On his 50th anniversary James Bond returns in Skyfall and, with the help of some new faces, breaths fresh life into the franchise. We find MI6 on shaky ground and having taken a bullet on duty in Istanbul, Bond (Daniel Craig on his third outing) is far from full strength. What’s more a mysterious cyber terrorist by the name of Silva (Javier Bardem) is threatening to release the identities of a large number of undercover operatives working in the field. Bond must battle his ailing body but also obsoletion as he faces this new-age foe.
In Silva we are treated to the best Bond villain in years, with Javier Bardem taking the current Bad-Guy trend of chaotic mega-anarchists and adding a sort of camp twist. Alongside Bardem the great Ralph Fiennes and relative newcomer Ben Whishaw (as Q) add plenty of class to the supporting roles but it’s on the other side of the camera that the greatest progress has happened. Surely the most accomplished director to have taken on the job, Sam Mendes takes a shot at The Blockbuster and nails it. Borrowing Brad Bird’s earnest humour and Christopher Nolan’s keen eye for architecture he manages to deliver a Bond which feels both singular and timeless. It’s all there; the Walter PPK; the DB9; The car chase through exploding fruit stalls; his strokes may seem broad but Mendes lashes them on with such a degree of skill it’s hard to complain, and why would you, it’s just too fun.
The film can prove a tad overbearing at times as it basks in Britain’s post Olympics euphoria and at 145 mins it’s probably a touch too long, but by sniggering at recent over-complications and relishing in the old clichés, Sam Mendes has made a Bond which will delight the diehards and excite the rest of us in equal measures.
Skyfall | Directed by Sam Mendes (UK 2012). With Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and Judi Dench. Starts November 1