REVIEW: Dear Mr Broccoli,
At age six I was going to be a spy, thanks to you. It's sad you're not around to see it, but your legacy as producer of the first 20 movies - it's now 50 years since Dr No! - lives on as the series goes from strength to strength.
You'd be proud of Daniel Craig, the latest Bond. Skyfall is his third adventure, and having taken Bond back to his roots with 2006's Casino Royale, he's swiftly making this most iconic of roles his own. I know, some people thought you couldn't be convincing as a clear-headed, cold-hearted killer if you were blond and boyish but Craig is adept at walking the fine line between frosty and jocular with rugged grace.
Having never known much about Bond's past (other than vague references to orphanhood) Skyfall takes the now familiar superhero tack of sowing the seeds of an origin story. M cruelly refers to him as "an unmarried employee with no next of kin", and, in the spirit of the Dark Knight pictures (oh, that's Batman to you), this added dimension suddenly turns the Bond of yore into a multi-dimensional, vulnerable human being we can really care about (sorry Cubby, but honestly - Roger Moore just took the mickey!).
Skyfall is directed by Sam Mendes - he came to prominence since you died, but you'd have appreciated his Oscar-winning American Beauty, and the style of his darker gangster flick Road to Perdition clearly informs the fabulously brooding London shown in Skyfall.
Mendes does a good line in heavy rain, and his collaboration with legendary DOP Roger Deakins delivers a stunning picture. Also, Mendes is a theatre man at heart, and no doubt regulars like Dame Judi Dench (who has continued as a female M for seven films) were as delighted to work with him as newbies Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw (who plays the latest incarnation of Q as a foppish IT nerd).
And the villain! Javier Bardem joins the great tradition of Bond baddies, exquisite as the disgruntled ex-employee with a gripe against management. His appalling haircut, bleached eyebrows and sinister dentalwork make him gloriously grotesque.
You'd be dazzled by the hyper-modern production design - following a terrorist attack on MI6, the service moves underground, all brick pillars and glass meeting rooms like a trendy advertising agency. And I've never seen Bond in so futuristic a location as Shanghai - in one scene illuminated by Blade Runner-esque electronic signage as he stalks an assassin, then next minute riding a dragon-crested boat up the river to a lantern-lit gambling den. It's breathtaking, even before he encounters the komodo dragons.
Of course, there are chases. And girls. But how refreshing that nowadays Bond girls can fight for themselves and have the foresight to wear flat shoes. Brit Naomie Harris (from 28 Days Later) is the epitome of beauty, brains and sassy charm - when Bond flirts with her he doesn't seem creepy at all, but understandably enchanted.
There's more to this latest adventure than the stock in trade of the early Bonds - and even though much is made of various characters getting old and creaky, I think you can rest in peace knowing they'll be renewing Bond's licence for years to come.
Yours in appreciation,
Skyfall (M) 143 mins
- Sunday Star Times