by Tom Norton
It’s been 50 years since Ian Fleming’s debonair, Walther – wielding secret agent strode purposefully on to our cinema screens, and while the faces, gadgets and girls have changed- the film world’s appreciation for the James Bond franchise remains as unwavering as Daniel Craig’s own icy killer stare.
Thus, following a slightly disappointing last outing for 007 in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, the pressure was on for the Sam Mendes’ directed Skyfall to deliver…and deliver it most certainly does.
If there were still any question marks hovering over Daniel Craig’s suitability as MI6’s finest tuxedo championing killer, Skyfall puts these to bed in resounding fashion. From the outset we are presented with a Bond, battered and broken, and few are better than Craig at reproducing a man -wounded and disillusioned – yet still shaped by 007’s inherent resilience, the cast iron will to do whatever it takes.
Conversely in the villain of the piece ‘Silva’, Javier Bardem characterises perhaps one of the most disturbing, terrifying and oddly likeable Bond villains ever. An intriguing mix of campness and charm, sinisterly fused with insanity and menace. Silva is driven by more humanising evil, shaped by events and a betrayal that even Bond himself can associate.
Of the well rounded trio of ‘Bond Girls’ Skyfall has on offer, it is Judi Dench’s ‘M’ who’s placed centre stage. While outwardly exhibiting the same fiercely patriotic and uncompromising traits prevalent in her character in years gone by, we are privy to the briefest glimpses of her maternal side, a matriarchal figure who may care a little more about her agents than she lets on. All while never straying far from the iron lady who once told Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in Goldeneye: “If you don’t think I’ve got the balls to send a man out to die Bond, you’re very much mistaken”
Where Quantum of Solace failed in finding the balance between action and suspense, thoughtfulness and intrigue, Skyfall succeeds. The action scenes are gripping, sumptuously shot and never threaten to fall into the farcical; a crime in which many a Bond film has found itself guilty.
Though the locations are fantastically chosen, ranging from the sky scraping decadence of Shanghai, to the bleak backdrop of the Scottish moors, it is the pointed, prominent focus on London that is to Skyfall’s credit. Ensuring the film carries an unshakably British feel that has been absent in so many other recent ventures.
Where Skyfall stumbles however, is its finish. While the plot for the majority of the film is engaging, rich and all that we’ve come to love and expect from Bond, the pace dwindles in the last quarter. The ‘Bond feel’ – inescapable and palpable throughout – releases its hold slightly, in favour of a more basic, pedestrian finale.
Despite these brief shortcomings however, Skyfall can be considered a resounding triumph. Spectacularly shot, superbly performed, and whilst title of ‘Best Bond Ever’ may arguably be undeserved, it’s certain to leave even the staunchest of Bond aficionados decently shaken and perfectly stirred.