The 23rd instalment to the longest running movie franchise ever, released fifty years after the first Bond movie Dr. No, Skyfall was always going to be a hot topic. I think that titles such as “the best Bond film ever” are dubious and gimmick, but – regardless of my personal favourite, From Russia With Love) – Skyfall is unquestionably a pièce de résistance action caper, and probably the most bang-for-your-buck blockbuster you’ll see all year.
It would be unjust to dissect Skyfall‘s twisty plot. What I will say is that the film’s script, from Bond regulars Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Hollywood heavyweight John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Noah), is the best, most tautly compacted of the entire franchise; with themes of identity and belonging, existential crisis and the Oediupus complex. Far from a Freudian trip to the movies, these heavy themes never hang on your enjoyment of the movie, instead they are explored with fitting pace over a surprisingly zippy two and a half hours.
Following 2008’s underwhelming and overly complex Quantum of Solace, Daniel Craig returns as a gnarled 007 amidst a time of crisis at the MI6 – there’s a psychotic web terrorist on the loose (played by Javier Bardem), with a personal vendetta against Bond’s matriarchal employer M (Judi Dench). With proverbial skeletons thrown out of the closet, Bond jets off on an international trip to hunt down the henchman in hiding, with a few death-defying scrapes and philandering escapades along the way.
For a film of such grandieur, I assume it’s always the director’s job to be attentative to all the talented creatives working on and off set, whilst also having a clear vision of the final product. Sam Mendes does an absolutely fantastic job at managing to assemble many impressive component parts. First, there’s Mr…Bond (James Bond), Daniel Craig himself. Three movies in, he might look a tad uncomfortable running across London with biceps bulging out of his fitted suit, but he finally embodies the multifaceted role, and all the fun that goes with it. He’s perhaps even the most perfected Bond to date, equally rough as he is smooth, whilst being both funny, menacing and ultimately as flawed as Ian Fleming’s original secret agent. The supporting cast really have a space to shine here too, particularly Judi Dench in her seventh stint as M and new Q on the block Ben Whishaw. The pair are a mixture of old and new which is the crux of this series continuous success. The token Bond girls, Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe are as fiesty and independently ballsy as one would hope.
Still with the onscreen performances, Skyfall’s most humorously brilliant ingredient is also it’s most terrifying. Javier Bardem is nothing short of perfect as the wise-cracking, sociopathic villain Silva. Adorning a blonde wig, a miscellaneously European accent, camp swagger and a devilish handsome grin, Bardem owns the role and ultimately owns the film.
But Skyfall would be nothing without it’s grafting handymen. Adele’s signature tune is suave and sassy, Stuart Baird’s editing turns the movie from action to edge of your seat thriller and, if one had to call out Skyfall’s biggest star, it’s the cinematography of the Coen Brothers’ regular DP Roger Deakins. His framing is truly masterful. From the futurist, borderline Bladerunner framing of Shanghai’s skyline to the juxtaposing barren beauty of the Scottish highlands, it’s a constantly majestic picture; matched perfectly with Thomas Newman’s fanciful original score that recalls GoldenEye level of sonic brilliance.
This will allegedly be Sam Mendes first and last time at the helm of the Bond franchise. The British filmmaker and self-proclaimed Bond obsessive has reinvigorated the ever-evolving franchise, creating a movie which feels lovingly crafted from the components of Bond film’s gone by, whilst also being also remarkably transcendental and unique. It might not be the absolute best but, fifty years on from the first in EON’s franchise, yet another James Bond movie is a ferocious, compelling and exciting prospect. Skyfall is a truly visionary instalment to the heritage series, but this is just the beginning.