While it is hard to believe, there have been 50 years worth of James Bond films, some very good, some not so good, some forgettable. Cubby Broccoli was in charge for most of the way, but more recently his daughter Barbara has taken over the director’s chair, and to good effect. For the record, I’ve seen all the Bond films, some of them several times, and I am extremely happy to tell you— the 50th anniversary edition is one of the very best. While the ending drags on a bit long as the villain Silva (played deliciously by Javier Bardem) refuses to die (the movie clocks in at 2 hours and 25 minutes), there are no other flies in the ointment of this fine balm. It is what a Bond action film should be, and once more Daniel Craig is more than up to the task as Bond. Indeed, his rippling six pack abs and pecs and biceps are a wonder to behold for a man of his age.
But alas, even Bond ages, as his grey chin stubble betrays, and this film is indeed about an aging Bond, and an even more aging M (played superbly once more by Judi Dench). This is not a coming of age movie, but more nearly a changing of the guards movie, as we get a new wunderkind Q who betokens the computerized age, and as he quips to Bond, “we don’t do exploding pens anymore Mr. Bond”. Its all about cyber weapons and the like…. or is it? Fortunately James still has a handgun, only this time its cued to his palm print so only he can fire it. This too proves useful in due course.
The plot is predictable, but plausible. An encrypted list of secret agents is stolen from one of M16’s agents, and as it turns out the mastermind behind this theft is a former M16 agent out for revenge for being abandoned in the field. Thus it is that Bond must race around the world (especially the usual exotic spots— Istanbul, Shanghai, Macau, and of course London) to recover the list, or terminate the thief, or both.
But Bond, it would appear, has lost a step, and some of his aim as well though not his nerve. And as for M, well she receives the jolly news she will soon be retired by a senior minister, ably played by Ralph Fiennes. It seems that even with Bond movies, all good things must pass, at some juncture. The action in the movie is spectacular, including a chase on motorcycles across the tops of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, the cinematography in blues and blacks and browns is wonderful, and even the brief romantic scenes are cleverly done. Nothing has been left to chance here.
In some ways this movie is not just a movie about aging agents, though it is that, but it is also a movie about how the spy game has changed in 50 years, such that now the game is played in the shadows even more than it ever was, and agents better have cyber help or they will be very dead all too soon. No amount of bravado, no amount of muscles, no amount of guns can always trump intelligence, especially keen cyber intelligence, and tracking, and the like. If the old Mission Impossible TV show from the 60s-70s warned us that someday the gadgets would take over the secret service, this has now, largely come to pass.
Going all out Broccoli has enlisted Adele to do her bluesy best with a new theme song that she herself wrote, perhaps as an attempt to appeal to the youngest of Bond watchers. Of course there are the new crop of Bond girls, and the most fetching of the lot is the new Ms. Moneypenny ably played by Naomie Harris, who is anything but the prim and proper British Ms. Moneypenny that Sean Connery had to deal with.
This movie is just plain fun, and is perhaps the best action movie of the year, well worth seeing. It shows, despite the aging theme, that the demise of James Bond has been greatly exaggerated. There is still, after all, life in the old Aston Martin and as the dialogue says at one point in the film—
James Bond: Everybody needs a hobby.
Silva: So, what’s yours?
James Bond: Resurrection.
Daniel Craig deserves the largest credit for reviving this film empire, and indeed launching into another 50 years of fun and daring do. Rumor has it that in the next film there will be two Bonds. I can’t wait to double my pleasure with double 0 seven once more.
This is in many ways the perfect holiday get away action flick. There is hardly a trace of bad language, or nudity, and plenty of fun one liners (Albert Finney as Bond’s old Scottish game keeper greets the bad guys with— ‘Welcome to Scotland’).