After all the hype, the ridiculous sponsorship deals and marketing machine I finally got around to watching Skyfall today.
And they’ve really pulled a great movie out of the bag to mark the world’s favourite spy’s 50th anniversary.
Daniel Craig’s third outing is a return to the form showed in Casino Royale after the massively disappointing Quantum of Solace.
It all kicks off in Turkey with Bond on assignment to steal back a hard drive containing a list of all NATO agents embedded in terrorist organisations. During a thrilling pre-credit chase sequence Bond attempts to get the drive back, however, the agent Bond is working with, Eve (Naomie Harris) is advised by M (Judi Dench) to take a shot at the suspect despite not having a clear shot. Eve shoots, hitting Bond who falls from a bridge, and believed to be dead.
Bond uses his death to retire from the world of espionage and spends his time shagging and drinking on a beach. However, MI6 is hacked into and hit by a terrorist attack, putting pressure on M from government official Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), and appears to be personally targeted by the mysterious terrorist.
This prompts Bond to come back to the fold, but he has to deal with being out of his depth in the increasingly technological world and also slightly out of shape and past his prime.
Bond begins to investigate and begins to close in on the deranged Silva (Javier Bardem), a ruthless, highly intelligent killer who has some kind of history with M.
What is Silva’s plan? What exactly is his connection with M? And is Bond up to the challenge?
I won’t discuss any more of the plot as I don’t want to give away any spoilers so let’s get down to what I thought about the movie.
I loved it.
I’ve always been a massive Bond fan and while it took a while for me to come round to Craig as 007, I now feel that while he’s still not my personal favourite (that’s Moore, the Bond I grew up with and I love the campy vibe) he’s probably the most convincing, effortlessly cool and smooth, you can fully understand how he gets all the girls. But he also carries himself in a manner that suggests that he’s able to handle himself, there’s this kind of brutish intensity to Craig which makes him more of a physical presence than previous Bonds and a laid back, casual savagery during the action sequences that suits the character’s cold blooded side.
He also does a phenomenal job conveying Bond’s flaws and disillusionment with his life as an agent, there’s a cynical edge to the character and an interior conflict between jaded experience and his loyalty and dedication to country and most importantly, M. More than any previous installment in the series this movie explores Bond’s character and background, while still remaining true to the character. There’s a sense that the drinking, women and quips are a cover for a kind of emotional fragility and tiredness. There’s only one true Bond quip and its delivered in a way that implies he says it to try and show he doesn’t care where he clearly does.
Central to the film is Bond’s relationship with M, which connects him to Silva. Dench is superb as the head of MI6, under pressure from outside forces who seem to want to push her aside and a sense that the decisions she makes weigh heavily on her. Dench makes M an engagingly tough old woman who holds her own throughout and she and Craig manage to capture a relationship where they clash at times but seems grounded in mutual respect and even affection.
Their relationship is key to the plot, and is reflected in Javier Bardem’s Silva, and his connections with M. Bardem is phenomenal and creates one of the best Bond villains, an oddly charismatic and chillingly ruthless psychopath, with an odd camp streak to the character.
His entrance scene is a masterstroke, with Bardem grabbing the audience’s attention and holding it every time he appears on screen. He appears to be like a dark, warped reflection of Bond, the two sharing the same mother figure in “M” but with circumstances making them very different men. This is reflected in the opening credits, which is visually stunning as usual, but also manages to reflect the film’s plot and themes, including when Bond’s shadow morphs into Silva.
Silva might not have Bond’s physical power but his ruthless efficiency ensures that he’s a believable threat and decent match for our hero.
The rest of the cast does well, especially Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, the government bureaucrat who may be more than he seems and Ben Whishaw as the new Q, a fresh faced geek who ties in with the theme of changing times and works well with Craig.
The thing that makes this film work is that it mixes the traditional Bond conventions with a more grown up, character focused piece. All the boxes are ticked and the plot is fairly simple, but there’s more exploration into the character’s motivations and relationships, which makes it more engaging emotionally than most Bond flicks. Director Sam Mendes gets the tone exactly right, the brooding never slips into moping and the action sequences are visually stunning, particularly the fantastic opening chase that escalates and builds to a gripping climax.
The film’s final battle marks a departure from traditional Bond, with Bond setting up a booby-trapped fortress to try and hold off the bad guys. There’s a tense, claustrophobic feeling to the fight and its a sequence filled with Bond showing off ingenuity and toughness as he makes his stand, the kind of situation that we’re not used to seeing the character involved in.
All in all its a massively successful chapter in the franchise and definitely one of the stronger Bond movies.
Verdict: A wonderfully crafted and brilliantly entertaining film. Bond is back in some style, in a more mature, unique way, and it benefits from brilliant performances especially from Craig and Bardem. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.