Release Date: 26th October 2012
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe
2012 has been an awkward year for those Britons, such as myself, who find patriotism troubling. Following the Queen’s jubilee and the Olympics, I had seen quite enough bunting to last me another hundred years. However with the 50th anniversary of James Bond and the release of Skyfall, there was finally something I could genuinely be patriotic about; and never would there have been a more fitting film to celebrate Bond’s anniversary than Skyfall. It’s already being touted as the ‘best Bond film ever’, and while that may be a bit premature, the film itself is quite extraordinary: a heady mix of the old and the new, Bond’s newest outing is one of the most entertaining -and certainly one of the most daring- additions to the franchise yet.
Skyfall completely ditches the plot that was developed in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and instead picks up later in his career for a completely new story. The film continually emphasises age: something that is explored through both Bond and Judi Dench’s ‘M’, but also has a more important resonance with the age of the franchise itself. James Bond has been going for 50 years: is it possible to make these films relevant, despite its age and outdated world view? The answer posed by Skyfall would be a triumphant ‘yes’. The film delicately balances tradition and silliness with a modern sensibility; gone is the unquestionable power of Britain as colonialist power, and Bond as untouchable hero. Instead, we have a Britain that is vulnerable to attack, with a hero that is initially presumed dead. It feels very different from any Bond film you’ve seen before. There are so many nods to other Bond films that it’s difficult to count: the reptile sequence from Live and Let Die, the hall of mirrors from The Man With the Golden Gun, and even the exploding pen from Goldeneye. The occasional light heartedness of its tone even harks back to the Roger Moore era, but at its heart it has a central premise that marks a genuine departure from the established formula.
Judi Dench’s M is elevated from minor supporting role to a fully fledged character and provides the emotional heart of the film; a welcome change for the franchise’s most important female character. It also grants us a greater understanding of the relationship between herself and Bond; one that has simultaneously been strained and the product of an unspoken mutual affection. Javier Bardem meanwhile is simply a delight to watch. His villain ‘Silva’ is subtly terrifying; played with all nuances that only an accomplished actor such as Bardem can fully achieve. He has less in common with other Bond villains as he does with Heath Ledger’s Joker, or Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lector. He’s also one of the first characters in the Bond franchise to ever successfully get underneath Bond’s skin; he questions his motivations, his loyalty, and even -in one memorable scene- his sexuality.
As if this wasn’t enough, you’ve also got the welcome return of ‘Q’ in the form of Ben Whishaw, who provides a lot of the film’s humour and has a great rapport with Craig. Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris also play pivotal roles, which cannot be revealed due to spoilers, but suffice to say Bond fans will be grinning from ear to ear by the end. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is also absolutely sublime, making this the most gorgeous Bond film to date, and even Adele’s slightly disappointing theme fits well in the context of the visually arresting opening credits. All in all, Skyfall is a film that deserves to be celebrated. James Bond will return, and even after 50 years, he’s still able to surprise us.