Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Naomi Harris
Running time: 143 minutes
Synopsis: When M’s past comes back to haunt her, MI6 comes under serious threat and scrutiny, prompting 007 to return to action after being MIA and presumed dead…
In the first act of SKYALL there’s a sequence in which Bond must pass a series of tests to prove he’s fit for duty – he has, after all, returned to Blighty a drunken, out-of-shape, and unshaven shell of his former self. As he’s put through the rigmarole – physical exercises, target practice, psychoanalysis – the fundamental parts of what makes Bond Bond are slowly reassembled. This, it seems, is the whole point of SKYFALL – it’s not just about piecing the character back together, but the entire Bond movie formula. CASINO ROYALE may have had its fun toying with the old familiar conventions and QUANTUM OF SOLACE dared to stray so far from them it was almost unrecognizable as a Bond film, but SKYFALL takes the series back to its roots, perfectly fusing the old and new.
It’s hardly surprising that SKYFALL looks back: 2012 is Bond’s 50th year on the big screen, and to mark this the film is built on references to the series’ past, none of which ever feels uncomfortably forced. Most notable is the inclusion of Q (Whishaw), whose return signifies an obvious realignment with the older films. But this is still very much Daniel Craig’s grittier, back-to-basics era – ‘Were you expecting an exploding pen?’ Q asks Bond, handing over a simple gun and radio, ‘We don’t go in for that anymore.’ Hopefully his invisible car has been left to rust in the garage, if not scrapped and sold for parts.
In celebrating the last 50 years, SKYFALL examines one of Bond’s most consistent aspects – his relationship with M. The dynamic between the characters adds serious dramatic weight, giving both Craig and Judi Dench the opportunity to turn out series-best performances. But the increased role of M – this time central to the action – is more than just a nod to the character’s importance over the years. Whilst she is interrogated over her past mistakes, the questions asked of her – whether her modes of operation are outdated and have outgrown their use – could easily be leveled at the series itself. But as Bond confirms, sometimes the old way of doing things is the best way to get the job done. And make no mistake there’s plenty done in SKYFALL the old fashioned way: the action matches anything seen before, particularly the opening brawl atop a moving train; the exotic locations are all present and correct, including a stunning and action-packed trip to Shanghai; and the girls are beautiful, tragic, and deadly. Most impressive though is Javier Bardem’s Silva, who perfectly fits the Bond villain mould, but also brings something fresh to the series – effeminate, controlled, and genuinely disturbing, Bardem steps effortlessly into the upper tier of Bond’s adversaries.
Whilst SKYFALL reintroduces the familiar tropes, it’s far from just a rehash of the same old cheesy shtick. SKYFALL’s journey into the past treads entirely new ground for the franchise, and reveals parts of the Bond character never fully explored until now – it may be look back, but it’s also the dawn of a new era. Boasting the smartest script to date and the masterful direction of Sam Mendes, SKYFALL proves that even after 23 films, Bond is still relevant, staying true to what makes him special and evolving with the times. Let’s shake and raise a vodka martini to the next 50 years, by which point fans may be hailing SKYFALL as Bond’s finest hour.
SKYFALL arrives in UK cinemas 26th October