Sam Mendes, the director of the latest James Bond film, plays with your mind with his films. He had done it in ‘American Beauty’ and ‘The Revolutionary Road’ and now he does it in ‘Skyfall’, albeit through the antagonist. In spite of having slick gadgets, the best secret agent on board, Mendes evolves a story which is heavily dependent on psychological mind games- where each character has an internal battle to fight.
The rugged, raw 007 (Daniel Craig) is forced to come back from the dead, after the headquarters of MI6 is targeted in London and internal security system of the secret service of Britain, which contains classified information, is hacked. M(Judi Dench), heading the secret service wants her best agent back on the field, even though he is pronounced ‘unfit’ after a series of test are conducted on him.
On the lookout of a possible terrorist, Bond travels to Shanghai and Macau only to encounter a maverick, abnormally blonde and a menacing Silva (Javier Bardem) who is the mastermind of the recent terror attacks. Silva happens to be a former agent - one of the best at his time which M reluctantly admits later, who turned against her. The man of course has his own agenda. He has been wronged and is out to seek revenge.
The film isn’t just about Bond. It is about his and M’s relationship, it is about M and her journey over the years as the head of secret service and it is about Silva who has a personal vendetta which spills out on the streets of London.
The film also takes Bond back to the basics. And it is very beautifully depicted in a scene where Q hands over a radio transmitter and gun to the secret agent and quips, “What did you expect, an exploding pen? We don’t go in for that anymore.” In its 50th year, Mendes throws around certain retro surprises, makes Bond use a hunting rifle in the climax and connects old dots of the popular series beautifully.
Daniel Craig exudes raw sex appeal and his machismo makes Bond a delectable character. The film makes the most famous secret agent appear very real. He has his own set of insecurities; he fumbles with weapons after coming back to work after a sabbatical, fails physical tests and fights his own childhood demons. And Craig is just perfect for the role.
The film also makes the villain, Javier Bardem, appear larger than life and ‘bigger’ than the hero. Just like Heath Ledger’s Joker act surpassed Batman in ‘The Dark Knight’, Mendes makes Silva a menacing hero in many of the frames. And what a superb evil hero Bardem makes! With blonde hair and eyebrows, Bardem gives a brilliant performance as the crazy, lunatic, venomous Silva who makes you cringe and laugh at the same time. He is smooth and even makes Bond uncomfortable with his ‘ways’.
Among the women, talented actress Judi Dench gets a meaty role as M, and mouths poetry and reprimands Bond with equal élan. The other two, Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris, have very dismal appearances.
‘Skyfall’ is also a beautifully shot film. From the snazzy Shanghai, to a busy subway in London to a morbid cold Scotland countryside - all are captured brilliantly by cinematographer Roger Deakins.
Sam Mendes pays tribute to Christopher Nolan in many of the scenes. In fact, Bond even says, “A storm is coming,” while revisiting his past. Many of the shots during the climax, Silvia’s eccentricities remind you of Nolan’s Batman series.
So does the film live up to the hype? Yes in more ways than one and summarises the 50 illustrious years of the franchise perfectly.