Published Thursday, 25 October 2012
We last saw James Bond looking a little lost four years ago in the dire and disappointing Quantum Of Solace. In recent years, younger, meaner heroes have captured our imaginations, leaving bloated Bond, looking the wrong side of forty. So what do contemporary cinema audiences really want from 007? Is it The Bond Identity or The Dark Bond Rises?
"I think you're a sexist, misogynist dinosaur" Judi Dench's M, once told Bond "a relic of the Cold War". And he was. James Bond was created in the chilled political climate of the early 1950's by author and former naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming. His twelve novels and two short story collections quickly became best sellers and later blockbuster films.The dashing spy with his licence to thrill set male pulses racing and female hearts fluttering. But now that the Cold War has long since defrosted, are we still hot for Bond today?
After the reboot success of Casino Royale in 2006, then it's stumbling sequel, Quantum Of Solace, the producers have sensibly returned to Bond basics with Skyfall. Behind the camera, the best of British has been recruited; Oscar winning film director Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Road to Perdition) is joined by the world's best cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption and No Country For Old Men).
Classic Bond essentials have been lovingly revamped like his trusty silver Aston Martin DB5 and even gadgeteer Q, now played by the youthful Ben Whishaw. The Skyfall story unfolds in exotic and glamorous locations like Istanbul, Shanghai and the Scottish highlands! There are, of course, beautiful girls like the delectable French actress Berenice Marlohe, but the real Bond girl is M, once again stoically portrayed by Dame Judi Dench. She's at the troubled heart of this drama, as it's M's murky past, which comes back to haunt her and threatens to destroy both Bond and MI6.
In Skyfall, it is James 'Blond' versus even blonder, as 007 takes on bleached super villain Raoul Silva played by the brilliant Javier Bardem. It is master casting to recruit the Spanish superstar Bardem; the first Oscar winning Bond adversary since Christopher Walken in A View To A Kill. Bardem brings his smouldering screen presence to Skyfall, as well as some much needed high camp to international terrorism.
But Roger Moore style eyebrows were raised when Bond was revealed to be no longer drinking dry martinis but a popular Dutch beer. Was 007 now to be shaken and stirred by product placement? The truth is that without promotional tie-ins, the Skyfall mega-budget of $150 million would have remained pie in the sky. Bond the brand has never been more desirable, with clothing, watches, fragrances, phones, cars and video-games all queuing up to be seen with the super spy.
But ultimately, I cant help feeling that despite Skyfall's best efforts, James Bond at 50 is a character, whose best days are behind him.
Skyfall (Cert 12a) is on general release.