Celebrating his 50th cinematic year, Bond has never seemed so alive, with director Sam Mendes injecting raw steel and depth to the franchise. Skyfall is a joyous two and a half hours of entertainment, ambitious and unrelenting, completely James Bond but even with 22 predecessors, it still manages to feel surprising.
Skyfall is certainly more of a follow up to Casino Royale than the (somewhat harshly) maligned Quantum of Solace, the latter providing a completely passable action thriller but altogether an unremarkable footnote, without a great deal in the way of memorability. Skyfall reminds us that there is indeed plenty to distinguish Daniel Craig’s Bond from the masses of modern action heroes and he does a really good job of not only embodying Bond, but taking on a character. It’s already a cliched comparison but nevertheless it’s one you can’t get away from – while Nolan’s Batman added layers to its hero beyond his superficial cape, there’s something tangible about Craig’s performance. Without ever losing the character’s necessary sternness or strength, there are small glimpses of a man underneath the hero, something fractured and Skyfall makes an effort to delicately stir these curiosities while simultaneously providing heart racing action, without crawling into sentimentality (let’s face it, no one really wants an ’emo Bond’). It doesn’t all work perfectly, most notably the Oedipal tension between Bond and Judi Dench’s M, but more than enough of it does.
Skyfall forgoes the cliched rogue state/mysterious organisation trope and instead harnesses the post-globalisation threat of the individual without lazily writing a hackneyed post-9/11 terror plot. From the opening, the tension is electric, with an absolutely breathtaking pre-credit action sequence as Bond grapels with a French mercenary on top of a train, who has just killed an MI6 agent and in possession of a crucial hard drive. Although such dramatic heights are not maintained for the entire film, its plot is engaging as M’s past catches up with her and Javier Barden’s villainous intentions (and justifications) become apparent. Dench plays a much larger role than she has previously and overall the film is grateful for it, while Barden’s comedic-evil performance undoubtedly owes a debt to earlier films while staying on the right side of feeling genuinely sinister. The film’s final action sequence feels slightly anti-climatic and there are moments where a bit of brevity may have been helpful but it ties up feeling completely satisfying. Skyfall places Bond back to his most debonair and dangerous and the cinemas are a much better place for it.
Review by David Rank
Skyfall is out now in the UK and out on 8th November in the US. Certificate 12A (UK). Running time 143 mins.
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