Dum-da-da-daaaa, da-da-da dum-da-da-daaa…
When Bond was essentially rebooted in 2006 with Casino Royale, it seemed that the smarmy martini-drinker was back in great shape – and that wasn’t just Daniel Craig’s Olympian physique. We saw unbelievable gadgets replaced with characterisation unseen in the franchise, and a modern style that merged synonymously with post-millennial sleekness. Hopes were naturally high for Quantum of Solace, which was turgid where Royale was inventive, and slightly interesting where its predecessor was genuinely exciting. Thankfully, Skyfall, directed by American Beauty’s Sam Mendes, delivers everything 007’s 21st outing promised and even more.
In the aftermath of what is seen as M’s betrayal of Bond, our favourite agent puts aside differences and resurfaces after some downtime in paradise into the midst of what appears to be a highly dangerous – and intelligent – attack on MI6. The perpetrator is Silva, an unforgettably repugnant and relentless villain, worthy of standing alongside Oddjob in eccentricity and Jaws in ferocity. Javier Bardem injects mass amounts of blithe conviction into Silva, and makes for a rock-solid lynchpin for Daniel Craig’s more reserved, yet no less indoctrinated super spy.
But despite the two astounding central performances (and another stoic turn from Judi Dench as M), it’s the smart flourishes in the writing, and action scenes that are littered with the film’s inherent sense of irony, that elevate this particular Bond into one of the best action / adventure films this year. Throwbacks to the days of exploding pens and vintage Aston Martins are all well-placed and make a good point in the direction where the series is heading next, plus the addition of new faces and the loss of old ones allow a character who has now been around for fifty years – as all the ceaseless marketing has not let us forget – finally see some growth.
As any filmmaker will tell you, the 23rd film in a series is always toughest to crack. Mendes has nailed it almost one hundred percent; any slight pacing issues in Skyfall are far outweighed by its messages, and considering the movie’s articulate admonition on British creed and its place in a modern nation, you have to agree, that’s quite the feat. It lets us know James Bond not only still has his place in our contemporary cinematic universe half a century on from his celluloid inception, but that he deserves it too.