James Bond is well and truly back with a bang! Skyfall is the latest adventure follows 007 on a race against time when a computer drive is stolen containing the names of every undercover agent across the globe. Soon after, London is targeted by techno-terrorist Silva (Javier Bardem) bringing the very heart of British Intelligence under attack and it becomes clear that M’s future hangs in the balance as her past comes back to haunt her.
50 years is certainly a long time in movies, and as long-running franchises go this one is quite a feat. It’s unique within film-making for a series to continue for quite so long; the Bond franchise has that special ability to constantly update and refresh itself, providing a lasting appeal to each new generation of moviegoers. With Skyfall, Bond is back in this fitting tribute to a much loved series. The classic elements of the Bond formula are all present and correct, with multi award winning director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins on hand to give a fresh touch to the proceedings.
At 142 minutes long, Skyfall is officially the 2nd longest Bond film, just behind the movie that in 2006 reinvented Bond mania, Casino Royale. One of Silva’s taunting messages to M is “think on your sins”. Skyfall more than makes up for the sins of Quantum of Solace (which, let’s face it, wasn’t the best Bond film) and to paraphrase Bond’s fellow field agent Eve, it turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Scriptwriters Neal Purvis and Robert Wade together with Gladiator scribe John Logan provide some great references to past Bond films in all the right places, ensuring that the balance between action and drama remains just right. They play around with the classic elements of Bond, but are careful not to take liberties with their nods to Fleming. Bond’s Scottish heritage is explored, something which fans will appreciate.
The writers have taken the back-to-basics approach where the story is concerned. Skyfall is much more character driven, recalling earlier films like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale which is more appropriate this time around rather than purely going for pointless spectacle. Daniel Craig is a little more craggy faced these days but still manages to look cool in Tom Ford’s suits, ensuring 007 is as suave as ever and effortlessly pulling off his action scenes to boot. It’s Craig’s blistering turn as Bond that elevates the film above and beyond your average 007 flick; he can be both brutal and suave as needs be, showcasing his versatility as an actor in a demanding role such as this.
Skyfall boasts some serious acting clout among its cast; Ralph Fiennes, whose name has long been associated with the Bond role finally appears in the series as Mallory, in effect M’s boss who leads an investigation into Mi6 when the computer drive is stolen. Albert Finney pops up as Kincade, Bond’s family friend but is virtually unrecognisable under a beard and cloth cap. Javier Bardem as the positively reptilian baddie Silva is by far the most memorable villain to emerge from a Bond film in a long time, as creepy as he is camp. He manages to repeat his No Country For Old Men sliminess here, with an equally dodgy haircut. Judi Dench is on top form in this latest installment as M, giving an emotionally charged performance as she becomes more involved in Bond’s latest mission than ever before. Skyfall also sees the welcome return of Q, who is a parka wearing techno-geek with a penchant for computer hacking and Scrabble, ably played by Ben Whishaw. Q is back but he doesn’t dispense many gadgets this time around, just a radio device and a 007’s new Walther PPK with hand-print recognition. “This isn’t exactly Christmas,” Bond quips. The Q scene is always a highlight of the Bond films so it’s great to see the role has gone to an actor of such a high calibre as Whishaw. From their first scene in the National Gallery, it’s clear to see that immediately there’s an understanding between Bond and the new Q, so this fresh twist on an old dynamic is sure to prove interesting as the series continues.
No Bond film would be complete without a few lovely ladies, and Skyfall doesn’t disappoint – at least, not on looks. Both Berenice Marlohe and Naomie Harris bring considerable acting talent to their roles as Severine and Eve respectively but sadly both are not used to their full potential. Harris has an action packed role as Bond’s fellow field agent and attacks it with gusto. Marlohe is reduced to playing the token vulnerable Bond girl, but at least she manages to look glamorous whilst doing so. And then here’s Tonia Sotiropoulou who barely gets a a look in, with a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo role as Bond’s squeeze whilst he downs a bottle of Heineken! However, Skyfall can be forgiven in that sense as of course M is the real Bond girl (or Bond woman) in this film, with her relationship between 007 and Silva taking centre stage.
As you’d expect from a Bond film, the fast paced action scenes are plenty, with superb editing thanks to Stuart Baird. The movie also boasts some with some memorable set pieces and typically gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins. Bond does a fair bit of globetrotting – London, Shanghai, Turkey and Scotland to name a few, with each location looking stunning and fresh; neon-lit Hong Kong is a particular highlight as the sweeping camera over the film’s exotic locales will leave you mesmerised.
The pairing of Bond and Adele is, for this 50th anniversary of the series, a dream come true. Together with producer Paul Epworth, Skyfall’s theme song is both sultry and sexy, more in the vein of Tina Turner’s Goldeneye or Sheena Easton’s For Your Eyes Only. Thomas Newman’s score includes strains of the original Monty Norman Bond theme at key moments and is very brass and strings heavy, but is by no means intrusive.
Considering there was plenty at stake in Skyfall, we can safely say it definitely exceeds expectations – and then some! Welcome back, Mr. Bond. Here’s to the next 50years![Rating: 4.5]