Photo: ©2012 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions

Director(s): Sam Mendes

Writer(s): Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan

Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw and Albert Finney

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Nov 9, 2012 - Wide

James Bond is back.

As the release of Skyfall celebrates James Bond’s fiftieth year, the suave British spy is back with a grittier, tougher Bond, a sadistic, evil villain, and even a kickass M.

Directed by Sam Mendes, the story begins with Bond (Daniel Craig) and a fellow MI6 agent (Naomie Harris) speeding through the streets of Istanbul after a hard drive that details the identities of every embedded MI6 agent. The chase is pure Bond: crowded streets, overturned fruit carts and rooftop hijinks. The hard drive disappears and, for a while, so does Bond. He’s battle-weary, scarred, and questioning his position in the modern world of spies. When Silva (Javier Bardem), a sadistic extension of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, attacks the very heart of Britain’s spy service and begins blowing the covers of Britain’s spies, M (Judi Dench) knows there’s only one licensed-to-kill operative to track him down: Bond. James Bond.

Skyfall is a beautifully shot and grittier Bond film. It walks the razor’s edge that a great Bond film must, balancing death and destruction with winks, tuxedos and cleavage. Skyfall manages this high-wire act without descending into the cartoonish abyss that marked the Roger Moore years. Daniel Craig may look great in a tuxedo, but he’s not afraid to get bruised and bloodied as he snaps necks and shoots the enemy. Movies like the Bourne series threw the gauntlet down with their approach and this Bond deftly picks it up without spilling a drop of his shaken-not-stirred martini. Mendes and screenwriters Robert Wade, John Logan, and Neal Purvis give everyone enough red meat to chew on, while still maintaining the humour and exploits expected of a superspy bold enough to always tell people his real name. Befitting the series’ fiftieth year, the story is an exploration of age vs. youth, technology vs. boots on the ground, and diplomacy vs. battle. Bond and M both figure prominently here, co-stars in a world that threatens to pass their skills by.

As I said, Daniel Craig is tough and strong in the role while also giving us a glimpse into the damaged psyche of an orphaned child who has served his country well as a killing machine. It’s not easy to be tough and vulnerable, but Craig is able to give a performance that dances easily between light and heavy.

Judi Dench is nothing short of amazing and performs her role with a skill that should see it get nominated if the voters can get past their “Bond film” prejudices. Dench’s M, the head of MI6, faces the same push to retirement that Bond does at the hands of her new overseer Mallory (Ralph Fiennes). M is no pushover though and Dench channels a British bulldog in her performance, a woman of small size with a scrappy and tenacious demeanour.

Javier Bardem, who should basically just be given the role of every cold-hearted killer in the film world, also walks the same Bondian tightrope, balancing the ruthless violence of a man that will kill for revenge with the sly wit of the “let me explain how I’ll kill you first” style of the traditional Bond villain. Like the times we find ourselves in, Bardem’s Silva is a villain without a country, a terrorist without a clear ideology, and a monster with a flair for what looks good on the six o’clock news.

Ralph Fiennes and Ben Whishaw bring in the changes that face MI6. Fiennes’ Mallory is the bureaucrat who walks his own balancing act of a terror-fighting past balanced with modern-day political expediency, while the young Whishaw’s Q confronts the older Bond’s request for gadgets with an admonishment that he’s no longer in the exploding pen business.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Bond film without the Bond women. Bérénice Marlohe gives Bond his requisite roll in the hay, while still maintaining a character that is tinged with past pain and vulnerability. The aforementioned Naomie Harris enjoys a sexy, sparring relationship with James and also gives us a nice hat tip to the past that won’t be revealed here.

Finally, Albert Finney’s Kincade gives us a glimpse of Bond’s past that illustrates what propels him into the future. Finney’s appearance may be brief, but this is an actor who would shine if he was just passing through one scene.

Sam Mendes has breathed new life into the Bond series. Skyfall is a must-see for both Bond fans and those who have never encountered Britain’s greatest secret agent.