Fifty years is a long time for a film franchise that has had its ups and downs but always retained the public love. The Bond legacy is also such a vital part of our culture and film history that one can’t approach a new series entry without an expectation check-list.
Skyfall is the first Bond film in five years, the lapse due to MGM’s financial hiatus rather than as a result of creative stalling, but its arrival is perfectly timed. Not only is it released in the year of the franchises fiftieth anniversary but also in the year of the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee, a time when the eyes of the world have been set firmly on the nation. Along with Bond being quintessentially British, his patriotism and dedication to Blighty have never been more greatly expressed than in this latest, exceptional instalment.
Following an exhilarating prologue that re-introduces our hero at his best; battling a henchman on the top of a moving train, Skyfall bleeds into a haunting opening credits sequence, then launches into the thick of the action with Bond hot on the tail of terrorists whom have stolen a list of Nato-operatives and their secret identities. Bond returns to the UK following an attack on MI6, which forces the organisation underground. And as the operative code names spill out into the public domain and the agent body count rises, the super spy sets off to retrieve the codes and bring those responsible to justice.
Weaving fresh to the franchise concepts with the welcome return of series elements missing from recent instalments, and in some cases not seen since the golden age of (gulp) Roger Moore, Skyfall is lovingly crafted with exciting character developments and plot twists and has an apt concept at its core. From the hokey Bond quips, a flamboyant villain with an almost fantastical masterplan and secret lair, to the retro gadgets, self-referential set-pieces and even familiar interior designs evoking a feeling of the old with a welcome lightweight comic vibe. It is all tied together nicely in a perfect package making Skyfall a solid piece of blockbuster entertainment.
With Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) at the helm, along with ace cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film is interjected with some stunning shots of Scottish landscapes and sunlit inner city London along with gorgeous sequences in exotic locations such as Istanbul, Macao and a high-rise fist fight in a neon soaked Shanghai. Along with a cast of high calibre thespians including Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench and Albert Finney there is no doubt of the film-makers intention to inject a bit of class into the franchise, maybe in attempt to make up for Quantum of Solace.
With all this in mind there is no denying it: Skyfall is phenomenal and almost a masterpiece. Where both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were slick, hyper-violent Bourne like adventures, with an M.O to re-ground the franchise after the ludicrous, invisible car antics and diamond faced villainy of Pierce Brosnan’s curtain call Day Another Day. Sam Mendes has stripped out these defining elements of the earlier Craig entries and made a film in a way more similar to Goldeneye in that it re-introduces humour to the franchise (Goldeneye followed the more serious Dalton films of the late 80s). But Skyfall wisely retains Craig as Bond, his twitchy, damaged, multi-layered interpretation still proving captivating and relevant and Judi Dench also excels as M in a role expanded and more integral to the narrative. Meanwhile Javier Barden gleefully disturbs as the elegant psycho Raoul Silva with relish in an Oscar worthy performance.
While Skyfall is breathtaking, incredibly entertaining and often highly original it does sometimes feel like a novelty entry and not quite as sexy as some of the 60s films like Goldfinger and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The thrill factor dips in the final act but it is still brought together nicely for a satisfying conclusion. Having been crafted by a director who is clearly a fan of the franchise, there is a love that permeates every second of screen time making it an absolute joy for Bond fans and cinema lovers alike. Maybe in ten years time Skyfall will be viewed differently, but at the moment there is no denying that it is by far the most enjoyable Bond film in a long time and one that serves as a tantalising taster for what’s to follow, because we all know for a fact: James Bond will return.
Skyfall is released on 26th October.