After a run of sub par Brosnan adventures, Casino Royale was a breath of revitalizing air for the ailing Bond franchise. Though 2008’s shaky Quantum of Solace may have been a step backwards, Skyfall grabs hold of Bond’s tuxedo and drags him firmly into the 21st century. Skyfall retains the more sombre feeling of Casino Royale while keeping an eye on the franchise’s past. It also plays upon contemporary fears such as terrorism, data theft and even a government enquiry making Skyfall a thoroughly modern spy flick.
After an emotionally charged opening sequence in Istanbul, Bond is left in a fragile mental state. Important data winds up in the hands of an unknown villain – an event that leads to globetrotting trips to Shanghai and Macau. The action also hits the heart of Bond’s world. London itself is threatened with MI6 bombed and M finding herself under Whitehall scrutiny from minister Gareth Mallory, played with multifaceted inscrutability by a fantastic Ralph Fiennes.
Daniel Craig slips back into Bond’s impeccable leather shoes with aplomb. Craig interactions with the cast – particularly a sublime Judi Dench – are snappy and terse, reflecting his more taciturn take on Bond. Stealing the show, however, is the shockingly couiffered villain Silva. Javier Bardem infuses him with a campness that belies the character’s considerable menace and the interplay between him and Craig crackles with exciting chemistry.
For all of Skyfall’s modern trappings, the film does keep an eye on the franchises’ past. All the classic Bond elements are present and correct, and the sight of a silver Aston Martin DB5 is enough to illicit fan girlish giggles and nostalgia.
Expertly lensed by cinematographer Roger Deakins (who was robbed at the Oscars this year), Skyfall is an artier affair than previous Bonds. A stunning hall of mirrors sequence in a Shanghai skyscraper, including an almost balletic shadow soaked fight scene, lit only by the occasional muzzle flash, impresses most of all.
It definitely isn’t perfect though. The point that Bond is getting on a bit is laboured quite heavily; Bérénice Marlohe’s Sévérine exists purely for Bond to make a callous wisecrack and there’s some really shoddy CGI that is quite distracting.
Ultimately though, the action set pieces satisfy – especially a London Underground set foot chase – and the film offers new emotional depths to iconic spy. A more character-driven story than previous Bonds, Skyfall is a triumph and an excellent celebration of Bonds 50 years on screen.