It’s been a long four years. Ever since the Bourne-aping Quantum of Solace hit cinemas back in October 2008, the Bond franchise has been in a state of limbo, drifting from one problem (let’s face it, Quantum wasn’t great, was it?) to the next (MGM going into financial meltdown). But here we are, four years on, at the release of Skyfall. And it’s, fortunately, really good.
In fact, and this is a controversial – but popular anyway – statement - Skyfall, in my opinion at least, is the best Bond film in the franchise’s 50 year history. It’s not easy to compare it to a single Bond film, but it plays as a Sean Connery era Bond film would have been made today – there’s the modern elements of cyber-terrorism and leaks crossed with good old vintage elements like a camp, creepy villain with a weird disability (Javier Bardem is excellent as Silva – although that facial prosthetic removal was disturbing, to say the least) and the Aston Martin DB5 from days gone by.
Spoilers begin now.
As for performances, Daniel Craig remains an excellent Bond – there’s still the trademark hard-edged action man parts, but he gets a lot more to work with than in Quantum of Solace and arguably Casino Royale - mainly because this time, Bond is actually funny. Sitting in a packed cinema on opening day, plenty of Craig’s lines got plenty of laughs, with the ejector seat gag getting the most laughs. Naomie Harris provides a decent, if not stunning performance as none other than Miss Eve Moneypenny, and Berenice Marlohe is good, but under-used as the seductive, sultry, any word beginning with ‘s’ Severine – although her death was a little too early, to be honest. And undignified. It wasn’t the best way to go.
Ben Whishaw makes a great, and plausible, younger Q (even if he still has spots), and Ralph Fiennes is great as a slightly morally ambiguous government agent – although he comes good in the end and I’m definitely looking forward to Fiennes as M in Bond 24. But the real star of the film is Judi Dench, whose performance as M for the last time is easily her best of the seven Bond films she’s been in – she steals several scenes from under Craig’s nose, the highlight being her sharp, angry reaction to Bond’s return. I for one am sad to see her go – but at least she got a dignified and emotional death.
Sam Mendes’ able, and steady-handed (the shaky cam sequences from Quantum are history) direction proves that he can direct one heck of an action scene (the finale at Skyfall Lodge being a highlight) as well as compelling, affecting drama. Thanks to Roger Deakins‘ cinematography, Skyfall looks amazing in pretty much every scene too, especially the scenes set in China towards the middle of the film.
The ending manages to evoke Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises in one go (Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy is an obvious, but welcome influence throughout the film), with the cheeky and offhand reveal of Moneypenny – it’ll be interesting to see what the more capable Moneypenny can do – and the very last scene, that despite being the end of Skyfall, actually feels a lot more like the beginning of another film. 007 has returned, and Bond 24 can’t come soon enough.