Review: Skyfall

2012 marks the fiftieth year of super spy James Bond’s appearance on the glittering big screen. In that time the suave secret agent has helped evolve and shape the big brash action movie, making a star of grumpy Scotsman Sean Connery. As swift as Bond’s rise was his fall into camp parody with a raise of Roger Moore’s ridiculous eyebrow. He then turned serious and sullen with a serious and sullen Timothy Dalton, experienced a renaissance under the Irish charm of Pierce Brosnan, and finally a radical reboot and reinvention with latest incarnation, the ice-cold Daniel Craig (Oh, and an Aussie played him too, but you know, who cares). Somehow 007 has managed to stand the test of time and remain relevant while everything around him has changed. Or has he? Does Skyfall prove he still was it takes in the face of stiff competition from your Bournes and Batmans? Read on and find out.

Skyfall opens with Bond chasing down a stolen hard drive containing the names and identities of every agent working undercover in major terrorist organisations. In a last ditch attempt to regain the hard drive, 007 is shot, and presumed killed, by fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) after a direct order from M (Dame Judi Dench). Of course, he isn’t killed but the betrayal leaves him shaken. Drinking himself to oblivion on an unnamed Asian island, Bond is only stirred back to action when hearing of an attack upon M and MI6 HQ. Suffering physically from the gunshot and wracked with doubt, Bond is put back on active duty, much against the wishes of everyone except M. Does he still have what it takes to hunt down face the terrorist threat that has a very personal grudge against the head of MI6? What do you think?

I have something to admit. I wasn’t a big fan of either Casino Royale or Quantum Of Solace when I first saw them. I found Casino Royale overly long with a very saggy middle, and Quantum Of Solace was often times a confusing mess. That said, on subsequent viewings I grown to appreciate what each film was trying to do with the character. Skyfall takes that ball and continues to run with it. Director Sam Mendes claimed there was no link between Skyfall and the previously mentioned films, but I think he’s playing foolies. There are some neat little pay-offs for those who’ve paid attention to the rebooted series, certain things that give you an insight to what motivates Bond, helping to round the character in a way that’s never been done before. It grounds him, but he’s still not exactly relatable. Another thing I must touch on is the eery similarity between Skyfall and summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Mendes has said in interviews he was heavily influenced by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, and it shows. I shan’t point out everything they share for fear of spoilers, suffice to say themes of resurrection and redemption hang heavy in both films.

So, let’s get to it – Skyfall, is it any good? The answer is a resounding YES. The opening pre-credit sequence alone (motorbikes racing across rooftops in Istanbul) blows away the similar, but not half as exciting, finale of The Bourne Legacy. There are assassinations, fistfights in neon lit skyscrapers, Komodo dragons, chases through London’s labyrinthine underground tunnels, and more explosions than you can shake a really big stick at. It harks back the outrageous scale of the earlier Bonds but maintains the edginess and cool of the most recent entries. It’s to Mendes’ credit that he manages this fine balancing act, paying respect to but dwelling on past glories in the franchise while keeping the series fresh and exciting.

Speaking of fresh and exciting – Javier Bardem’s Silva is the best villain the films have seen in many many years. A creepy and deviant menace, Silva isn’t out for world domination. That’s too easy. He wants revenge on M, and he wants to do it personally and the most public way possible. As for the other characters, Ben Whishaw brings a new dynamic to the old Bond/Quartermaster relationship as the new Q. Naomie Harris’ Eve is calm and capable, flirting with but never falling for Bond’s charms. Bérénice Marlohe is memorable in her relatively brief appearance as Séverine. But it’s Dame Judi Dench’s M that is the main focus of the story as she and Bond deal with the sins of her past.

Skyfall is a fantastic entry into the 007 franchise. Is it the best Bond film ever? Quite possibly. It thrills, shocks, excites, and delights in equal measure. There have been many pretenders to Bond’s throne down the years. Heck, we’ve seen a few in the past twelve months – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Bourne Legacy – but the truth is that none of them come close. This simple fact is, when it comes to outrageous stunts and ridiculous action, nobody does it better.

Skyfall is out now in the UK and open in the US on 9th November.

More Reviews:

Dredd

The Bourne Legacy

Lifeforce

The Dark Knight Rises

The Amazing Spider-Man

Prometheus

The Grey

Iron Sky

The Avengers (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble)

Ghost Rider – Spirit Of Vengeance

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Drive

Haywire

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Melancholia

Coriolanus

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

The Parallax View

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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