For a film franchise to successfully run for 50 years it must seek ways of keeping the films relevant, while seldom straying from the reasons that have made the franchise so popular.
Bond movies are kept pertinent by the changing of directors and of actors taking the lead role. This is Daniel Craig’s third outing as Bond and Mendes’ first as director. What Mendes has brought is a new angle to the Bond franchise; he has introduced a chink of vulnerability to Bond, which is played with splendid subtlety by Craig.
An exhilarating opening sequence establishes Bond’s vulnerability as he struggles with an enemy for a computer hard drive on top of a train in Istanbul. Bond falls from the train after being shot accidently on M’s [Judi Dench] orders, as the hard drive being hunted is deemed more important to M than Bond himself, highlighting Bond’s expendability to the country he serves.
It is when Bond is missing, presumed dead, we see him as a man and not an MI6 agent, with alcohol replacing his work as the purpose for living.
A terrorist attack on headquarters prompts Bond’s eventual return to MI6. It is not met with warmth, and his subsequent physical and psychological testing exposes his susceptibility further. Bond is now not only fighting the enemy he is fighting to maintain his true purpose for living.
Only once does Mendes let the vulnerability spill into sentimentally. The inclusion in the climax of a belligerent old gamekeeper, remembered by Bond from his childhood, fighting against the modern weaponry of the enemy armed only with a rifle, is overly nostalgic.
What Mendes has achieved with this movie is significant. He has maintained all the factors that make a great Bond movie but also updated the franchise for this age, and in doing so, given Bond more substance.
Running time: 140 minutes.