Craig stirs in Skyfall

MATT LAWREY
Last updated 10:28 28/11/2012

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You might find this hard to believe, but if there is one thing that stabs at the heart of most journalists like a knife between the ribs, it's getting things wrong.

The reasons journalists hate getting things wrong include: not wanting to let people down, not wanting to get in trouble with the boss and the fear of not being taken seriously.

There is also always the chance of being done for defamation.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because nine years ago I made a horrendous mistake in this very column and the time has come to admit the error of my ways.

In 2003 New Zealand director Christine Jeffs made a film about the writer Sylvia Plath, starring Gwyneth Paltrow as the suicidal author and an obscure character actor by the name of Daniel Craig as her abusive lover, Ted Hughes.

There are only two things I remember about Sylvia. The first is that it featured some gorgeous shots of Paltrow in the nude and the second is that I hated Craig.

Seriously, I thought he was the pits and in print wrote him off as an actor. Fast forward nine years and I accept that I was about as wrong as you can get.

Since Sylvia, Craig has gone from strength-to-strength. Earlier this year he was excellent as Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and now, in the latest 007 blockbuster Skyfall, he has given the 50-year-old franchise its best Bond yet.

Directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall is also arguably the best Bond movie yet, which, when you consider there have now been 23 official films, is really saying something.

With a budget the size of some small countries' GDP, Skyfall was always going to be huge, but what will surprise many is just how freakingly good it is.

The film is beautiful to look at, brilliantly acted and wonderfully entertaining. It also comes loaded with great dialogue and, perhaps most importantly of all, a tonne of heart.

In his third outing as Bond, Craig gives the character the kind of complexity that Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan could only dream of. Somehow he manages to be tough, vulnerable, cold, witty, charming, warm and yet aloof.

And while Skyfall is full of action, the real fireworks happen when Mendes puts Craig in the same room as the sublime Judy Dench (as Bond's boss M), or the brilliant Javier Bardem (as his would-be nemesis).

There are also a couple of wonderful exchanges between Craig and Ben Whishaw, as the new Q.

The plot involves Bardem's white-haired baddie, a once brilliant spy named Silva, launching his own private war against MI5, and a bruised but not beaten Bond trying to take him down.

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The locations include Istanbul, Shanghai, London, Macau and a crazy deserted island that in the movie is off the coast of China but in reality is part of Japan.

The cast also includes the terrific Ralph Fiennes, the charming Naomi Harris and the stupefyingly beautiful Berenice Lim Marlohe.

Masterfully pulling the whole thing together is the Oscar-winning Mendes, who basically takes everything that was good about the previous Bond films and does them better.

A protracted final act notwithstanding, it's an awesome film, and watching it unspool it's hard to feel anything but pity for the poor mug who follows in the director's footsteps.

Bottom line: Bloody marvellous.

- The Marlborough Express

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