Reviewed: Skyfall

Daniel Craig returns for his third outing as James Bond but is does the franchise’s 50th anniversary film live up to all the hype?

You’ll probably see a number of reviews proclaiming that this is a “triumphant return” or that “Bond is back” and it’s difficult to argue with those sentiments. If  Casino Royale rejuvenated the franchise, ditching the excesses and bringing it in line with the grittier action movies, this film pays tribute to the past, returning many familiar elements while still moving the franchise forward.

Director Sam Mendes along with cinematographer Roger Deakins has ditched the kinetic editing with a steady still coolness, showing all the action in beautifully composed and perfectly lit shots. While Mendes’ direction may sometimes be seen as a distancing device for this world of espionage it works perfectly.

The film begins with shot and music cue combining perfectly to let the audience know exactly where they stand. This is Bond.

It seems a long time has passed between this film and Quantum of Solace and while just two films ago Bond was gaining his double-oh status he is now older and wearier. It seems that Daniel Craig’s Bond is a man out of time.

The pre-credits sequence in unrelenting and begins with Bond in Turkey in pursuit of terrorists who have stolen a hard drive with the names of all the NATO agents who are undercover within terror cells. It’s an impressive chase taking place in with cars, bikes and the top of a train all involved. While Bond’s fight seems even with mercenary Patrice, Bond is shot by a fellow agent and plummets into water and is posted missing, presumed dead.

While Bond enjoys his death for a while, his sense of duty and loyalty to M brings him right back into the fold, but it seems his recent experiences may have left him less than fit for duty.

Judy Dench has a far more substantial roll to play as M and in many ways, this is her story. The loss of the hard drive sees her attacked on all sides, with her retirement being planned by the government. It also seems the theft on the hard drive is not just an attack on the agency but on M herself.

As this is the fiftieth anniversary there are plenty of returning tropes from classic era films. The classic Aston Martin DB5 makes a scene stealing return which must raise a smile in even the harshest of critics. Also making a comeback are Q branch and newcomer Ben Whishaw is suitably smart as the Quartermaster for the Facebook generation. His chemistry with Craig should make for entertaining viewing for the next couple of films at least.

The team at MI6 is nicely rounded off with Rory Kinnear returning as M’s aide Tanner, Ralph Fiennes as Mallory   – the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and Naomie Harris as the mysterious agent Eve. It seems all these characters will be sticking around for the foreseeable future as the Bond franchise opens a new chapter.

Of course with Bond there also has to be bad guy. The classic Bond villain has a number of characteristics and Javier Bardem’s Silva ticks all the boxes. Physical disfigurement? Yep that’s there. An insane island base? Oh yes. You want some camp charisma? It’s there and creepier than ever before. And of course there is his personal vendetta.

Bardem’s is a chilling in the performance and you believe there is peril for all those involved. There are set-pieces aplenty, and while there are glamorous locales, this is a film that feels firmly routed in Britain with much of the action taking place in London and a stunning finale in the Scottish Highlands.

It is close to note perfect, not just as a tribute to what as gone before but as a promise of what is to come. The acknowledgements of the franchise’s past are playful but respectful never feel forced. Delving into Bond’s back story could feel like removing the mystique but with Daniel Craig’s rooted performance it simply adds depth. Overall, this is a triumphant film giving Craig the vehicle that his take on James Bond deserves.

Watch the trailer for Skyfall below