Film review: Skyfall (12A)

By Giles Broadbent on October 24, 2012 4:31 PM |

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FILM
Skyfall
(12A) 142mins
★★★★✩

IN A NUTSHELL
Fifty years on and still no-one does it better - and this Bond spectacular ranks among his finest, and most personal. adventures

REVIEW
The 50th anniversary of this most rewarding of franchises demands a suitably sharp and explosive response.

Skyfall is just such a response. Director Sam Mendes has created a gritty and personal story which has a fair smattering of exotic locations (Shanghai is de rigueur for a blockbuster these days) but is mostly set close to home. Very close to home.

Play Bond bingo with the recognisable locations including, obviously, the District line and, less obviously, the swimming pool above the Four Seasons in Canary Wharf. (Less obviously because its been transposed to China.)

But the geographical location is nothing compared to the proximity of the plot to the heart of the protagonist (simmering Daniel Craig).

The past returns to haunt melancholic M (a peerless Judi Dench) and Bond must track down and destroy the threat before the threat gets there first.

The fact that the threat comes in the form of bitter blond bombshell Silva ups the ante for he is one of the cleverest, slimiest, creepiest villains of the canon, with Javier Bardem licking his lips as he gets to create a camp horror straight from Gotham City.

As Bond and M fight a rearguard action against this most formidable of foes (they resort to Home Alone/A Team style make-do-and-mend which is always fun if not spectacular) the snarky but affectionate relationship between the matriarch and the bad boy is filled out in sparse and wry exchanges.

All this happens between gloriously OTT action set pieces, captured by imperious director of photography Roger Deakin who shoots acts of destruction like works of art.

"What's going on! Report!" says the glacial M listening in from HQ.

"It's rather hard to explain ma'am," says Bond's sidekick.

And so it is with this Bond which is packed with talking points and plot twists that, by next week, will have set Twitter alight but until then remain under embargo.

Suffice it to say we get to meet new characters, Eve (Naomie Harris), Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) - remember those names - as well as the new beetle-browed Q (Ben Wishaw) who gives Bond nothing more fancy than a gun and a radio.

"Not exactly Christmas," snarls Bond.

"Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that any more."

And so it goes. Ribbing the formula. Destroying the formula. Embracing the formula. Renewing the formula.

Throughout there are hat-tips to Bonds past, beautifully and lightly done - the DB5! - but nothing gets in the way of the muscle-crunching action that culminates in a fittingly intimate finale hurling us straight into the next 50 years.

Can't wait.