You know times are tough when a studio has trouble financing a James Bond film. Despite the financial successes of Casino Royale and The Quantum of Solace, MGM filed for bankruptcy in 2010 putting the brakes on any hopes for a new release in the series. Thankfully Bond wouldn’t stay dead and production started back up in 2011 when the studio was a lot more stable.
It was announced that Skyfall would be the 23rd film in the series and Daniel Craig would be returning for a release date that could mark the 50th anniversary since Dr No first graced our screens. After all this time though, does the movie world still need 007?
Like all Bond films, Skyfall hits the ground running, as James Bond (Daniel Craig) finds himself in Turkey chasing down the French mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace), who is in possession of a hard drive that contains the details of NATO agents working undercover. After a gruelling and frantic chase, Bond and Patrice fight on top of a train where they struggle to get one over on the other. A second agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), is ordered by M (Judi Dench) to “take the bloody shot” to take out Patrice, however she misses and sends Bond to his apparent watery grave.
With Bond believed dead and the hard drive missing, M finds herself under political pressure to retire during a meeting with the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). It doesn’t get much better for her as moments later she is forced to stand helpless and witness her office being blown to smithereens. Thankfully for her, Bond comes “back from the dead” to lend his assistance. Despite not being at 100%, he still throws himself back into the field and comes across Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a man with a personal grudge against M and who will make Bond reflect upon his own soul.
Daniel Craig’s Bond has had its fair share of criticism for not portraying classic elements associated with previous films. With Skyfall, the writers attempt to rectify that by given the fan boys what they want. For starters, Q returns in the form of Ben Wishaw who slots into the role left by John Cleese, and made famous by Desmond Llewelyn, with ease. We also have more one-liners form Bond and a welcome return of his most famous car.
Bardem excels as the villain and looks like he’s having the time of his life. Psychotic, vicious and even playful, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker, especially when Silva’s elaborate methodical plan unveils before our eyes.
Dench is ever reliable as the stone cold M, however in this film we see that mask crack a little and her emotions betray her. This is played wonderfully subtle by Dench who plays the character in a way that Margaret Thatcher would be scared to spill her pint.
Naomie Harris holds her own against Craig’s Bond and Fiennes is excellent as the bureaucratic Malloy, with hints that there is more to his character than another politician.
That just leaves Bond himself. Daniel Craig came under fire before he even stood in front of a camera, however he has worked hard to win over critics and audiences. His Bond may be more rugged and rough than his predecessors, however he is a product of the world that he now lives in.
After the initial pre-credits action chase, Skyfall takes a while to get going as director Sam Mendes slowly puts Bond back together. Once Silva enters the screen though, the film finds its footing and keeps us gripped, with a climax that doesn’t disappoint.
Is Skyfall the best Bond yet? What is will always be up for debate, but I’d have to say no in this case. It may not be the classic Bond film that people were hoping for, however the ending strongly hints that the next installment will be the film that maybe everyone thought this would be.
Regardless, it’s a great addition to the series and requires no previous knowledge of Bond to enjoy, though fans will appreciate all the references to the past 50 years. Highly recommended.