Release date: 26 October 2012
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Javier Bardem
Director: Sam Mendes
What's the story? When an operation in Istanbul goes wrong, Bond is shot and declared deceased. He is resurrected by M (Judi Dench) to fight an old enemy whose cyber terrorism threatens the existence of MI6.
What did we think? Bond returns to form in perhaps the most beautiful Bond movie of them all. Sam Mendes steers the world's biggest film franchise through an escalating sequence of astonishing action scenes if never delivering much real espionage. Craig is excellent, taking the character to the limit.
Remember when we first saw Daniel Craig in Casino Royale? He was brutal: bludgeoning bad guys, running through walls and jumping off cranes. He lost his way in Quantum Of Solace, a follow-up afflicted by a confusing script and the credit crunch.
This is the successful return of Bond. First and foremost, Sam Mendes has crafted one of the most stylish blockbusters you'll ever set eyes on. Skyfall is masterfully shot, lavishing screen time on its star as he deteriorates and is resurrected.
Bond has never lost his edge like this. There's a moment where he stands at an MI6 testing facility, struggling to steady his weapon as he stares down the gun range through bloodshot eyes. Of course he'll make it back. But it's an arresting moment. We genuinely fear for him.
"Sometimes the old ways are the best," coos Naomie Harris (a magnificent, steamy performance) as she shaves him with a cut-throat razor (one of a sequence of wonderfully sexy encounters). And Skyfall delivers on that promise, unabashedly throwing in retro Bond touches throughout with plenty of humour. Judi Dench, in her most extensive and challenging Bond role, is made to defend the existence of 007, his old-fashioned ways and his type from the pencil pushers. So it's a delight to see her hop in the Aston Martin alongside Bond and go to war.
That's the moment, about two hours in, when Skyfall becomes a battle, set in 007's old family home. For half an hour or so, we forget the plot twists and go at it with all guns blazing. There are revelations, yes, but it might have been nice to have seen Bond outsmart the terror threat of Javier Bardem's cyber-villain, which never really happens.
In fact that's the only criticism you can level at this brilliantly realised and enormously ambitious blockbuster. There are no real spy games in Skyfall. That's not a criticism of Javier Bardem, who brings a bucketful of humour and creepiness to his villain. But he simply magics evil out of thin air through his computer, before losing his marbles and going full tilt at M ('Mommy') and 007.
But forget it. The joy of Skyfall is to sit back and let it land, majestically, on the back of your eyeballs.
Verdict: Craig takes Bond further than ever. Mendes makes it look better than ever.
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