If not an outright apology for Quantum of Solace, Skyfall is certainly an acknowledgement of the previous outing’s failures. Realizing the error of its ways, the franchise strips away the convoluted plot of that film for a gracefully simple one, bringing Daniel Craig’s rough-and-readiness first discovered in Casino Royale back to the forefront in all the right ways while upping the classiness Bond has been known for in the past. Brimming with palpable tension throughout, Skyfall is a grown up blockbuster more pre-occupied with its characters than its action though certainly not forgetting the importance of the latter. This ain’t your daddy’s Bond but it’s one he can fully get on-board with.
When on a mission to retrieve a stolen hard drive containing a list of all the MI6 agents currently working in terrorist organizations all over the world, Bond is accidentally gunned down and presumed dead. However, when there’s an attack on MI6 in London, 007 returns to help stop a formidable foe with a familiar face.
Under the direction of Sam Mendes, an inspired choice of director for a franchise if ever there was one, Skyfall is exciting, taut and meaningful all in one, managing to deal with weighty themes – including home-grown terrorism and enemies no longer being nations on a map but individuals – without feeling preachy or heavy-handed. It takes its time but not so much as to be boring, knowing precisely when to ramp everything up to 11. From its spectacular opening motorbike chase sequence (that leaves this year’s The Bourne Legacy in the dust) to the perfectly melancholic theme by Adele to its elaborate yet somehow still plausible finale, this is a truly impressive effort on all fronts from a franchise now half a century old.
Outwith Craig, strong as ever in the iconic role, and the always reliable Dame Judi Dench as M, the cast is made up of a host of first-class actors ranging from Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney and Ben Wishaw to Naomie Harris, new Bond girl Berenice Marlohe and, of course, Javier Bardem as the ominous villain Silva. It’s a good 45 minutes (at least) before Bardem even shows up and yet his presence is felt even before that. Much is said about the fear he instills and when he finally does show up, making quite the entrance, he does not disappoint. Bardem’s creepy demeanour (comparisons with Heath Ledger’s Joker would not be unjust) complete with dyed blonde hair, matching suit, blackened eyes and peculiar voice makes him a distinctive, memorable villain that adds something a little bit different to the mix. Bardem is the stand-out in a cast without a weak link to be found.
If Quantum of Solace instilled worries that the franchise was on shaky ground then Skyfall is a reassuring case of course correction. Even if you’re not the biggest Bond fan in the world this is still hugely enjoyable, providing some of the best action sequences of the year and one of the most handsome-looking movies thanks to the ever-brilliant cinematographer Roger Deakins. Hardcore Bond fans will also find plenty to relish here with a film that’s wholly respectful of what’s come before while realizing we, and Bond, now live in a different world.
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