrify with bad haircuts and eerie facial expressions. Although I never found him to quite deliver on his appearances, my mother, whom I went to the cinema with for the first time in eight years, was utterly repulsed by him.

The film is long and although I was conscious of it, it was no real problem.  Believe it or not, some have actually not given this film glowing reviews, and I understand. However, a lot of the criticism is completely out of context. With a fifty-year history and the current media onslaught of 007 imagery, to review this as a standard action-drama thriller serves no real purpose other than appearing the cool black sheep. Most will have seen at least a few Bond films before this and will know the format, what’s fresh is the revival of old tropes as well as little nods to Bond history. Credit to Daniel Craig that he can pull off these references with more than a cheeky wink and actually embody a character with memories of countless adventures rather than a caricature.

The real divergence in story and character however comes with the Judi Dench’s stern MI6 boss, M. This film is as much her story as it is Bond’s – one might even argue that she is the technical protagonist while Bond is secondary but the audience’s point of view. With a history that comes back to haunt her, we see the human face behind the complex hardline politics.

The film transforms from the moment Bond is in his old Aston Martin DB5. Here on, the film enters the realms of nostalgia while maintaining all the fresh groundwork of the previous hour. The film is a real treat for Bond fans and I’m sure we’re all hoping for a sequel a little sooner than it took for Skyfall to arrive. Having said that, if it takes another four years for something equally as enthralling, so be it.

James A. George is the Eyewear film critic, a film-maker, and film student.

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