Review by Paul Bowler
Ian Fleming’s secret agent James Bond has enthralled generations of moviegoers over the last five decades. The series began with the genre defining performance by Sean Connery as Fleming’s secret agent, George Lazenby‘s tenure was short lived, giving way to Roger Moore’s raised eyebrow and innuendoes laden scripts, Timothy Dalton took a walk on the dark side with his emotionally scarred Bond, until Pierce Brosnan’s roguish charm saw a renascence for the series before the licence to kill was summarily passed over to the athletic physicality of Daniel Craig’s Bond. Now 007 is back in his 23rd film Skyfall, Daniel Craig’s third assignment as James Bond, and just in time to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the worlds longest running movie franchise that began with Dr.No in 1962.
When 007’s mission in Istanbul goes badly wrong, Bond is left fighting for his life. With Bond missing and presumed dead, M is left to deal with the fallout from the serious breach of security that has leaked the identities of every undercover agent currently embedded within various terrorist organizations around the world. Bond returns, he must work to rebuld himself mentally and physically, but he endeavours to help M no matter how personal the cost may be. The city of London and MI6 comes under attack as old secrets and vendettas come to the fore as Bond crosses the globe to track down the villainous Silva – a man determined to avenge himself for the role M played during his past – taking in Shanghai and Macau, before a stunning climax in the Scottish Highlands.
Skyfall is an action packed extravaganza from beginning to end, the story and pace never lets up for a moment, and the incredible locations and direction by Sam Menders all help to make this Daniel Craig’s most definitive version of Bond since his tremendous debut in Casino Royal (2006). The opening pre-credits sequence with the amazing chase through the streets of Istanbul that ends up with Bond on the roof of a speeding train is one of the series most exhilarating to date, and the brutal fight sequences in Shanghi are as bone crunching as we have come to expect from this reinvigorated franchise. A large section of screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan’s plot in Skyfall revolves around events in the UK, with Bond prowling the streets of capitol, including an spectacular chase through the London Underground.
No Bond movie would be complete without a Bond Girl to catch 007’s eye, and Skyfall has not one, but two leading ladies to keep our hero on his toes. He gets up close and personal with the glamorous Severine (Bernice Marlohe) in a Casino in Macau and is also teamed up with field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Bernice Marlohe has a steamy encounter with Daniel Craig’s Bond, and the mysterious Severine certainly gives 007 a run for his money. Naomie Harris also acquits herself well as Eve, and gets a good slice of the action as Bond’s ambitious sidekick.
The villain of Skyfall is the cunning Raoul Silva, played by Spanish star Javier Bardem, who is more than a match for Bond as he plots M’s downfall. Bardem makes Silva one of the most menacing adversaries Craig’s 007 has encountered so far, and his vendetta against M also gives Skyfall some great character defining moments for Bond and M.
One very special facet of the 007 films that makes a welcome return in Skyfall are the gadgets, most notably the Walther PPK 9mm handgun coded to Bond’s palm print, all supplied by MI6’s inventor of weapons and field equipment Q. This is the first time the part has been played by someone younger than Bond himself, Ben Whishaw, who has also worked with Daniel Craig before on Layer Cake and Enduring Love. Ben Whishaw has some great scenes with Bond, his role is a nice homage to the wonderful Desmond Llewelyn who famously made the role his own across 17 Bond films, and it is fitting that the character should return for a new audience to help celebrate 007’s 50th Anniversary.
Ralph Fines also joins the all-star cast of Skyfall as Mallory, Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee heading Westminster’s investigation into M’s competency, along with aspiring new rival Clair Dowar (Helen McCroy). Judy Dench has much more to do as M this time around, every scene Dench shares with Craig’s Bond is electrifying – particularly when she finds Bond waiting for her in the shadows of her apartment. Indeed, M’s relationship with Bond is pushed to the limit in Skyfall as her past returns to haunt her, and Daniel Craig once more dominates every scene as he smoothly shifts between 007’s perfectly understated menace and ruthless efficiency.
A marketed improvement over 2008’s somewhat muddled entry, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall takes everything that fans have come to expect from Daniel Craig’s era as James Bond and makes it even better than before. The action is super slick and brutally choreographed, Bond’s iconic Aston Martin DB5 also returns, the theme tune by Adel is one of the best yet, and there are enough snappy one-liners and gadgets to keep fans on the edge of their seats. A brilliant film, quite possibly one of the best Bond films ever made, and highly recommended.