Given all the rebooting going on lately, it was inevitable that it would happen to Bond. I know, it happens to Bond all the time, given that he regenerates like a Time Lord, but this one is a more serious reboot than most, even without the usual change in the lead actor. Daniel Craig, most recently of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, doesn’t really seem all that into his role as super-spy for a lot of the movie, though I guess being dead will do that to you.
Given all the rebooting going on lately, it was inevitable that it would happen to Bond. I know, it happens to Bond all the time, given that he regenerates like a Time Lord, but this one is a more serious reboot than most, even without the usual change in the lead actor. Daniel Craig, most recently of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, doesn’t really seem all that into his role as super-spy for a lot of the movie, though I guess being dead will do that to you. He died before we even get to the opening credits sequence, much like in You Only Live Twice, if I remember correctly.
It starts out in Istanbul, because these days that’s the happening place to film. M, still admirably played by Judi Dench, has miscalculated somewhere and lost track of a list of undercover NATO operatives. I can’t fathom why these agencies have master lists like that. You lose one name, you lose them all, and then everybody’s in trouble.
But too late now, the list is gone, and M’s desperate to get it back. In the process, an agent named Eve (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later) accidentally shoots poor James, who’s already gotten shot once by the bad guys. Some days he has no luck at all. And some days, he’s just plain dead, though he gets better. He still isn’t exactly in tip-top shape, though, and no wonder, considering he was shot with a depleted uranium bullet. The radiation from those things isn’t usually a problem, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t study the effects of leaving bits of it under your skin for long periods of time.
Bad guy Silva, played by Javier Bardem of Eat, Pray, Love, has the list and is posting it on YouTube bit by bit. He’s part of the new breed of criminal who knows the advantages of social networking, after all. Thankfully, since Bond himself is something of a dinosaur in that regard, there’s the new Q (Ben Whishaw, Cloud Atlas). Bond doesn’t think much of this kid, though the actor is 32 and therefore not quite as much of a kid as he looks. And when Bond asks him if he can cope with a certain computer security protocol, Q replies matter of factly that he created it.
Silva has a bone to pick with M, who he used to work for when she was in charge of the Hong Kong field office. The new chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Ralph Fiennes (Wrath of the Titans), wants her to retire. And Bond, being dead, is nowhere to be found, so she’s not having much luck, either, until James gets back into the game. Then he gets to go to fun places like Macau where he meets Bond girl Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) at a fancy casino. They have two Komodo dragons as mascots, to help emphasize the fanciness of the place. Komodo dragons, by the way, are actually just as huge as they look in the film, and not to be messed with. I always thought Komodo dragons were fascinating, but they get to be ten feet long, well over 300 pounds, and don’t really work as pets since they would happily eat their owners instead of whatever food they’re given. Seriously, they’ll eat people, given the chance.
The thing about reviewing Bond flicks is that there isn’t a whole lot of plot, but there’s still lots of fun stuff to talk about. Albert Finney of The Bourne Legacy is here, for example, playing someone from Bond’s childhood. They also found a fantastic-looking filming spot, as usual, for Silva’s secret lair. The real place is called Hashima Island, and it used to be a city built specifically for coal miners and their families, much like Pripyat. The island itself was pretty uninviting, but the coal deposit beneath it was irresistible, at least from about 1890 up to 1974, by which time petroleum had almost completely shoved coal out of the spotlight. Now the city is just a slowly crumbling ruin, and a very atmospheric sort of place to film an action movie, though they weren’t allowed to actually film there and had to recreate it on a back lot somewhere.
It made little to no sense for Sévérine to decide to throw her lot in with Bond, but that again is usual, and it was better than Quantum of Solace, though it’s possible I’m still annoyed about the fact that it suddenly mattered that I hadn’t seen the previous Bond film. I think it was just better, though, so we’ll go with three and three-quarters. The three-quarters is because Judi Dench does get to do some cool stuff, as I hoped, and there was also a nice little tribute or two to the old days, this being the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise. Here’s to the next 50 years.