To the Barbican cinema to see Skyfall: the new James Bond. When I used to date an RSC actor, he told me that there were nuclear bunkers underneath the Barbican for the royal family no less should the bomb be dropped. Having taken the stairs instead of the lift I could well believe it. The Barbican is such a strange, godforsaken edifice: the worst of brutalist architecture somewhat reminiscent of that 70s sci fi film Logan’s Run. You half expect Michael York to shimmy past in an Ultrasuede tunic and bias cut crepe blouse.
I love the movies, don’t you Rowley? Especially when the cinema is civilised and devoid of bovine, spotted youth rustling Revels packets and slurping on Coca Cola. No, at the Barbican the audience is of a certain age so is more likely to be watching our weight and silently sipping on a baby bottle of Prosecco through a straw. Admittedly, there are more people nipping out to the lav during a three-hour film but it beats kiddies talking, giggling and frotting in the back row, no?
I absolutely adored Skyfall despite the shameless product placement and arguably the campest villain since Bette Davis starred in Madam Sin. I am a huge fan of Daniel Craig. I like the fact that his Bond is a blank-faced killing machine despite having a rather uncomfortable resemblance to Evan Davis at some angles. But what a hottie when stripped down to his Olebar Brown swimming shorts on top of a penthouse swimming pool on the Bund in Shanghai.
All chaps who support great British tailoring mourn the fact that 007 is now dressed by Tom Ford rather than Savile Row. However, I rather think Mr Ford does a beautiful job cutting streamlined, anonymously chic suits for the spy. I couldn’t name a Savile Row tailor who could afford the endorsement fees for the James Bond franchise. However, British bespoke was well-represented in Skyfall. Thom Sweeney dressed Javier Bardem’s bisexual villain in a rather fetching cream blazer and Ralph Fiennes as the new spymaster was tailored by the great Timothy Everest.
Now much as I’d like to tell you all about Skyfall I will resist the temptation of most reviewers who basically betray the plot. Suffice to say, Bond’s locations were exotic and well-chosen. Who wouldn’t open the film with a roof-top motorbike chase in Istambul followed by a sojourn in Shanghai and a very glamorous interlude in a Macau casino: Macau being the most popular tourist destination for the Chinese next to Bicester Village. This the filmmakers have to bow to for an international audience for the franchise.
But how marvellous to see the lion’s share of the movie shot in London and the highlands of Scotland. It was equally gratifying of director Sam Mendes to give Dame Judi Dench another crack at the Oscars. The scriptwriters practically wrote M a Valentine and the twinkly eyed, Puckish one didn’t disappoint. As Bond gals go, I found Naomie Harris as the new Monneypenny suitably moderne and was enchanted by the Chinoise Berenice Marlohe: particularly the gown she wore in the Macau casino scene.
The challenge with a film franchise is to allow a smooth transition. Replacing Q with John Cleese was an awful mistake in the past. Ben Whishaw is a much more suitable and geekish character for contemporary espionage. I saw him in his Hamlet at the Old Vic and considered him one of the greats of his age. I believe he was barely past puberty at the time. On film he is rather more Dr Who than James Bond but the scriptwriters were once again kind in bedding down his character and assuring another bite of the cherry in the next movie.
We reeled out of the cinema at the conclusion to Skyfall humming Adele’s Bond theme and dreaming of Tom Ford tuxedos in Macau casinos. There are whispers of Oscars: something that has eluded Bonds except for the theme tunes and special effects. What I particularly liked about Skyfall was the lack of CGI graphics. When they became too obvious – ergo a subterranean tube crash – they stood out as betrayals of the Burgess/Meredith/McLean/Blunt variety…especially when it is so apparent that Craig did almost all of his own stunts. Don’t we all.
As a birthday treat, Skyfall was up there with the Saturday night episode of Strictly Come Dancing. I’m finding the judging – by the public not the muppets who are now a parody of themselves – rather honest and true. The people who should be ejected have so far been given their marching papers. This weekend’s casualty was Eastenders actor Sid Owen. In years’ past he would have remained on because of public recognition/affection despite having two left feet. Now I think the public are entirely on to being manipulated by the media. They see through the ‘it’s a journey’ school of reality TV and judge purely on talent. Good!
I think we British like our bread and circuses such as Skyfall and Strictly. But we are on to the con as t’were. In the past the laugh was on entertainers. Now it is on us who pay for the BBC and yet allow the corporation to make their stars set up tax evading schemes that make a mockery of democracy and ‘all in it together’. We are not. End of.