In response to the so-called ‘Bourne effect’, the longest-running film franchise in history saw Daniel Craig’s (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cowboys & Aliens) ruthless and flawed Bond as the answer, but now in its 50th year the 007 series has returned to more familiar territory.
With the release of Skyfall, director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) and writers Neal Purvis (Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale), Robert Wade (Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale) and John Logan (Hugo, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) have turned back the clock to re-introduce Ian Fleming’s super-spook to the more archetypical surroundings of secret island bases and disposable henchmen.
The film opens in Istanbul and launches into one of Bond’s trademark adrenalin fuelled chases on foot, car, bike and train, throwing some surprises in along the way with the help of field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). Craig excels as the no-nonsense and unstoppable assassin until M makes a decision that cuts short his career in espionage.
As a result of that decision, M (Judi Dench) becomes the focal point of an attack on MI6, which compromises the safety of embedded agents across the globe. After hearing the news, the burnt-out and injured spy returns to London desperate to convince his masters he’s ready for duty.
With the new Intelligence Committee Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) questioning M’s competency and Bond’s readiness for active service, Dench is at her best as the matriarchal leader under fire. Against all advice, M trusts the out-of-shape Bond to do what 00 agents do best.
With lots of references to Bond’s age and the introduction of the youngest Q (Ben Whishaw) to GCHQ, Skyfall pits youth against experience and old school versus new. Bond’s return from the cold also mirrors the films overt resurrection of classic Bond-isms including Martinis, ejector seats and camp megalomaniacs.
On the trail of the films super-villain, Silva (Javier Bardem), 007 is led to his island hideaway, where he learns of their shared history and manages to bring the psychopathic genius back to London. Bardem (Biutiful, No Country for Old Men) is comically sinister as the disturbed former agent intent on destroying his old master and once in the heart of the British Secret Service he unleashes his deadly plan.
At two and a half hours long, Skyfall unfortunately spends far too much time setting up the fantastic action packed final showdown when Silva attempts to exact his revenge on his estranged mentor M.
With 007’s childhood home as a backdrop, Bond’s relationship with M is also examined as they prepare for her prodigy’s assault. With the help of groundskeeper Kincade (Albert Finney), Bond and M fight for their lives against the disturbed Silva.
In another successful reinvention, Skyfall is a completely over-the-top transition movie that results in the latest rebirth of the world’s most famous spy. The fanatical brute in a tight suit finds his humanity and a brand new team, unashamedly taking Bond back to his roots. Bourne wouldn’t stand a chance.