Check out our review of Daniel Craig’s return to duty in Skyfall.

For over 40 years the 007 films were never really about Bond, occasionally a personal detail would emerge, License to Kill cannily tied its revenge plot into Bond’s distant (real time wise anyway) past but just as an unexamined parallel.

With Daniel Craig and Casino Royale that all changed – there was a concerted effort to explore what makes Bond tick. This continued into Quantum of Solace (so much so that the bad guy’s plot is almost inconsequential in this highly undervalued series entry) and carries on with the 23rd (official) Bond film but with a slight shift. This being the 50th anniversary of the film franchise Skyfall explores not just Bond’s character and history, but the Bond Series’ character and history.

References to the past abound; from the obvious (the fan favourite Aston Martin gets a couple of gags sure to please), the slightly more obscure (the palm print gun was briefly and just as pointlessly utilized in License to Kill) and the perhaps unintended (a remote Scottish Lodge reminded me, at least, of the hunting lodge in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale).
The film also plays out as if Craig has a lot more time under his belt than just the two adventures we have seen him on. It’s thoroughly preoccupied that Craig (and Judi Dench’s M) is past his prime in a way that, say, A View to a Kill never was even with Moore huffing his way up the Eiffel Tower.

Beginning in Istanbul (and doing more with ten minutes there than Taken 2 does in it’s entire running time) it establishes a gruff Craig and an ‘anything to get the job done’ Dench at slight odds whilst delivering a clean (critics of Quantum of Solace’s action sequences should be happy) fun, but not exactly pulse quickening, action aesthetic that carries throughout. One set piece, later in the film, is a work of art, a neon and shadow spectacle that delivers on the promise of having Roger Deakins as Director of Photography (expect to see his name in almost as many of the reviews as Director Sam Mendes).

It is quite some time before Javier Bardem enters the film and he is perhaps the strangest Bond villain since Christopher Walken. It’s a showy often camp performance, but Bardem has a quiet intensity that never lets it become cartoonish. Perhaps as a response to the previous film, the script works hard to make Bardem tie into the characters of Skyfall and forward the plot, Indeed everything seems keyed in to playing the themes of the movie, from the lighting on up (it’s no coincidence that the film starts with Craig in darkness) through the dialogue. Craig continues his excellent turn as the world’s least secret agent and Judi Dench really has a chance to shine with a story that involves more than her just grimly giving orders.

There is some slack. A little of the plotting is sloppy (it relies a touch too much on ‘magic computers’), a confrontation with a Komodo Dragon seems out of place and the ending works on a thematic level (very well) but lacks a bit of punch. It’s also fairly backwards looking, a musical sting accompanying the Aston Martin seems a little like patting itself on the back instead of getting on with the job and slightly oddly the whole thing functions as a Bond Begins Again. Again. With things such as the return of Q (splendidly played by Ben Whishaw) and a slightly more quippy Bond it’s a moving of the franchise into what many may think is it’s classic position.

Reviewer: David Smith

Rating: 4/5

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