Complex and stylish
M, 2hr 35min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
Daniel Craig's first foray into Bond territory, Casino Royale, was praised for injecting some much-needed energy into the tired series
The knives came out for his second 007 adventure, Quantum of Solace, which lacked the spark of the previous film.
But for Craig's third film, Skyfall, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) has hit the right notes, crafting a complex, stylish film that maintains the archetypal Bond elements without falling into camp cliche.
But Bond fans need not worry, as there are in-jokes galore, along with beautiful girls, martinis (shaken not stirred, of course), stylised opening credits, a theme song (by Adele this time), an Aston Martin, and the reintroduction of familiar characters like Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw).
Starting off with a chase through a Turkish market, as well as a motorbike rooftop pursuit and a fist fight atop a moving train, the theatre-trained Mendes aptly displays some impressive action chops.
After suffering a near fatal injury, a battered Bond emerges to find MI6 under attack from a former operative-turned-cyber-terrorist (Javier Bardem), who is threatening to release the names of undercover agents on the internet.
Bardem's Raoul Silva is a classic Bond villain. Complete with a shock of blonde hair and physical deformity, he launches a physical and mental assault that pushes the unflappable Brit to his limits.
Classy performers like Ralph Fiennes, as terse bureaucrat Gareth Mallory, and Albert Finney, as shotgun-toting gamekeeper Kincade, will provide even the most Bond-averse film-goers with something to keep them interested.
Craig maintains the icy masculinity that has made him so popular with female film-goers but this is not the youthful Bond of Dr No fame. Craig's Bond is weathered and jaded. He has lived through torture, gunshot wounds and his tired body provides him with a vulnerability not seen in his predecessors.
Despite a bevy of beauties on display, the film's most touching relationship is between Bond and the matriarchal M (Judi Dench). For a hardened killer, the orphan Bond is clearly hurt when orders from M lead to a brush with death. But despite the betrayal, Bond's return to service has more to do with protecting his surrogate mother figure than his allegiance to the Queen and country.
Whether it's the bazaars of Turkey or the British countryside, a Bond film has rarely looked as good as Skyfall, which is a credit to the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins, who previously collaborated with Mendes on Revolutionary Road and Jarhead.
By intertwining the Bond legend with an intriguing, complex action-thriller plot, Mendes has created a film that will please fans and average film-goers alike.