Skyfall *****

Directed By Sam Mendes

Starring -Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and, Albert Finney

BOND is back, with a swagger back in his walk and a welcome kick to his Vodka Martini’s, as Daniel Craig once again plays Britain’s finest secret agent for the third time in Skyfall, certificate 12A.The feature firmly puts to bed the disappointment of Bond’s previous adventure, Quantum Of Solace.

Gone is the action heavy feature, lacking a coherent and structured narrative and with it any mention of the mysterious terrorist group known as Quantum. The numerous problems that have hindered  the production of the 23rd Bond film have allowed the film’s producers to take stock of what had went wrong on the previous instalment and quickly rectify them.

In comes Oscar Winning director, Sam Mendes, bringing a much needed stabilising hands on the film, Craig has been keen to stress in the run up to the film’s release, that he personally championed Mendes’ involvement after the madness of the previous feature. The British director is an inspired choice, bringing a much more structured film that is firmly held together by a coherent narrative and wonderful action set-pieces.

Craig, is full if confidence in his performance as 007, the actor was keen to see a greater emphasis on Bond’s character and Ian Fleming’s creation is fleshed out onscreen like never before. Viewers are treated to Information about Bond’s childhood and more importantly his relationship with Judi Dench’s character M. Bond no longer feels like just a tuxedo wearing action movie cliché.

The concept started in Casino Royale of rebuilding the character is continued, much like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, viewers are watching Craig’s character becoming the 007 character viewers have become accustomed to onscreen.

All fears that Mendes wouldn’t deliver on the action front are quickly dispelled in the movie’s frantic opening sequence in Istanbul, that see’s MI6 losing a disk containing the  names of all British agents  currently in covert operation across the world. As Adele’s track, Skyfall kicks in fans of the franchise will feel right at home.

Bond’s attempts to retrieve the disk, sees him confronting the villainous Silva, played by Javier Bardem. A talented cyber terrorist who is seemingly pursuing a one man vendetta against Dench’s, M, as Bond investigates further he discovers a past connection between her character and Silva. Bardem is fantastic throughout, at times playing the character knowingly tongue in cheek yet he’s deeply menacing, much like his role in No Country For Old Men.

Much like a good Vodka Martini, viewers have come to expect certain traditions with a Bond movie, a globe-trotting plot, beautiful women, gadgets and cars. All are present within the feature, with a reintroduction of series favourite, Q, famously played by the late Desmond Llewelyn. Ben Whishaw takes over the mantle of 007’s gadget guru. Ralph Fiennes character, Malory plays an interesting role, openly questioning Whether Judi Dench’s character is still fit for her role as head of MI6.

Both Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe, purr sexuality onscreen. Particularly Marlohe, as the sensual, Severine, she is criminally underused within the feature. There’s also a great chemistry between Bond and Harris’s character, Eve, the field agent better suited to working behind a desk.

While Mendes’ might get a lot of the credit for the film, but both Rodger Deakins and Thomas Newman deserve considerable praise for their work on the feature. Cinematographer’s Deakins, does a fantastic job on the features visuals, in particular the stunning Scottish scenery on display in the feature’s climax. Newman produces an original music that is both highly emotional and inclusive that beautifully amplifies the mood of the film.

The standout scene within the feature, see’s Dench’s character reciting Tennyson’s poem Ulysses, while facing a parliamentary committee regarding her department’s recent failures,  the sequence is interwoven with shots of Bond in action. It’s a wonderfully touching scene, with the poem perfectly summing up everything Bond’s character stands for, but yet I can’t recall such a sequence ever being used before within the franchise.

For me, Skyfall is probably the most progressive in the series to date. Rejuvenating the franchise but also placing the series in a very interesting position, much like JJ. Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise, writers have been given a potentially clean canvas for 007’s future adventures. But yet Mendes’ feature is also highly retrospective, looking back at Bond’s past with several inclusions that will please hardened Bond fans.

Many critics have been quick to bestow Skyfall, the best Bond ever, for me it hasn’t earned that accolade, but more importantly the film delivered when producers needed it most, washing away the bad taste left by Quantum of Solace and reinvigorating the franchise. As Bond celebrates his 50th anniversary it’s great to be talking so positively once again.

Review By William McClean

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