It is not hard to imagine Academy award winning director and self-confessed Bond fan Sam Mendes playing a word game – not unlike the one Ian Fleming’s super-spy plays himself in Skyfall - when coming up with ideas for the 23rd installment of the 007 franchise. For what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the name James Bond? Exotic locales? Beautiful Bond women? High-octane action? Mendes has made sure to include all of the above and more, and the result is a near-perfect, quintessential Bond movie that honours all that came before it whilst continuing to evolve in new and exciting ways. Put simply, Bond is back, and he’s seldom been better.
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Skyfall wastes no time in plunging us straight into the action. We don’t even get the obligatory opening gun-barrel sequence (that’s saved for later) before we meet up with Bond (Daniel Craig) in Istanbul, hot on the trail of an operative who has stolen sensitive information. Unfortunately, events take a turn for the worse and soon countless undercover agents around the world are exposed and MI6 is attacked. An increasingly under pressure M (Judi Dench) turns to Bond who, aided by field agent Eve (Naomie Harris) follows a trail which leads to Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) whose true intentions have yet to reveal themselves.
There are so many elements that a director must juggle, particularly when it comes to a Bond film, but within the first ten minutes it is abundantly clear that Mendes was the right man for the job. The plot is fast-moving but never rushed, executed smartly with events not always playing out as you might expect. The auteur even makes sure to get the little things right, with the many homages to previous Bond movies guaranteed to bring about laughs.
The action – often accompanied by an emphatic, booming orchestral score from Thomas Newman – never wavers too far from the outstanding level set by the film’s opening sequence, but never quite surpasses it either. Nonetheless, there are a few high points, the most noteworthy of which is a beautifully shot melee under neon lights in Shanghai, and director of cinematography Roger Deakins deserves all the plaudits that will surely be granted him.
Once again, Daniel Craig proves why he is the perfect Bond for this era. Skyfall’s opening act is arguably some of the actor’s best ever work, and Craig has mastered the art of saying much without actually speaking. When Craig does speak, he is armed with a magnificent assortment of one-liners – the most by far in any of the recent Bond outings – and it is evident that the actor is enjoying himself.
The rest of the cast also benefit from the witty script. Bond’s first encounters with the camp, sadistic villain Silva – played exceptionally well by Bardem in a mesmerising performance – and Ben Quinshaw’s Q are delightful. Additionally, Bond’s relationship with Dench’s M adds a nice personal touch to the proceedings, and becomes one of Skyfall’s many highlights. Elsewhere, Harris has some fun interplay with Craig as fellow MI6 agent Eve, but Bérénice Marlohe’s femme fatale Sévérine is underused.
“Any Last Words?” Skyfall is not only the best Bond film of the Daniel Craig era, it is one of the best Bond films to date, period. Watch at your earliest convenience.
Skyfall is released in UK cinemas on October 26th, and in the U.S on November 9th. Check out the trailer below: