Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem
A ghostly, almost alien figure, stalks into focus, revealing a suited and booted Daniel Craig – hunting.
And relax. After the letdown of Quantum of Solace, the opening sequence of Skyfall – essentially a prolonged motorbike/train/digger chase scene – leaves no doubt that Bond is back and means business. 007 couldn't be in safer hands, with the expert direction of Mendes, striking imagery of cinematographer Roger Deakins, and a sensational supporting cast, surrounding a revitalised Craig as – yes, let's call it – the greatest James Bond ever. Here's a trailer.
Now listen carefully Bond. What we have here is a pitch perfect mash-up of the key elements of the franchise – exotic locations (and Scotland), beautiful women, ludicrous action – with a maturity and pathos to the character and the world, largely unexplored in the history of the franchise. Here is the intelligent, brutal spy of the early Connery films, License to Kill and OHMSS, thankfully with none of the Moore-era's heavy-handed tomfoolery and innuendo (one cannot imagine Craig yelling like Tarzan or hiding in a crocodile submarine). This is classic Bond of the highest order.
However, as Adele's already iconic score (and very Bondian credits) come to a close, we are faced with a Bond who is out of shape, older and increasingly out of touch, chasing after the stolen details of every undercover MI6 agent. Much of the film explores the idea of where he fits in the modern world, with the new Q (Ben Whishaw) mocking Bond's shock at merely receiving a gun and radio with "What were you expecting, an exploding pen? We don't do that anymore." It is this playfulness with Bond's sacred cows, and the nodding winks to the canon, that will satisfy the fans, and should serve to win over people previously left cold by his exploits.
M is given far more to do here, as the wonderful Judi Dench is thrown very much into the thick of the action, and in fact plays a central role in the unfolding drama. We also get our first truly diabolical nemesis in many years in the form of Javier Bardem's Silva, an uber-computer hacker with a very personal vendetta against MI6 and, importantly, it's director M. Silva is very reminiscent of Heath Ledger's Joker, and in many ways Skyfall is heavily indebted to Nolan's Batman trilogy, but crucially never feels derivative. Even the final "Home Alone" act, going very personal instead of world-at-risk spectacle, is totally satisfying and far more thrilling than laser beams and ticking time bombs.
Skyfall is not a formulaic Bond film, but is more a bold and brave dissection of Bond and his world, maintaining all the vital elements, while setting up 007 nicely for the next 50 years. Bond will return.