So the James Bond film franchise is now fifty years old, though Bond is currently a fit and healthy forty-something, having once been thirty-two, all those years ago, and once in his mid-fifties (in A View to a Kill). Along the way there have been highs and some lows, and one so low it should be forcibly removed from the Bond canon and never spoken of again. Skyfall, on the other hand, could well be one of the highest episodes in the series, from its tense pre-title chase in Turkey, through its subterranean tour of its London to its denouement in the wilds of Scotland.
Daniel Craig’s third outing sees him continue to take the physical and mental batterings which made his previous outings much darker films than those of the Brosnan era; we find everyone’s favourite secret agent rather worn out, unfit for duty, although continued scenes involving his torso testify to his being in better shape than most of the males in the audience. He needs to be, of course, as he is no longer the Bond of gadgets and elaborate, ostentatious action sequences – everything is stripped down to a basic level to highlight the physical toughness of the central characters, with Javier Bardem’s relentlessly vengeful Silva providing us with a sinister, seriously scary adversary hellbent on destroying MI6.
For a long film it is always engaging, never lagging (as Casino Royale occasionally did), a proper, tense thriller with some beautiful cinematography under Sam Mendes’ direction, particularly the sequences in China and Scotland. The little twists too are genuinely surprising, and the third act, in the Highlands, (which owes a little something to John Buchan’s The Island of Sheep (but then most films in this genre owe something to John Buchan)) provides one of the best final confrontations of any film of recent times, let alone any Bond film. Everything is brought together beautifully, setting us up for the next of the series, and hopefully at least two, if not three, assuming no more finance-related delays, with Daniel Craig in situ. 5/5