This 50th anniversary movie is pure, undiluted Bond. It gives us a 007 that isn't huffing and puffing along trying to keep up with the shadow of the Bourne movies or any other passing action movie fad.
It is also not quite like any of the previous 22 films.
For Daniel Craig it is a case of You Only Launch Twice. After the dead-end of A Quantum of Solace,
Sam Mendes's take on Bond is another let's-start-over effort and is as bold and skilful a reinvention as Casino Royale.
It is also on a much smaller scale than we are accustomed to and, if you didn't know otherwise, you might guess Skyfall was an adaptation of one of the modern post-Fleming Bond books.
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In this age of austerity, this is a Bond film that is top-heavy with bureaucrats. Alongside Judi Dench as M, there's Ben Whishaw as a new Q, Fiennes, Harris and a returning Rory Kinnear. There's so much MI6 in the film it doesn't leave much room for anything else.
The amount of globetrotting and action has been severely reduced. There's an Istanbul pre-credit sequence that starts out simply by making better use of locations than Taken 2, before graduating to a train sequence that is joyously inventive.
- 1 Driver cut from vehicle after crash on Norwich ring road
- 2 Number of homes for derelict site could be increased to 200
- 3 Canaries closing in on new shirt sponsor
- 4 Dutch design could inspire revamp of danger roundabout
- 5 Teenage boy found a week after being reported missing
- 6 School apologises for uniform advice wording after sexism claims
- 7 City centre street set to close at weekend
- 8 Cactus shop selling £95 plants opens in Norwich phone box
- 9 Cannabis dealer had more than £8300 in cash stashed away
- 10 38 Norfolk schools and university named in students' accounts of sex abuse
It opens up the prospect of Skyfall being a gleeful fusing of Roger Moore-era preposterousness with the current era's dour seriousness, but this is not the direction it takes.
Instead, it mostly stays home and gets stuck into its plot. This is fine in theory but all the MI6 suits take up so much space that precious little is left for anything else. The middle hour meanders around to little effect. The baddie is a camp, peroxide computer hacker played by Javier Bardem with more than his fair share of mince.
We are told repeatedly prior to his arrival how terrible and evil he is but the reality is underwhelming and, thanks to the storyline he is given, he comes across as a bit of a sap and not worthy of Bond's attention.
Skyfall is an enormous, perhaps indulgent, celebration of Bond, both the figure and its current performer, and, whatever its failings, it gives audiences enough for them to join in.
Previously Craig had been something of a Partial Bond, magnificent in some aspects but not the complete package. Here though he is the consummate Bond and perfect for a film that has a confidence and a relaxed swagger not seen since the days when Connery was running around in the role, Ken Adam was knocking up the sets and John Barry was doing the tunes.
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Albert Finney
Length: 143 mins