It may be the first Bond film not to have an Ian Fleming title but ‘Skyfall’ is every bit as 007 as ‘Dr. No’ or ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’.
Not only does ‘Skyfall’ strive to satisfy even the most pessimistic of Bond fan its subtle combination of the traditional and the modern makes it refreshingly unique.
It’s been 50 years since Sean Connery first took up the mantle as MI6 secret agent, James Bond, in the Terrence Young directed ‘Dr. No’. Connery, who many regard as a the best actor to play Bond, was not the production company’s first choice; they had offered the role of 007 to Patrick McGoohan, David Niven, James Mason and Cary Grant - all of whom declined.
Fast forward 50 years to October 2012 and the character of James Bond is just as relevant now as he was back then.
Six more actors have gone on to play Bond since Connery with the most recent being Chester born Daniel Craig (‘Enduring Love’ and ‘Layer Cake’) who is signed up to appear as Bond in at least another two films.
Bond is on a secret mission in Istanbul to retrieve a list revealing the true identity of undercover NATO operatives. Something goes horribly wrong and Bond is recorded as Missing In Action but when those behind the theft of the list attack M16 headquarters in London, dutiful 007 dusts himself down and gets back in the game.
The man behind the attack on the intelligence headquarters is former super-spy and now global criminal mastermind, Silva. Silva’s desire for destruction is fuelled by his hatred for M and the only man capable of protecting M in the sinister game of cat and mouse is Bond.
‘Skyfall’ is Craig’s third outing as Bond and after the impressive ‘Casino Royale’ and the utterly boring ‘Quantum of Solace’ the jury was still out on whether Craig was more stirred or indeed shaken.
Craig’s portrayal of an ageing, disillusioned Bond is first-rate. Over the last 50 years, previous sojourns had left Bond feeling a little camp and almost comical but Craig’s performance conveys him as human; as a man struggling with an ageing body, alcohol dependence but with a dutiful determination to get back to the top of his game.
Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, (‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘Biutiful’) plays MI6 super agent gone unimaginably bad, Raoul Silva.
Bardem is without doubt one the most skilled and versatile actors around but his almost amphibious manifestation of Silva is outstanding.
Bardem announces his arrival as Silva when he walks from the back of a large room towards the camera reciting a parable about two rats; it’s grippingly awesome.
Judi Dench returns as head of MI6, M, and despite starring youthfully beautiful Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe she takes the mantle as the movie’s ultimate Bond girl.
Dench’s M is central to the film’s plot and she plays the part of the vulnerable yet ballsy spy master with impeccable delicacy and vigorous energy.
British director, Sam Mendes (‘American Beauty’ and ‘Road to Perdition’) stamps his authority all over ‘Skyfall’. It’s without doubt one of his greatest cinematic achievements and the way in which he chose to shoot the film’s grand finale is nothing short of breathtakingly brilliant.
Credit must also go to the writers of ‘Skyfall’. Neil Purvis (‘Casino Royale’), Robert Wade (‘Quantum of Solace’) and John Logan (‘Gladiator’) have breathed much needed life into what was threatening to become a flat-lining franchise. The three writers stay faithful to the original Ian Fleming concept by re-introducing characters such as Q (Ben Whishaw - ‘Layer Cake’) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris - ‘28 Days Later’) but succeed to make the film feel choice and unwilted by delving into Bond’s past.
‘Skyfall’ is Christopher Nolanesque in its retrospective examination of the man behind 007 but its necessary as it contributes towards one of the strongest finishing movies of the year.
James Bond is alive and well and will return.
VERDICT: 4/5 - ‘Skyfall’ is the 23rd James Bond film and it’s a fitting contribution in the year that is also the 50th anniversary of the on-screen franchise. Everything about Sam Mendes’ movies is stylish and intelligent but it loses a star instantly for its over emphasis and use of product placement. Craig is class as Bond, Bardem is brilliant as sinister Bond baddy Silva whilst Judi Dench is magnificent as accidental Bond girl M. The script’s refreshingly good and there can be no doubting that Bond will be back.