Hold Your Breath, And Count To Ten

First things first; if you’re a guy, check out this review. A woman reviewing Skyfall is like a guy critiquing P.S. I Love You.

P.S. I Don’t.

To be honest, I had my reservations about going for the movie, I’m a huge fan of the Bond franchise but Daniel Craig was so absolutely against the image of every 007 predecessor, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Casino Royale; it had Eva Green and I’m madly in love with her work. Quantum of Solace, well, the plotline was what had me excited, yet, not enough to brave a few hours with D.Craig. Skyfall happened because the tickets had been booked and I didn’t have a say in it.

The too-pedestrian-looking-to-be-Bond-girl Naomie Harris shoots Bond within the first ten minutes, upon the orders of M, because a hard drive’s been stolen. It’s not your average storage device; this hard drive contains the identities of every MI6 agent working undercover throughout the world. A Bond-worthy chase sequence on motorbikes, an adrenaline pumping fight atop a speeding train, Bond shot for dead, and the bad guy running off with the hard drive is what makes up the first bit of the movie. Okay, admittedly not off to a start as bad as I’d been made to believe.

(Trust me; go for Skyfall only if you can keep an open mind and slate clean to form your own opinion.)

And then, from images of a drowning Daniel Craig starts off the haunting requiem by Adele, set to the darkest, fluid visuals in the opening credits of a Bond film so far. The thing is, there are a lot of annotations to the fact that this is a different Bond, a slightly older, weary Bond, who’s closer to the winter of his life.

Indeed, throughout the movie, the question does remain on one’s mind as to whether he will get back to being an MI6 agent or not. Of course, he doesn’t die. We see him chilling around on some random island, getting drunk –not on martinis –until news of a terrorist group bombing the MI6 headquarters flashes on TV. His return shocks the socks of M, now facing a lot of flak for her actions, and he is made to undergo a series of tests to see if he’s fit to get back in the field. M sends him back on the mission and it is then we meet the twenty something Q, again a perfect contrast to the aged 007. A lot of people are making noise about the lack of gadgets, but seriously, if the headquarters (and I’m guessing Q’s lab wasn’t too far away) got blown to smithereens, where is the man going to create his gadgets? And why does Bond need a car with twenty cool buttons when we all know that he’s just as lethal with that gun only he can fire?

The cinematography itself is darker than the previous movies, lending a tone of mystery in a way one wouldn’t expect out of a Bond movie. Shades of black and blue with lights and mirrors are what define the fight some hundred floors above ground as we see two silhouettes beat the crap out of each other. Love it.

And so, as the victor (guess who) stands up straight, we get the first glimpse of our (strangely singular –I feel Bond should have a slew of sexy women around him, it’s only fair) Bond Girl, Bérénice Marlohe. She’s a child sex-slave turned gangster’s girlfriend, whose screen time runs shorter than Ralph Fiennes (who seems wasted in this movie until the very end). There is a painful shortage of steamy scenes –another definitive trait of Bond movies –but I guess Naomie Harris really wasn’t worth it, and Bérénice probably did her best (polite applause). However, when James Bond arrives at the casino in Macau, it’s perfection. I could mentally imagine every other 007 in that same stencil, and Craig was just as good.

Coming to the larger debate of Daniel Craig as a Bond. One needs to understand, irrespective of how much one loves the franchise, that this is a perfect folly to the stereotypically suave, suited and smouldering Mr. Bond. He’s a little rough around the edges, has got a body to kill for, and a pout that seems to have reduced by Skyfall. There has to be a little bit of a change in the mix right? After all, it’s shaken not stirred for a reason.

Another complaint I read about in a review by the fairer sex, was that he never actually says the words “Martini, shaken not stirred”. Seriously? After 22 Bond movies, over a period of 50 years, you really want him to say it out loud? If anyone knows how to get him to say it without sounding lame, go ahead. I personally was really happy to get something different than what usually entails in a James Bond movie.

Now, the villain. Come on fellow reviewers, how could you find Javier Bardem (everybody bow!) an ineffectual villain? He stands there talking in a lilting tone, nearly molests Bond, and yet promises the ultimate dictatorial threat to the world. He takes the movie up and drives it like nobody else. He reveals a side of M that shakes up the agent’s own belief in her and hence makes us doubt Judi Dench as well. Not to mention the part where he removes his jaw. Shivers.

A villain doesn’t need harlequin make-up and a purple suit or a giant gas-mask that renders his speech unintelligible. A villain can very much be dressed in a high-end suit and yet be just as deranged.

While Bond battles this bad guy, M faces a full blown inquisition, and the agent arrives just in time to save M from certain death at the hands of Silva (Bardem).

The highlight of the movie was when the classic Bond theme rings through and 007 and M head off to Scotland (where the haunting Skyfall manor awaits) in a car fit for the role. More than I can say for the Bond girls. Sigh.

Darker, more beautiful shades of cinematography and more bang-bang ensues. Bond nearly drowns again. Silva nearly wins. But in the end, it’s his death, along with M’s, that brings the story to a sort of twisted full circle.

Ignore the people crying about the movie ending with Ralph Fiennes being appointed as the new M (gasp) and realize that ever so often, people die. It’s not the end of the world. Maybe we can look forward to a Holmes-Watson-esque relation between James Bond and this new male (gasp) M. Maybe we’ll see M do more than sit and give orders.

I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

Rohan Dahiya

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