Film review by John Campbell
I’ve read all of the James Bond novels, including the one written by Kingsley Amis (as Robert Markham) after Ian Fleming’s death. So I have an interest in and some appreciation of 007 as being an enduring touchstone for male fantasists.
None of the movies have grabbed me, notwithstanding the peerless Sean Connery’s interpretation of the character, so if I were to declare that this is the very best of them it might sound like a backhanded compliment, but far from it. The boring action sequences are there, as you’d expect – it opens with a hideously loud car and bike chase through Istanbul and concludes with an equally noisy and near-interminable shootout in the Scottish highlands – but between these mandatory chook-feeding scenes there is a lot of introspection and old-fashioned intrigue.
Bond, like all of us, is getting on a bit. It’s fifty years since Dr No premiered (Casino Royale was published in 1953), but MI5/6’s famous agent has remained in step with fashion, weaponry, cars, changing social mores (he no longer smokes two packets of ciggies a day) and his masters’ shifting political alliances and enmities.
How refreshing, then, to find that director Sam Mendes has found time to allude to his subject’s yesterdays and to have him confront the unthinkable prospect of being put out to pasture. Given up for dead after a failed mission (nobody else could possibly have survived the bullet and the fall), Bond returns to London after a long absence and is reluctantly given a chance at redemption.
Daniel Craig, if too short for the part, has finally convinced me – not because of his derring-do, cold blue eyes and granite pecs, but because of the dry humour and hint of melancholy that he has belatedly found in Bond. Best of all, though, is Javier Bardem’s Silva, an odious, mental villain in the grand tradition of Ernst Blofeld. Breathtaking night shots of Shanghai, a surprise ending and the cutely worked re-introduction of Miss Moneypenny all help to make this a winner.