DIR: Sam Mendes • WRI: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan • PRO: Barbara Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson • DOP: Roger Deakins • ED: Stuart Baird • DES: Dennis Gassner • CAST: Daniel Craig, Helen McCrory, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes
There has been a pendulum swing over the decades between thinking of the Bond character as a snooty, upper-class, smarmy fool or as an all-out, guns-blazing action figure. Dividing opinions claim a type of Bond as the best – that the character is at his finest while snarkily delivering cheesy one-liners before incredulously surviving ridiculous scenarios, or that he represents everything that is great about action movies and British international espionage. So, which camp does Skyfall fit into, in this long tradition of opposing Bonds? In fact, and perhaps for the first time, it fits neatly and perfectly into both.
Daniel Craig has finally nailed the character of James Bond, releasing the franchise from its ill-fated determination to stand in the same battle-ground as Jason Bourne and Ethan Hunt. Gone are the impeding narrative restrictions, the over-use of parkour and too-realistic pain threshold have likewise fallen by the wayside, and romantic entanglements have lost their morose edge…Bond has re-emerged as a 21st century spy with a timeless allure. All of the character’s defining characteristics are present – from the cheese to the action, and everything in between. Daniel Craig was born to play this Bond, in this film, at this time.
It’s a Michael Corleone moment for Bond, as he is pulled back into a decidedly messy MI6 operation under the watchful, and distrustful, eye of Judi Dench’s M. Things are rapidly changing for the spy-makers who face a world headed by hyper-bureaucrat Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) that needs to be convinced of their usefulness – where the only proof of their necessity can be terrorism and attack. Enter Javier Bardem as probably the best Bond villain of all time – sly, ridiculous, sinister, hilarious, terrifying…he embodies everything that a true Bond nemesis should always be, while placing him firmly in the here and now. Playing a perfect foil for this new direction of the Bond franchise, he sets a sky-high bar of performance for anyone else who might dare take on the mantel. Bond’s other dealings with a shape-shifting bureaucratic centre in London, and his typically globe-trotting assignments, are loosely tied down by the new ‘Q’, played with British aplomb by an endearingly cuddly Ben Whishaw.
Keeping the sexual explicitness to a minimum, and so holding onto that 12A rating, Bond nonetheless never holds back on action, excitement – and even fear. The fast pace and explosive scenarios are brought together seamlessly and fluidly by Sam Mendes’ expert direction, and will bear rewatch after rewatch. To say that this is the best Bond movie yet might seem hyperbolic – or even a tad premature – but the cinema was nothing less than electric by film end, cheering and calling for more. Skyfall manages what no other Bond has managed, bringing together the separate, (and what often seemed mutually exclusive) facets of the complex character into a unified James Bond, who can only get better. With everything so right and so perfect, from Adele’s booming voice to the final boom, it would not be fair to say anything but that this is, indeed, the very best Bond outing ever!
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012