Thursday, 8 November 2012


Bond is back. When a mission to retrieve a hard drive goes awry and Bond is shot, he's presumed dead. He, meanwhile, enjoys life as a ghost, until news emerges of a terrorist attack at MI6, an attack aimed directly towards M. Bond comes back from the dead to help M find and kill the man who possesses the hard drive and is seemingly posited towards making M's life a living hell until she is dead at his hands. However, upon finding Raoul Silva, he finds a cerebral man who is cleverer than he appears. And just who, what, or where is Skyfall, and why can't 007 face up to that word...

50 years ago, Dr. No was released with a Scotsman playing an English spy on a foreign mission to watch a woman in a white bikini emerge from the sea with a machete. Or something like that. 50 years and 22 films later, Daniel Craig is stepping out in his third appearance as the sixth Bond in Skyfall, directed by Academy award winner Sam Mendes and written by writers of the last five Bond movies (and Johnny English) Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, as well as three-time Academy award nominee John Logan. The elements are all there, the history speaks for itself, and the plot of a James Bond film writes itself. This could easily have been another "going through the motions with modern updates" Bond film like I found Quantum of Solace to be. Which is why I found Skyfall to be refreshingly different and yet the same, which makes Skyfall brilliant.

What I like about Skyfall is that it's an almost completely new approach to Bond whilst still looking over its shoulder at its history and making more than one less than obvious nod towards its past. James Bond has a mid-life crisis, and for a character that's been on screen for 50 years and played by 6 different actors, it's about time. But that's not the only difference here. There's twists abound and expectations that are played with and flipped constantly. Bond is not almighty. For once, Bond is vulnerable and is fighting a losing battle more so than ever before. Admittedly, he weakened in Casino Royale over Vesper Lynd, but this isn't an emotional, optional weakening in Skyfall, this is a man whose body is finally letting him down, whose mind is spent after years of ruthless killing. whose soul is finally carrying the weight of his actions. It makes for an interesting view, and gives Daniel Craig a fantastic storyline for the 2nd time out of his 3 Bond films, and as Meatloaf once said, 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

That's all fine and well, but it's the nods to Bond history which really grabbed me and got me going in Skyfall. To escape Raoul Silva, Bond and M use an Aston Martin DB5. The original Bond car, and the most recognisable. The silver paint job, the ejector seat button in the gear stick, even the original license plates; they're all here, and there's no subtlety to the nod towards Bonds of days gone by. Skyfall is an odd mix, however, of looking back and looking forwards. By the end of Skyfall, almost all of the traits of Bond films previous, even Daniel Craig's previous Bond films, have been erased and replaced with something or someone new, acting like a franchise relaunch whilst under the same actor, something which is unheard of within the Bond franchise. It seems they're either growing bored with what they had already, or they were unsure of what seemed to be a winning formula. Either way, Bond 24 promises to be a very different affair once again. A constantly evolving franchise seems to be evolving at a quicker pace now more than ever, and whether fans will keep on buying into it remains to be seen. And I still don't like the gun barrel shot being placed at the end of the film instead of at the start.

For all that can be said of how well Skyfall's written and how well it acts as a piece of Bond celebration, it still needs top quality actors to pull off the task at hand. Although Daniel Craig's performance as an unsteady Bond is good, it still doesn't seem as if he leaves second gear with it. There's a line between cool, cocky arrogance and unconvincing boredom and Craig contiually crosses that line with his dialogue delivery. As much as the moment where he jumps into a train as the rear is torn off and adjusts his cuff is undeniably cool, it's all pretty standard. There's nothing overly spectacular about the stunts or fight sequences, it is all now standard Bond, there's not much more you can do without making Bond a parkour expert... Oh wait, did Quantum of Solace touch on that? Forget that then, just enjoy for what he is and what he stands for, British triumph in the face of the rest of the world. Yay Britain! If Daniel Craig stays in second gear throughout this film, then Javier Bardem drives the perfect race, starting slow before shifting up into fifth, and then sixth gear by the conclusion. He excels in his role as the villain, with Heath Ledger's Joker coming to mind as having the same kind of on-screen presence and mentality. Clever and calculating yet absolutely batshit crazy. Perfect in my eyes. And what about Judi Dench? Incredible, as always. What's to say about Dame Judi that hasn't already been said?

Overall, Skyfall was hugely entertaining. It's a long film, sometimes unnecessarily so, and it drags from time to time, but it's most definitely a worthwhile watch. It definitely seemed as if they had one eye on what Casino Royale did right in order to recreate it and make Skyfall as enjoyable as it is, which makes Skyfall feel like it could have been the first in a new series of films, or at least the last in an old series which this almost certainly is given the amount of change that takes place in Skyfall, setting up Bond for an entirely new set of adventures in time to come. Even the song captures the right mood, Adele was the perfect choice, given she's the most popular artist on the planet right now (sorry, Psy) and can deliver that Bassey-esque Bond theme that is a signature of the series and something that's been severely lacking for years now. Skyfall isn't my favourite Bond film, but it's better than most, and a huge step beyond Quantum of Solace, which is what it needed to be first and foremost. The most impressive thing about Skyfall though? It doesn't only make, but keeps, Bond relevant. Bond is back in a big way, and it looks like he's here to stay for a while yet.

Rating: ****1/2