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Review

I never read reviews before watching a film that I have been eagerly waiting for. I love the Bond character and Agent Vinod was a tribute to the spy I grew up loving and who, half a century later, still brings out the kid in me. My expectations were sky high also because this one has been directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition).

Also, while I loved Casino Royale, I didn’t like Quantum of Solace at all. This one just had to be better than that. I am happy to report that Skyfall is a terrific film and I loved it.

I loved it in spite of a dozen things I didn’t like. That’s a bit of a contradiction but some films are like friends and lovers. You love them despite their faults and weaknesses. The Bond franchise is definitely in that category for me.

It set the tone and sucked me in from the very first shot. A man with a gun approaching. A burst of the theme music as he comes into focus. It’s Daniel Craig, walking past littered bodies, searching for the assassin… and the action begins.

I am a big fan of the Bond opening sequences. Skyfall delivers and how. An outstanding chase sequence in Istanbul amid the bazaars, souks, rooftops and finally atop a train, ending with a sudden shocking shot that cuts to the fantastic title sequence…. with a track by Adele, that’s amongst the best of Bond title songs ever.

Paisa vasool. Everything now on is profit.

I hate it when reviewers give away the plot so I won’t do the same. Bond films are not really about the story…. What I remember from the old Bonds are a collection of set-pieces, exotic locales, flamboyant villains, gorgeous babes, one-liners and of course the attitude. And that’s what I still expect from a Bond film.

Most of the Bond films so far have been directed by workman-like directors who were terrific but never considered auteurs. Terence Young (Wait Until Dark), Lewis Gilbert (Operation Daybreak), Guy Hamilton (Evil Under the Sun), John Glen (Checkered Flag) and more….

But it’s the 23rd film in the franchise and should they follow the tried and tested ingredients or go for something more? Casino Royale was the great reboot that gave us a Bond who could bleed and make us feel. Sam Mendes is a superb storyteller of character-driven stories and Skyfall attempts to balance the vulnerable Bond with a bleak worldview, with the fantasy and thrills of the early Bonds. It’s a tough balancing act and will surely divide the fans….

The better the villain the better the picture, said Alfred Hitchcock. And Javier Bardem is an inspired choice for the Bond villain…. He makes a late entry in the film with a terrific entry shot, that kind of reminded me of Christoph Waltz’s entry in Inglourious Basterds. Bardem is creepy and charismatic and a great addition to the Bond gallery of villains.

I said that I love the film in spite of the things I didn’t like, but what I didn’t like may well be the things you love the most about the film.

For example, I missed the babe and glamour quotient in the film, but one can equally argue that they stuck to the story without unnecessary distractions.

There are two Bond girls — field agent Eve, a very engaging Naomie Harris, and femme fatale Severine (Berenice Marlohe) who had a woefully short role to play. The real Bond girl in this film was the amazing Judi Dench, and she’s the one I connected with emotionally.

I loved the mood and pace of the film but didn’t like certain plot devices which seemed silly or unnecessary.

The climax will again divide the viewers. It reminded me too much of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and Straw Dogs and sort of suffered in comparision.

From an academic and analytical point of view there is a lot to admire in Skyfall and I’m sure it will be a big hit with critics. But Ian Fleming didn’t write it for critics — he described his first novel Casino Royale as “an oafish epic written with half a brain”.

There is lots to savour in Skyfall and I will surely see it again.

Don’t compare it to Casino Royale in your head and be prepared for a somewhat offbeat Bond and you will enjoy it all the more.

And now that the producers have gone for an auteur director, my wishlist of the next two Bond directors would be the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino!