To badly paraphrase any number of Bond villains, ‘Ahhh Mr Bond, after four years, we’ve been expecting you…’ And it has been a long four years, during which at one point it was even suggested that Daniel Craig’s future as Bond was in doubt. As ever the fear was whether this new 007 entry would turn out to be Moonraker manky or Goldfinger gold?
But the four years have clearly been used well to reflect on what previously worked and what didn’t. What could have been seen as a slightly left field choice in hiring Sam Mendes as director has turned out to be an absolutely inspired one, because ‘Skyfall’ is without doubt one of the best ever Bonds.
The opening sequence and its conclusion compliments Adele’s theme tune superbly before we’re bought back to London where Judi Dench’s, ‘M’, finds a disastrous operation has compromised both MI6 and the lives of its field agents. It leaves her authority openly challenged by Mallory ((Ralph Fiennes) the new Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. With Bond as her only ally, she uncovers a trail leading to the mysterious yet clearly psychotic Silva (Javier Bardem. )
Mendes has secured two key collaborators whose contribution to the success of Skyfall is undeniable. Most significantly is the addition of the Academy Award winning screenwriter John Logan who has raised the story several notches above many of the previous entries in the series. With fewer but really good one liners the script has notably more dramatic scenes and the overtly heterosexual agent’s first encounter with Silva is memorable for making Bond squirm with its homosexual undertones. Bardem relishes each line, loading it with unhinged menace. As a nod to the longevity of the series the script makes regular references to age and how Bond may be getting too long in the tooth for a field agent. In many ways the film is a new chapter in the franchise with the end of daft gadgets and a symbolic destruction of the old.
Having collaborated with Mendes twice before, it was a no brainer that Roger Deakins, a nine-time Oscar nominated director of photography, would be appointed to bring his eye to lensing what is certainly the most beautifully lit Bond we’ve ever seen. Though the film is mostly set in London there is some striking imagery, whether it be M looking over the assembled coffins draped in the Union Jack, a stunning fight in a neon-lit office block, or an oriental Casino it all looks beautiful.
After the somewhat thuggish incarnation we saw of Bond in Quantum, Craig reins it back to give what is the most human and fallible interpretation seen in years. For once Bond really does come across as a human with all the frailties and emotions the rest of us have, and never more so than at the film’s climax. Credit must also be given to Javier Bardem, sporting a bizarre blonde quiff. He delivers a character that at times is redolent of Batman’s nemesis, The Joker as he casually kills with a smile.
All in all this is a cracking return to form and shows that in the right hands there are still years left in the franchise.
‘Mr Bond we will be expecting you again!’
Review by Simon Hooper