Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomi Harris, Ralph Fiennes
Review: After feeling rather indifferent about Daniel Craig’s first two outings as Bond, I wasn’t even bothered enough about his latest to go and see it in the cinema. But where Casino Royal may as well have been titled ‘Let’s play poker for hours and see how long the audience puts up with it’ and Quantum of Solace’s only redeeming feature was the cleverness of the villain’s plot being all about water, Skyfall was a real thrill ride and, more importantly, a return to form for the Bond franchise.
It’s been said by many that Craig’s first films were more Bourne, less Bond. While franchises do have to move with the times and adapt to changing audiences, I do feel that they lost that quintessential ‘Bondness’ that I so love about the older movies. Skyfall brings it all back, but in new, updated ways that leave the series at the start of something fresh and new and modern, while retaining that feeling that you’re watching something that is a part of the series.
New Q, with deliciously tousled hair, is a young, arrogant upstart whose technobabble makes Bond look like a dinosaur. New bad guy, Silva, is campy and flamboyant, but layered and, in his own way, heart breaking. And newcomer, Ralph Fiennes, as pen-pushing bureaucrat turned PM defying badass, packs so much wonderful Britishness into his character I defy anyone not to cheer for him by the end.
The film is also very self-referential, with Q mentioning exploding pens (Goldeneye) and the rather more metaphorical appearance of Connery’s original car. But while the quips and one liners make you laugh, there’s also a sense of great reverence for the film’s predecessors, and in that, their spirit is carried forwards.
There are some clumsy moments – a ‘rush hour’ tube train is fired at Bond, and miraculously doesn’t contain any passengers, nor suffer much damage as it ploughs through several brick columns. Silva’s plan for MI6 was so obvious I’m surprised they didn’t see it coming, and Bond’s plunge into a frozen lake would surely have killed him. But, it’s no more ridiculous than any of Bond’s other death-defying stunts from previous films, and Skyfall has made a conscientious effort to portray Bond as more vulnerable – a physically and mentally damaged man, teetering on the edge of the cliff Silva has already fallen from. As enemies, they are perfect – each a mirror held up to the other, showing what could have been.
To call Judi Dench a tour de force is cliche – she’s always a tour de force and long may she continue making films – but her turn as M in Skyfall is sublime. She packs in so much emotion in every scene: from hard faced confidence to vulnerability. Superb cinematography only enhances her performance – one particularly well shot scene of six coffins draped with the Union Jack, M dressed in black looking over them, springs immediately to mind.
Bond is definitely back, in the best Bond film yet. With things left set up for what promises to be a new, but familiar world, I hope it’s the first of many excellent Bond films to come.