Sometimes the old ways are the best.
Take Christopher Nolan: the man responsible for redefining the term ‘reboot’. If not for Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, then we would have a totally different Bond film on our hands this autumn. But as it stands, director Martin Campbell did take notice, and 007 was stripped bare. With a fresh Daniel Craig taking the helm of this dark re-imagination, 2005’s Casino Royale reminded us what Bond was really about. Sadly its sequel, Quantum of Solace, never quite lived up to its predecessor, and audiences were left nostalgic for a dose of warmth and classic Bond. And, of course, exploding pens.
Enter Skyfall. Award-winning American Beauty director Sam Mendes has previously impressed audiences with his dark re-inventions, such as the iconic stage musicals Cabaret and Oliver!, and with some help from cinematographer Roger Deakins, who delivers some visually stunning set pieces, this is an exquisitely realised reboot of a reboot.
The plot is simple. During a mission in Istanbul to retrieve a stolen list of undercover agents operating in terrorist organisations, MI6 agent James Bond (Craig) is shot, and presumed dead. And thus, the first haunting notes of Adele’s beautifully orchestrated theme can be heard. The motif of the film is resurrection, and this is a theme which resonates with each lingering word of the song. With gorgeous crescendos which are bound to leave audiences longingly remembering Shirley Bassey, this is a definitive Bond ballad.
Craig is, again, brilliant. This is an actor who looks at ease in his role, and his portrayal of a broken but unyielding 007 isn’t for a second upstaged by Javier Bardem’s performance as the chilling Raoul Silva, a villain who stands shoulder to shoulder with such Bond giants as Goldfinger and Blofeld.
With entertaining turns also from Ben Whishaw as a young Q, and a pleasant (albeit unnecessary) distraction from Naomie Harris, this is a cast who appear to be enjoying every minute of their screen time. However, it is Judi Dench who utterly shines as M, who is at last granted the centre-stage she deserves. The back and forth repartee between Dench and Craig showcases some of the best character chemistry seen on the big screen, and gives credence to the emotional undertow throughout the film.
In the wake of a monumental year for British patriotism, it’s fitting that M describes Bond as “an exemplar of British fortitude”. This 50th anniversary of the legendary franchise is an all-round British affair, and quite possibly James Bond’s finest hour. This is quintessential Bond, and then some.
Unless, of course, you were expecting exploding pens.